Grotesque Anatomy
Tuesday, June 01, 2004
  Rainy Day Diversions
So what to do when it rains all Memorial Day weekend?  Read manga and watch movies, of course.

First off, my wife and I made a stop at Half Price Books, where I picked up the first volumes in two manga series I had heard a lot about but never read before:

Love Hina: I remember seeing this title mentioned again and again whenever ICv2 discussed Bookscan's graphic novel bestseller lists.  I suppose I can see why this PG-13 sexual innuendo sitcom is popular with young boys (hey, I thought Three's Company and Zapped! were great when I was in grade school) but I found Love Hina extremely tedious.  How many times can we watch the klutzy Keitaro bumble his way into yet another awkward misunderstanding?  I'm glad I decided to wait until I'd read the first volume before buying the second book, which was also available, since this is a series I have no interest continuing with.

Blade of the Immortal: Blood of a Thousand:  Not sure how I feel about this manga series yet.  I loved the art, especially the softer-looking scenes rendered in pencil.  But the narrative flow seemed choppy (insert joke about cut-and-paste job done to reformat the manga into left-to-right format here) and the anachronistic slang dialogue kept throwing me out of the story.  I know these were both creative decisions made by the creator himself, but I'm thinking they may have been bad decisions.  Still, the premise is interesting (Manji, a ronin warrior in feudal Japan, must kill one thousand evil men in order to have his curse of immortality lifted) and the details are inventive (Manji's immortality, for example, does not mean he is invulnerable to harm), so I'll probably give the series one more chance to win me over.

As for movies:

The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen:  I know, I know:  I only have myself to blame for renting this abomination, which was loud, dumb, and dull.  My wife was the one who pushed for this movie, despite my objections that it wouldn't be faithful to the source material(s).  She fell asleep midway through while I endured the whole thing.  I'll be using that against her the next time we go to pick out movies.

The Day After Tomorrow:  Ignore all the critics panning this cheesy disaster movie.  They simply didn't get that it's a comedy.  Granted, it's a comedy that looks a lot like a high-budget, special-effects-laden summer blockbuster, but that's just to trick the audiences who have been conditioned to expect that sort of thing around this time of year.  Trust me, this movie is hilarious.  It's a brilliant send-up of the typical over-the-top action movie.  How else to explain a film where nerds yell at each other about "CRITICAL DESALINIZATION LEVELS!" and argue about whether Nietzsche was a misogynist or not (because if he was it's okay to burn his books to stay warm, but the Bible can't be burned no matter what)?  I was laughing out loud throughout this movie and the final line (I won't spoil it here) had me on the floor.  I think in a few years Day After Tomorrow will be recognized as the comedy cult classic it is.  There'll be Rocky Horror type midnight screenings where devoted fans come dressed in arctic gear and throw fake snow every time a character mentions the Atlantic current. 

And not technically a movie or manga but:

Alias - Season Two: I came to this series late (my wife watches it regularly but I only caught up with it on DVD) but I enjoyed the first season enough to seek out more.  I imagine this is a series that would resonate with superhero fans, given all the play that occurs around the concept of secret identities.  (For those unfamiliar with the show's premise, Jennifer Garner plays Sydney Bristow, a double agent who works for both the CIA and one of the CIA's primary targets, SD-6.)  Alias takes the convoluted scenarios common in superhero comics to a new level:  Not only does Sydney have to lie to her friends about her double (triple?) life, but she also has to track who knows what lie as she shifts from one spy organization to the other.  In a break from superhero comics, Sydney's parents are not only aware of her secret but they're also spies themselves -- spies who may know more about the truth behind Sydney's past than she does.  It's a fun twist on the spy genre and Jennifer Garner generally does a good job in the role (although there are many times when Sydney comes across as much too gullible for a top spy).
Like Unto A Thing Of Irony!

Iron Fist

by John Jakala

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