Thursday, 28 April 2011

What's with the manga?

I have been reading manga recently. I say reading, but really I apply that verb with a variety of degrees of accuracy, considering I'm reading in Japanese, and my Japanese remains not-great. So what's with this stack?

Well Joe-Bob, it's a funny story. Yuki was selling an old mobile phone, and got a 500 yen voucher for the used store. But there was nothing either of us wanted to buy, so I picked out five first volumes for a hundred yen each and now I have a bunch of extra manga that I might not read.

Was that a funny story? Not really. Sorry, Joe-Bob.

Anyway there are some manga that I'm reading pretty seriously. Lets see - working down from the top...

Deathnote Vol. 1 - Everyone knows Deathnote, right? Popular enough to spawn three movies, a forthcoming American remake and the Manga's available in English too I believe. This was one of my 100 yen  purchases, and that only one I've started so far. There are sections where the Japanese is beyond me, but everything has furigana - small characters telling you how to read the kanji - so it's easy to look stuff up if I don't know it. Looking anything up takes time though, and I can understand Deathnote pretty well so far so I haven't bothered. The story of a boy who finds a notebook with the power to kill anyone whose name is written in it, I'm not all that far into it, but I like how it doesn't take long at all for the boy to become a budding sociopath and start killing people like crazy. It might be a crude reduction, but I'm guessing that, like Evangelion and Gantz to some degree, Deathnote is another smash hit series aimed at somewhat antisocial insular folk who hate the world, with the underlying message that it's not good to hate the world. Could be wrong about that.

Drop Vol. 1 - is another 100 yen snap. It's a yankee manga about delinquent youths, and it looks like it has a slightly cartoony style, which I kinda like. I haven't read any of it, but a movie of it came out just after I came to Japan, so I'd heard of it before.

Touch Vol. 7 - is my most serious manga reading project. Recommended by the wonderful Yukiko, it's a 1980s high school, sibling rivalry, love-triangle, baseball story by Adachi Mitsuru. It has furigana spelling out the kanji, but the dense 80s high school slang makes it a little tricky to unpick the grammar at times, and I'm told that some of the phrases used are dated to say the least. But it's a fun story, and with Touch I'm looking up and translating everything. It takes a while, which is why I'm only on volume seven, after reading it forever, but it's kind of worth it, and I like Adachi's drawings too.

Gantz Vol. 14 - So, I started reading Gantz when the first film was coming out, because... I don't remember why. The concept piqued my interest or something. Anyway, I care about missing things in Touch, and I take care reading it, but Gantz is basically high-concept trash so I've just been blazing through these volumes like anything. In fact the only thing slowing me down has been the fact that the series is so popular now it's hard to find the volumes in used stores when you want to read them. There's no furigana,  which makes it irritating to look things up and so I haven't bothered. There are fan translations online, and at first I was reading both at the same time to test my understanding. Then I realised that in Gantz there are often action sequences that are two hundred pages long, and that most of the dialogue in those is "GODDAMNIT!" and "AARRGH!" and "IT HURTS!" and most often, "OH SHIT! OH SHIT! I DON'T WANT TO DIE!" And it's much more fun to read comics on paper than on a screen so now I just blast through the Japanese books and if there's something really important that I think I'm missing I look that bit up online. I half like / half hate Gantz. The writer, Oku Hiroya, said that he had the idea for Gantz in high school and boy does it feel like that. People die, but instead of dying they're sent to a mysterious room where a mysterious ball gives them crazy future-tech weapons and sends them off to defeat 'aliens' that are hiding on earth. After that they're free for a while until the next 'game'. There's insanely gratuitous violence, nudity and sex, and for a while it really did feel like a very well rendered 16 year-old boy's wish fulfillment project. But the internal logic of their tasks and the problems they face are so really well done, and I did want to see where things were going enough to keep reading at the start. Then after a while I guess I became inured to it, or it just got better, and certainly the main character developed a lot, and I was thoroughly enjoying the big arc that I just finished, which had some amazing action pieces. Now there are some vampire dudes and I'm not digging it so much though... I'm halfway through the whole run thus far though, so I reckon I'll still keep going.

Hana Yori Dango Vol 1. - This is a super-popular high-school romance manga. I haven't read any of it yet, but I will! I need an antidote to Gantz.

Rideback Vol 1. - I don't know anything about this, but I liked the colours on the cover, and I liked the loose illustration style inside. It seems to be a girl and robot motorcycle vs. facist state thing? Or a race thing? No idea really!

20 Seiki Shonen Vol 1. - I already know the story to this, and I love Urasawa Naoki, but I've never read the manga. So I figured, I really should start. After all, James read the entire bloody thing.

So that's too much rambling about manga. Next time more food, or possibly music. Depends on how lucky you are.

Tuesday, 19 April 2011

Sapporo Food: Senraibou

Not a vegetarian restaurant, but a restaurant which leans heavily on vegetables and has a lot of veggie dishes. Senraibou is in the sparkly, fancy G-Dining building, and while it's a little pricey it was worth every penny.

Finding this place, by the way - totally the result of me getting an iPhone recently. Using one of the GuruNavi apps we just threw out our restaurant gathering net into the inter-ether and this is what it came back with. I mean, a coupla hundred years ago we would've had to use real nets to eat! Ah, livin' in the future.

Senraibou is an intimate izakaya-esque restaurant that specializes in veggie dishes, tomato nabe for example.

This was so, so, so good. I really can't express properly how good this nabe thing was. It was GOOD. Perhaps italics too on that? It looked nothing like the picture on the menu amusingly enough, but it didn't need to because it was so damn good. It was a Japanese style stew meets a rich Italian tomato soup in the best way possible. After we had eaten the seafood and vegetables in it they took the rest of the soup away to make rice porridge with it, and that was incredible, but it was so hard to stop eating that soup that I was worried they wouldn't have enough soup to work with. It was incredible. Also this:

...was incredible. Baked tofu with kimchee and cheese. Oh holy crap yes. The last thing we had was sadly the worst of the three, but it was interesting in a different way at least.

Kabocha (squash) soba noodles. They didn't really taste of kabocha, but they were thick and wholemealy. They were good, but they weren't up to those other two heavenly dishes.

As I said, Senraibou isn't the cheapest place, but it isn't crazily expensive. Our meal plus drinks ran us about 5000 yen for two, and it was really, really good. I recommend the place, and of course there are tons of other fancy eateries in G-Dining too, so that's on the map now! Eating! Yes!