Gimmick 9

December 3, 2009

Youzaburou Kanari / Kuroko Yabuguchi – Viz – 2009 – 9 volumes

We still have to face the fact it’s a shounen manga, and we have to swallow some pretty cheesy lines during this final showdown (“You still don’t get it! SFX should only be used for good!”), but I still enjoyed it an awful lot.  The details that go into explaining how the SFX are created are stripped away here, and we get a lot of backstory and resolution to the earlier conflicts in the series.  It was pretty easy to follow even without having read most of the previous volumes, and I liked it a little more for that, too.  To be fair, the story wasn’t very deep or complex (Kohei had a mentor, he messed up and fled Hollywood, he’s trying to reconcile himself with his mistake), but still, I’ve seen far more confusing explanations for far less plot.

The fact that makeup artists can be divided into “good” and “evil” is also still pretty hilarious.  It likely wasn’t intentional, but I still couldn’t get enough of Kohei’s soulless rival here.

I think a big part of what made this final volume so enjoyable, even without the details about the makeup or knowledge of the plot of the series, was Kohei himself.  He’s a super-upbeat character, and he frequently finds himself in situations where he positively overcomes trials without complaining or even flinching.  Most shounen manga characters lament their lot in life at least a little, but Kohei usually just goes with the flow and solves his problems.  He does get down on himself here, but that doesn’t really change his positive outlook.

There’s an epilogue and a side story at the end of the volume, both of which I enjoyed much more than the final battle.  The epilogue is a nice way to end the series, and was a little more touching than the usual run-of-the-mill shounen title.  The extra story was sort of a prequel, and covered an incident in Kohei’s Hollywood training.  We do get details about SFX makeup application in that story, and about Zombies to boot, so that also made up for the absence in the rest of the volume.

While the plot of the series seemed pretty unremarkable, it was hard to deny the charm of Kohei or the novelty in a manga series about SFX makeup.  I enjoyed it for the detail it went into about the makeup itself, including frequent references to makeup techniques in popular Hollywood movies.  I don’t think I’ll go back for more volumes, but it certainly was a worthwhile and unique read.  I love well-researched series like this.

This was a review copy provided by Viz.

Gimmick 8

November 30, 2009

Youzaburou Kanari / Kuroko Yabuguchi – Viz – 2009 – 9 volumes

I wondered how this series would finish up, since it seemed like the plot hinged on interesting one-shot stories involving special effects makeup.  It finishes like any good shounen series should, with a tournament.  On one hand, it’s a tournament involving special effects makeup, which is definitely new and exciting.  On the other hand, it’s a shounen manga tournament.  I’ve seen it a thousand times before.

One of the things that made me laugh last volume was Kohei’s fondness for his “special spatula,” an item he wore around his neck as the usual shounen talisman/relic of the past, except in this case it was… you know, a makeup spatula.  For doing special effects.  Well, he clutches that a whole lot more in this volume.  Other people have their special spatulas, too.  There are the usual pitfalls, balance issues, unfair fights, battles with friends, self-sacrifices, blah blah blah… not even my interest in what the characters were doing could distract me from the fact that it was literally taking the path of least resistance to end the story.

The only truly detailed effect we get to see is a life mask, which the characters have to make as realistically as possible using only ingredients from a grocery store.  We learn about what ingredients can be used in a pinch, how certain things mix together, techniques for coloring and whatnot, and a lot of other things besides.  There are other challenges, like making vampire makup and scars and aged makeup, but other than a protip about actors and elderly makeup, we don’t learn too much about the others.

Kohei goes into the final volume to face the evil version of himself, clutching a handful of spatulas that are special to all his friends that didn’t make it through the contest.  Again, I am still thoroughly amused by the theme of makeup and special effects for the series, especially since it is discussed in such detail, but man… I can’t do such a blatant use of shounen manga plot device.  But I do have the last volume, so let’s see where this goes in the end.

This was a review copy provided by Viz.

Gimmick 6

November 26, 2009

Youzaburou Kanari / Kuroko Yabuguchi – Viz – 2009 – 9 volumes

I have the last few volumes of this, and I sort of brushed it off until I found out that it’s actually about special effects artists and stuntman.  That immediately ranked it above any other series I was planning to start.  Unfortunately, this volume starts badly, with one of those scenes where the main character is accused of groping and then beaten up by everyone when he actually wasn’t doing anything, but thankfully it recovered quickly and things improved from there.

This volume starts a chapter or two into a story about a pop idol who was being harassed by someone in her crew.  She turned to Kohei, the makeup artist, and the rest of the story is the two of them bonding while they try to evade the bad guy, who is after the pendant that proves she’s the daughter of the New York City mayor.  It wasn’t all that hot, and there was only one or two instances where the makup and special effects even came up.  I was really worried that the series was less about the makeup and more about these badly-done hero-type stories.

It wasn’t.  The rest of the volume was really, really good.  The second story was about Kohei’s friend Kannazuki.  Kannazuki’s a stuntman, and the story takes a look at what his job entails, just how important it is, and also at how some of the movie effects are done.  There was a story about his mom and a rivalry with the lead actor in the movie they were working on.  It’s simple stuff, but winds up being interesting when supplemented with all the fun movie stuff.

The next story was about Kohei teaching a loner boy how to make a mask for his school play in order to impress the other kids in an effort to make friends.  There wasn’t much of the plot, but there was an incredible amount of detail about how a rubber mask was made.  Again, very interesting.

The last story, one that seems to carry over into the next volume, was about someone impersonating Kohei and ruining his reputation on sets Kohei hasn’t even visited.  The imposter and Kohei have a duel, and we learn about how makeup can go bad, workarounds for problems that come up, and also how CGI affects people in the traditional effects industry.  Again, interesting stuff, and pretty funny to boot.

I can’t say much for the plot or characters aside from the fact they serve as a wonderful vehicle for all the other stuff about movies, makeup, and special effects that are being learned here.  The first story proves they don’t work very well without the themes of the series, which is fine.  It’s a great read so far with just the info.  It’s like Oishinbo, in a way, except for movies instead of food.  And Oishinbo is way more serious about what it does.

This was a review copy provided by Viz.