anime & manga consideration

Hajime no Ippo 1

Posted on | April 27, 2011 | No Comments

Hajime no Ippo is one of those hidden gems that you’d expect to be more popular considering how addicting this series is. Now on my first re-watch of this anime, I intend to dedicate one post to each episode and recapture all the fun and action in this series. Although this anime stays true to the basics of shounen formula, it remains highly entertaining in its execution with fast pacing and ample character development.

The first episode introduces the main protagonist, Ippo, who comes across as a rather timid and weak person. He doesn’t have much of a social life as he’s constantly helping his mother out with their family business, a fishing boat rental service, and is frequently bullied by a trio of students led by Umezawa. During one such case when Ippo is taking a beating, Takamura stops by to help him out and introduces Ippo to the world of boxing. Ippo shows a knack for punching and he decides, after some serious consideration, that he wants to become a professional boxer. Takamura doesn’t think he has a suitable mentality for the sport and attempts to discourage Ippo by setting a seemingly impossible prerequisite for learning boxing: to be able to grasp ten falling leaves in one session.

It’s interesting that while Ippo doesn’t seem to show much backbone against Umezawa, he has a surprising amount of determination in his desire to change himself, which actually takes quite a bit of courage to do so. Ippo’s meekness seems to be more a product of having been bullied and coping with it alone rather than it being something inherent in his personality.

[Meta] Alucard and Alchemy

Posted on | January 4, 2011 | No Comments

I actually doubt Hirano meant to attach much symbolism to Hellsing but his decision to associate Alucard with the Bird of Hermes is one of my favorite aspects of the character and provides food for thought especially when alchemical symbolism is such a complex subject. Considering that alchemy and vampirism are not frequently associated with each other, I do have to wonder what inspired Hirano to pick a line from the Ripley scroll, an ancient alchemical recipe for making the Philosopher’s stone or the Elixir of Life, to describe Alucard. Perhaps he drew from the fact that Dracula in the Bram Stoker novel was expert in alchemy and some sort of sorcerer.

While the ‘Bird of Hermes’ is essentially an alchemical term from what I’ve read, it seems to allude to the Greek god, Hermes, who interestingly was a conductor of souls to the underworld (among his many tasks) and a messenger of the Gods. As a messenger to the mortals he therefore served as a link between the living and the immortal. While Alucard is certainly not a guide for the dead, despite the fact that he carries thousands of souls with his existence, like Hermes, he is strictly subservient to, in this case, a religious organization and never acts on his own decisions.

Hermes is also the god of boundaries as he often crossed them, and his counterpart in Roman mythology is Mercury, which leads us to the metal itself. In alchemy, mercury was seen as an element that transcended the solid and liquid phases, heaven and earth, life and death. In this sense, mercury seems to describe the way Alucard himself transcends life and death by his existence as a vampire and the way he transcends form as he can assume the appearance of anything from a girl to a pool of eyes. Alucard’s shape and power did not seem to have its limits.

More specifically, the ‘Bird of Hermes’ is another name for philosophical mercury or Mercurius, which is the prima materia, the beginning and the end, the being that exists as both opposites simultaneously, the circular system that is the Ouroboros, and the sentence “the bird of Hermes is my name eating my wings to make me tame” has been interpreted as the stabilizing act of this chaotic mercury, a break to the cycle. This seems very much in line with Alucard’s intention and journey in Hellsing.

Going by Alucard’s backstory in Hellsing, Alucard has already gone through two ‘repeats’ of a cycle of life and resurrection: the first as Vlad the Impaler where he devotes himself to a faith and kingdom only to lose both in the end; the second as Count Dracula where he devotes himself to a castle and a woman only to again lose both in the end. It is in his third ‘life’ so to speak as Alucard that he becomes the ‘Bird of Hermes,’ his existence now a soup of souls encompassing everything from his life as Vlad to his current incarnation in one chaotic container. And in an attempt to perhaps break free of the vicious cycle and stabilize himself, he ‘eats his wings’ which can be seen as the stripping away of his own freedom, as he voluntarily becomes subservient to Hellsing/Integra, and the restraining of his insane power.

The magnum opus or Great Work in alchemy is the successful creation of the Philosopher’s Stone, one which involves nigredo (blackening, corruption), albedo (whitening, purification) and a final stage of enlightenment. Taken in a more spiritual sense, Eliphas Levi stated that:

The Great Work is, before all things, the creation of man by himself, that is to say, the full and entire conquest of his faculties and his future; it is especially the perfect emancipation of his will.

In the last chapter of Hellsing, Alucard returns after having removed all the souls that he absorbed over the few hundred years of his life. In a sense, he has eliminated all the lives that have polluted his existence since the day of his downfall when he abandoned his faith and is now a singular existence. Although I wouldn’t say Alucard is anywhere near a state of enlightenment, he is now his own man which, I would think, feels rather liberating.

Bleach ep. 267

Posted on | April 25, 2010 | 1 Comment

Is there a reason why we must have more filler crap combined with canon material after having gone through a year of filler bullshit? Maybe I’m among the few who was not amused by the Zanpakutou filler arc and now that we’re back to the actual storyline, I expected a more faithful approach and 267 is a very disappointing start to the Ichigo vs Ulquiorra battle. The animation isn’t as fluid as in ep. 226 but hopefully it’ll improve with the subsequent episodes.

Aside from the worthless Renji and Chad fight against the Lununga wannabe, the main battle sees Ichigo appearing to have grown more accustomed to Ulquiorra’s speed, eventually catching the latter’s wrist and landing a hit at close-range. Ulquiorra is stunned while Ichigo muses on whether he has become more of a Hollow or Ulquiorra, more of a human much to the latter’s irritation. Ichigo’s words are a heavy foreshadowing for what is to come and I find it a little ironic to see them uttered so carelessly at this point.

[Meta] The Hollow-izing of Ichigo

Posted on | April 5, 2009 | 4 Comments

In light of the recent events in Bleach (up to ch. 352), this has been an interesting journey for Ichigo and his current form will probably have its consequences on his character and story. In a strange way, his monstrous appearance right now could be said to have resulted from his intense desire to protect his nakama and a whole ‘mountain-load of people’.

The need to rescue Rukia led to his training in the Shattered Shaft, which became the moment of his Hollow’s birth. Although Shirosaki’s presence wasn’t as menacingly prominent in the beginning, a few of Ichigo’s first lessons in the art of combat have surprisingly featured his Hollow. One could argue that Zangetsu taught him how to appreciate the zanpakuto (and I don’t disagree) but it doesn’t change the fact that it was Shirosaki who had to lay down the facts for him. Zangetsu taught him the Getsuga Tenshou but it was Shirosaki who unleashed the first Kuroi Getsuga Tenshou (later noted by Ulquiorra as being similar to a Cero), which became Ichigo’s signature release of raw force whenever he was in bankai. Even the idea of spinning the zanpakuto originated from Shirosaki.

The apparent imitation of his Hollow’s moves eventually progressed to an actual tapping into his Hollow powers after his training with the Vizards. And this was so that he could maintain his original self to prevent his friends, family, the people around him, etc from getting hurt, once again highlighting the protective nature in his being. The cessation in the development of Ichigo’s shinigami powers is most noticeable here. His bankai remained as it was when first revealed in the fight with Byakuya and the Getsuga Tenshou, his primary attack. This can very easily be explained by the fact that Zangetsu was no longer around and Shirosaki wasn’t going to simply become his new mentor. Although usage of the mask granted Ichigo with increased strength and power, it didn’t teach him any new fighting techniques since his Hollow was being suppressed, neither did it nurture a correct mindset for approaching a battle. If anything, the presence of his Hollow seemed to push him to aggression, ironic considering that he wanted to restrain his Hollow so that he could have full control of himself.

Ichigo went to Hueco Mundo with mixed focus. His desire to protect was attenuated with his desire to fight, and the environment of Hueco Mundo would only serve to strengthen the Hollow-like qualities of his being, both physically and mentally. Despite the gaping hole in his chest, Ichigo still stood up as always in response to a cry for help. However, this wasn’t the re-emergence of Shirosaki out to save his ass, this was Ichigo still spurred by his mantra to protect but without a heart, Ichigo, technically a soul in Hueco Mundo, has become a full-fledged Hollow. He was using Sonido instead of Shunpo, firing Ceros instead of Getsuga Tenshous and in ch. 352 throws his sword into Ishida’s abdomen. Never has Ichigo let go of his sword during a battle as long as there’s still an ounce of strength in his hands, but here he discards the last visible feature of his shinigami self.

Ichigo’s current form is almost like a morbid manifestation of his protective complex, the twisted result of his hunger for power to preserve all that is important to him. And I wonder where Kubo will take Ichigo from here.

[Review] Blade of the Immortal

Posted on | March 15, 2009 | 3 Comments

Based on a well-acclaimed seinen manga, Blade of the Immortal follows Manji and Rin in the latter’s quest to eliminate Anotsu Kagehisa, leader of the Ittou-ryuu, to avenge her parents deaths. Manji is the samurai she has hired to protect her as well as aid in her revenge. Despite his appearances, Manji doesn’t die easily thanks to the kessen-chu, worms that effectively patch up his wounds and heal his body, which was given to him by Yaobikuni, an 800-year-old nun. It is through this nun that Rin meets with Manji who will have to face off with the many members of the Ittou-ryuu, who destroyed her parents.

Following the first arc of the manga, we are introduced to a host of characters, several being rather eccentric, during Manji and Rin’s journey. Although there aren’t any glaring deviations in storyline, the anime comes across as a little dull in its portrayals and uncompelling for the first 8 or so episodes. There’s a lack of momentum in the storytelling perhaps due to the editing and/or pacing and a couple of finer details on the characters were ignored for filler-ish additions. That said, the last few episodes do stand out and nicely reflect the spirit of the manga: the exploration of death and its consequences. Also interesting are Kagehisa’s views on the true path of a warrior and his appreciation for flexibility when improving oneself.

In general, Blade of the Immortal is well-animated but its plot might require some patience in the beginning. Personally I’m not fond of the music though it’s not distractingly bad. Worth a look, if you’ve time to spare.

Final rating: 7.2/10

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This blog hosts a collection of my thoughts on various anime and manga titles. The content of each post may vary from full series reviews to single-episode-based summaries to random discussions.