Manga Review: Boy’s Abyss

Details: Currently ongoing. Also known and Shounen no Abyss and 少年のアビス

Score: 7.2/10

Boy’s Abyss is a heavy, emo drama mostly about depression and suicide. It’s also got a lot of nudity in it. However, this is one of those stories where the nudity pales in comparison to the subject matter discussed. This is a sad story about people trapped in their circumstances and how being trapped can have extreme effects on people’s behavior.

Boy’s Abyss is about a high school student stuck in a dead end town in Japan. His family has no money. His grandmother is senile and needs constant attention. His father is no where to be found. His brother is a thirty year old shut in. And all these people are being supported by a mother who is just scarping by financially and emotionally. The student also has his own troubles as he is constantly bullied and will likely need to drop out of school to work and support his family. The protagonist fears he will forever be trapped in this abyss. One day, he bumps into a girl who asks him if he’d like to commit suicide with her. As the plot progresses, we learn about the abyss within many of the town’s residents.

This is a deeply depressing story. What’s interesting is that it reminded me a lot of independent movies from the United States. Many indie films cover the same type of subject matter like sadness and depression. There’s just something very artistically attractive about a story involving suicide and depression. Boy’s Abyss feels like one of these stories and follows very similar beats to one of these indie dramas.

The other interesting aspect is that there is quite a bit of nudity and sex in this manga. However, this story is one of the few times where I felt the sex and nudity actually served a narrative purpose. Sex in this story is simply an escape, a minor detour down the road of depression. For some characters, life is meaningless, so sex is just about as meaningless and numbing as any other action they can take in their lives. Most interestingly, sex is often engaged in only when the characters in this story hit absolute rock bottom. Instead of something relating to pleasure or joy, it’s often used in this story as a symbol of despair. When these characters have absolutely nothing else in life to look forward to, sex becomes the only thing left.

The art is fine, but it’s the plot that matter.

Overall, I enjoyed this story but was affected by it. It’s a sad story with really sad characters. There’s smut and sex here, but it’s depressing because sex is the only way out for these characters who have no way out. And yet, there’s an ordinary-ness to it all. It’s a very suburban look at depression and sadness. Even though these characters are suffering, they aren’t suffering in the way a child starving to death in a third world country is suffering. These characters are trapped in a way people from first world countries are trapped, which is not horrifically painful, but still sad in a quiet and relatable way.

Manhwa Review: Mercenary Enrollment

Details: Currently ongoing. Also known as 입학용병

Score: 7/10

Mercenary Enrollment is a web comic about a mercenary who starts going to school in South Korea. I’ve only read a few issues, but I’m getting a lot of John Wick vibes… just in a Korean high school setting.

Mercenary Enrollment is part of a newer offshoot of the isekai genre. You could argue that it is its own genre as established by anime like Full Metal Panic! Either way, stories in this genre generally follow a military veteran (usually high school aged) being transported to a civilian setting, usually high school. The protagonist, teenaged, military veteran then uses the skills they acquired in combat in the civilian setting. While Full Metal Panic! explored this dynamic through comedy, most of the Korean web comics use this for action and drama. Mercenary Enrollment goes the dramatic route and ends up coming off as a John Wick-esque revenge story… at least so far. As said above, I’ve only read a few issues.

The story is about a young Korean who lost his parents in a plane crash. The kid somehow ends up in a war torn part of the world and grows up to be a top, teenage mercenary (yes, I know how stupid that sounds). Somehow, the kids reunites with his family and decides to live a quiet life with his family. As he attends school for the first time, he learns that some kids are viciously bullying other students, especially his sister. Now, this teenage mercenary is prepared to use all his military skills to do whatever is necessary to protect his family.

I’ve only read through the first story arc and it’s a classic revenge plot. People keep threatening him and his sister so he goes around beating the crap out of all the jerks threatening her. Like any good revenge story, this comic does a great job portraying the bullies as bad guys. You really want to see these bad guys get their comeuppance as they commit extremely petty, vicious acts against the protagonist’s sister. And when he finally does get revenge, it is very satisfying to watch the bad guys get it.

The art is also very good.

Overall, I enjoy the story so far and I’m interest in seeing where it goes. The only issue I have is that I hope it doesn’t turn into a generic genre story. God of Blackfield is another story with a similar premise and I hope Mercenary Enrollment deviates from that kind of generic plot and tries to tell its own story.

TV Show Review: The Queen’s Gambit

Details: More information can be found at https://www.netflix.com/title/80234304 and https://www.imdb.com/title/tt10048342/

Score: 7.4/10

There’s a lot I like about The Queen’s Gambit and I finally figured out why. Much of what appeals to me in this show are the same exact things that appealed to me in the show Mad Men.

The Queen’s Gambit is a fictional story that takes mostly takes place around 1960’s America. The story centers on a young chess prodigy and her ascent in the world of professional chess.

An interesting facet of this story is that this is a purely fictional story, but it is well researched and takes heavy inspiration from the real world of professional chess. Many of the fictional characters are based off real people and many of the matches based off real matches. The story is based of a book of the same name and the author of that book spoke to many real chess players to get a feel of the culture of professional chess in the 1960’s. Despite being a fictional story, you get a feel of that authenticity here.

You also get a bit of that history tourism you get from shows like Mad Men and movies like Forrest Gump. The Queen’s Gambit does not go into big historical events, but it does lean heavily into the atmosphere at the time. As we go through each time period, the music from that period plays in the scenes. Little nuances like the use of animal tranquilizers for children and the heavy dose of Christianity in most people’s lives is there. The biggest indication of the time periods is simply the style. The clothing, the cars and interior decorating are all very 1960’s.

In terms of story structure, again I am heavily reminded of Mad Men. The story centers on an attractive protagonist, a prodigy at what she does who has a dark past. The protagonist in Queen’s Gambit is basically a female Don Draper. While the story is about chess, the chess is really just a vehicle to deliver the interpersonal drama between characters, much like how Mad Men used the advertising industry of the 1960’s as a vehicle for drama. It’s all a bit redundant and done-before, but I loved Mad Men so I can’t help but enjoy this story as well.

Also like Mad Men, the pacing and cinematography are very similar. There a slowness to it all where the camera often seems to just linger on characters. Mad Men did the same thing. I think it’s just something about dramas that take place in the 1960’s that spurs directors to adopt this sort of style. Then again, maybe the makers of this show deliberately tried to emulate the style of a success like Mad Men.

Overall, this was a very enjoyable drama. While this show is undoubtedly about chess, it is more so about the coming of age and growth of its protagonist, as well as the relationships she has with other characters. I would’ve liked to have seen more about the technicalities of chess, but I understand how difficult it can be to convey the mechanics of such a complex game to audiences who just want to be entertained. You don’t need to know anything about chess to enjoy this story. If you knew nothing about chess before you watched this show, you will still know mostly nothing about chess by the end of it.

TV Show Review: The Boys, Season 2

Details: More information can be found at https://www.amazon.com/dp/B08F8K3V9R/141-7787206-3615334 and https://www.imdb.com/title/tt1190634/

Score: 7/10

Like in the first season, The Boys is a violent, fun show that tries to show a darker view on superheroes as well as using superheroes as a medium to touch on real life issues. The political and action-y stuff I enjoyed in this season. I enjoyed all that stuff with Butcher’s wife not so much. Some spoilers ahead.

Season 2 picks up where the last season left off. Butcher’s found out what happened to his wife and now we got to deal with all that fall out. There’s also a new hero called Stormfront introduced and she’s a master at leading right wing, superhero sentiment.

There’s a lot of plot lines going on this season. We got the romance with Stormlight and Hughie, we got some stuff with Washington and politics, Homelander has his own plot line going on as well. There’s just a lot going on and a lot of it feels excessive.

The biggest issue I have with this show is trying to understand what motivates any of the characters. A lot of the time, it just feels like these characters are thrown into situations and then have to deal with them. There isn’t a lot of good justification for what got the characters there.

For instance, Homelander is somehow neutralized from murdering everyone constantly, even though they constantly portray him as a homicidal maniac. The reasons they come up with to prevent him from just solving all problems by murdering the primary cast are paper thing and hard to believe. The ending of this season particularly, it feels like they just chuck ideas at the audience and expect them to believe these plot points without any good reasoning. They built up Homelander into this monster, but then he exercises self control just because. It’s poor writing that does not maintain the rules of the world they’ve built. There’s also the bigger problem of how many of the characters are powerful enough to end all plotlines of the show immediately, but don’t be cause they need to fill eight episodes this season.

Overall, the show is entertaining if you don’t take it too seriously. The show is entertaining as fluff entertainment, but nothing serious. They touch upon a couple of relevant political issues like the growing popularity of right wing Nazism and Scientology-esque cults, but this show is mostly entertaining for the ridiculousness and gore. In terms of story, this whole season felt a lot more disjointed than the first season.

Anime Review: Re:ZERO -Starting Life in Another World- Season 2

Details: This is a review of the thirteen episodes of this first part of Season 2. I read somewhere that the show will go on break and continue in January 2021. Also known as Re:ゼロから始める異世界生活 2nd season. This second season is complete. More information can be found at http://re-zero-anime.jp/ and https://myanimelist.net/anime/39587/Re_Zero_kara_Hajimeru_Isekai_Seikatsu_2nd_Season

Score: 8/10

Re:ZERO -Starting Life in Another World- Season 2 is one of those shows where each subsequent episode is somehow even better than the last. This is must watch anime.

The series picks up right where the last season left off. Subaru just beat some bad guys and is leaving with his pals when tragedy strikes again. Now Subaru must use his power to return to a previous point in time when he dies in order to survive the current challenges. In trying to survive, Subaru will meet the feared witches of this world, one of whom gave him his power.

After the craziness of last season, I wondered how they were going to top all the shocking moments they already showed. Rest assured, they did it. Each horrible death in this second season is just as horrible and grotesque as the deaths in the first season. What’s amazing is how the show keeps finding ways to shock the audience by showing new acts of gore along with narrative revelations about the other characters in the show. We get a lot of character development in this second season, but many questions are still left open and there’s still a lot of mystery.

We also get to see a ton of character development for Subaru. ReZero is mainly a story about watching Subaru encounter crippling terror and pain, then overcoming it. What’s so interesting about Subaru is that while he overcomes all the challenges in a way, he really doesn’t. The trauma from each incident stays with him. Each death he goes through is catastrophically worse for his psychology than the last. He never really get over the pain of death. It’s emotionally intense to watch this trauma filled person continue on.

The animation is as fantastic as it was last season. This is a very well animated show. The voice acting is great as there are a lot of emotionally charged moments here. The voice actor for Subaru is especially good given what he goes through.

Overall, this is a fantastic series. There is a lot of gore and a lot of the plot points can be very emotionally straining, so I wouldn’t necessarily let kids watch this. Even still, this is must watch anime and if you are anime fan, you need to give this a watch. You should start with the first season though because the whole thing goes in chronological order.