Jun 02

Monthly Recommendations – June 2016

Dance with the reaper~

Dance with the reaper~

Welcome to an all new monthly column on the Anicom blog, creatively called… MONTHLY RECOMMENDATIONS!

Each month, I’ll be asking somebody to pick out an anime, cartoon, comic, manga and webcomic that they love and think everybody else should check out. But seeing as this is the debut edition, I’ll lead by example, picking out five things I haven’t necessarily screamed to the rafters about. Probably.

Anime – Mushishi

Ever since I first saw an episode of Mushishi at Anicom (back in the year I helped run it, funnily enough), I was intrigued. Really weirded out by the episode we put on, but still intrigued. When the second season aired in 2014, I knew I could put it off no longer and sat back to see if my hunch (and lots of praise from lots of people) was right.

Yes, as it turns out. Sure, it’s not an action show, it doesn’t have an extensive cast of characters, and there’s no overarching… arc. It really is just a story of a mushishi called Ginko walking around the world, helping use his knowledge of the mushi, mysterious spiritual beings more in tune with the energy of the world than any “living” species, to solve the many oddities they cause. If anything, they, and the world they affect, are the main characters.

Each episode you’ll learn about a new species, and see people living their day to day lives with, or in opposition of, the Mushi. Sometimes the solution is simple, sometimes it comes at a price, and sometimes… there just isn’t one. It’s amazingly well written and has depth many other shows could only wish for. The art eschews vibrancy but ensures the world feels real, and the soundtrack is simple but powerful, including the English opening.

It’s certainly not a show for everyone, but if you’re a sucker for world building and lore, or just want an episodic anime (of which there’s surprisingly few), there’s none better.

Watch it online here and buy it here.

Cartoon – Steven Universe

If you’ve been near my Twitter lately you’ll know I’m loving the newest season of Steven Universe. Much like Mushishi above, it’s a masterpiece of world building, setting up plot points and ideas in early episodes which are left to simmer for a season before blossoming. The result now is that everything’s paying off and then some, with every episode a joy of discovery and “ooooh, I remember that”.

That’s just scratching the surface though. All the characters are fascinating to watch, from lead kid Steven as he tries to come to terms with his powers and responsibilities, to the Crystal Gems who act as guardians / parents / saviours, to his dad, to Konnie, to Peridot, to… let’s just say, there’s no character I dislike in all of Beach City.

The show looks glorious, with some beautiful designs and environments, as well as neat little touches littered throughout. And the episodes when the show decides to go musical and have a song? Mwah. Amazing. I truly adore Steven Universe in a way no cartoon has ever made me feel, and I can’t recommend it enough.

Watch it online here and buy it here.

Comic – Death Vigil

I’ve always been a sucker for depictions of Death in media. I love the Discworld version Terry Pratchett created, I love the goofier version from Billy and Mandy, and I love the Dia de Muertos interpretation Mexico has. So getting to read a take on him, or should I say her, by Stjepan Sejic was a dream.

Death Vigil is essentially various Grim Reapers fighting a war against the somewhat Cthulian-inspired entities of the underworld. We see newly dead Clara get used to being one of the Vigil, as well as the pros, cons and responsibilities that come with immortality. And plenty of wazzy effects and cool monsters.

Running for 8 issues, Sejic’s artwork and writing still manage to leave a strong impression much like his other works, as even in (and after) death his characters feel human, and some of the designs are just amazing, especially Bernadette who leads the Vigil (female pictured above). I really enjoyed my time with these gals and guys, and with a second volume recently confirmed by Sejic (but still a long ways off) there’s no time like the present to pick it up. Then Sunstone. Then Switch. Then… just buy all of Sejic’s stuff, cool? Cool.

Buy it physically here and digitally here.

Manga – All You Need Is Kill

When I first picked this off a shelf, I had to pinch myself, as the names Yoshitoshi ABe (Serial Experiments Lain, Haibane Renmai, Texhnolyze) and Takeshi Obata (Death Note, Bakuman, Hikaru no Go) stared back at me. No way could these two prodigies be involved on the same project.

The end result is epic. Set in a future when an alien invasion has utterly and without fail run through anything and everything humanity has thrown at it, we see just another soldier try his best but be hopelessly outclassed and killed. And then he wakes up in his bed the day before, and the nightmare begins again, as he tries to escape timeloop hell.

Obata’s art is as on point as ever, mixing comedy and tension while breathing life into characters that aren’t his own. The pacing is spot on too, with the whole series only being as long as two regular manga volumes, so you needn’t worry about pointless fights or fluff. It’s short, it’s (bitter)sweet, and it’s one of the best dang mangas I’ve read. There’s a reason Hollywood adapted it.

Buy it physically here or digitally here.

Webcomic – Lady of the Shard

From GiGi DG, who you know and love (I hope) from Hiimdaisy and Cucumber Quest, comes Lady of the Shard, her latest awesome project. Revolving around a young acolyte who really loves the goddess they worship, we see them work their tail off more than anyone else, leading to the goddess’ accidental summoning.

From there, their relationship slowly develops and we learn more about her origins and the world they live in, as well as the distinct awkwardness and “never meant to be” aspects of an affair between god and mortal, before a confrontation with a foe from times gone by wraps it all up.

The artstyle is different to what you may be used to from her previous works, adopting an almost exclusive two-tone palette which feels more like Paint meets scratch artwork, but it works perfectly and still conveys all the depth way more complex looking pieces do. Her usual flair for emotional investment mixed with offbeat humour shines through too. I loved the hour or two I spent reading through Lady of the Shard, so if you need to kill a little time, you could do far worse.

Read it here.

Interested in doing something for this column? Then talk to me (Sean), or get in touch with Anicom via Twitter, Facebook, the forums or e-mail. All we need is a couple hundred words on one (or two, or all five!) of the comics / mangas / cartoons / animes / webcomics you love! Looking forward to it~