March is nearing an end, so that means it’s time for a OyatsuBox Premium review! Without giving too much away, let me just say that my initial impressions were extremely positive – this may be the best OyatsuBox I’ve received to date!
Ever since I first review the OyatsuBox Japanese snack subscription service back in March 2014, it has remained one of my favorite services on the market. That’s why I’m extra excited to announce that I’m partnering with the folks at OyatsuBox to offer you monthly reviews, starting with the February 2016 premium box!
I was surprised to see that a lot has changed since I first reviewed their service back in 2014. But I don’t want to spoil the surprise, so first, let’s take a peek at what’s inside…
Ever since I found out there was a cat café in Brisbane called Cat Cuddle Café, I’ve been dying to go. Numerous trips to Japan over the past 14 years have enabled me to experience my fair share of Japanese cat cafés, but an Australian cat café? Now that would be a first! But could it possibly compare to the amazing cat cafés of Japan?
Japan Crate was kind enough to send me their very first Doki Doki Crate, a new subscription service for fans of all things cute! I was extremely impressed with their Japanese candy subscription box when I reviewed it back in September, so I was very excited to see how this kawaii box compared. Let’s take a look!
When I first saw the cover of Man of Tango, I was sure it had to be bara, or gei comi, a genre of manga distinct from boys’ love (hereafter BL) due to it usually targeting a gay male audience rather than women. The author, Tetuzoh Okadaya, however, is most definitely a woman, and more importantly, she was explicitly approached by an editor to write a BL story, which resulted in The Man of Tango. I’m always excited to see BL that shakes up the genre (that’s what I’m writing my thesis on, after all!), so her unique style combined with her comments about being inspired by bara visionary Gengoroh Tagame had me very excited to see what The Man of Tango had to offer.
The Man of Tango is a one-shot manga about the life of tango aficionado Angie, a man that despite his deep passion for dance has never been able to awaken his true spirit, nor find a life partner. But since this is BL, all that changes when he meets Hiro, a nondescript half-Latin, half-Japanese businessman who soon finds himself drawn in by Angie’s charms. Angie reminds Hiro of his home and youth, but not all of his memories are positive. Hiro soon finds himself opening up to Angie in more ways than one, simultaneously being drawn into the mystical world of tango and gay romance.
First, I have to point out that The Man of Tango does a lot of great things that you don’t see in BL very often. Aside from the love-it-or-hate-it art style, it’s one of the few BL stories I’ve read that prominently features a female character who isn’t being used as a catalyst for disaster between the male couple (usually in the form of a third love interest, jealous ex, etc.). Instead, Angie’s tango partner and roommate Bene is a warm, appealing female supporting character, which is most welcome as a breath of fresh air in the otherwise male-dominated BL genre.
Of course, the other major draw of The Man of Tango is in the subject matter. It’s clear that Tetuzoh Okadaya appreciates the art of tango, and I felt like even I learned something about the art, or at least had a greater appreciation for it, by the end of the story. I also loved the fact that both of the male protagonists are older, with Angie being in his late thirties and even sporting some facial hair (though I suppose you could say that’s a Latin stereotype). The story is also appropriately mature, though it borders on dark, especially when delving into Hiro’s childhood, so those looking for a happy-go-lucky romance may find it too heavy. Personally, however, I really enjoyed the more mature themes.
It’s the fact that The Man of Tango does so much well that makes the areas where it stumbles all the more frustrating. I am never a fan of the “but I’m not gay!” line appearing in BL, but The Man of Tango takes it to an extreme by also having Angie take advantage of Hiro when he is drunk (see above image), making Hiro’s subsequent revelation that he has feelings for Angie and has already engaged in X-rated activities with him not romantic in the least. Not only did Angie’s sexual advances on Hiro when he is inebriated make me dislike him, but Hiro’s constant “I’m not gay, but I like you!” admissions felt especially juvenile when compared to the other issues the story tackles, which made me dislike him, too. So, in the end, while I enjoyed a number of the overarching themes of the story, both male protagonists were obnoxious and the story did not convey the feeling of a great, timeless romance by having a relationship building out of a non-consentual first sexual encounter. I’m not saying that non-consentual sex has no place in a mature storyline, but in this case, it just wasn’t handled in a satisfactory manner (in fact, it wasn’t even regarded as non-consentual by any of the characters).
The Man of Tango may not be for everyone, but I still think it does a lot of interesting things and I hope to see more from Tetuzoh Okadaya in the future. Most importantly, let’s see more older protagonists, mature themes, female side-characters, and interesting art in BL! I just hope we can move past non-consentual sex and “only gay for you” shenanigans sooner rather than later.
Disclaimer: A copy of the manga was provided by the publisher for the purpose of this review
Way back in August of last year, I wrote about an anime short called Little Witch Academia and how it brought back memories of some of my favorite magical girl series from my youth. With its gorgeous animation, great cast of female characters, and charming story, I immediately knew it was something I wanted to see more of. I highly suggest reading the above article for more of my impressions of the episode, as today I’m not going to focus on the merits of Little Witch Academia itself (suffice it to say, I think it’s wonderful!), but rather the lovely Blu-ray release now available from Studio Trigger’s online store.
When my copy of the Blu-ray arrived courtesy of acttil, I was immediately impressed by the quality of the packaging. Not only does it come with the main event, the 26 minute episode of Little Witch Academia itself, but it also includes a documentary, soundtrack CD, and a separate book full of illustrations, storyboards, interviews, and more!
|Back cover of the book|
The official booklet’s cover has the title embossed in gold text, which is a lovely touch. Though it’s a paperback, the detail put into the cover on its own reveals that it is by no means a cheap extra. In fact, the book itself is 112 pages long! Let’s take a look inside:
|Two pages from the “story & commentary” section|
Approximately one third of the book is in full color, which includes the gorgeous two-page spread shown above, illustrations of the main characters, an “image board” that consists of some backgrounds and environmental items, an overview of the story with commentary, and a color storyboard. The full color pages look great, but I wish there were a few more of them. Luckily, the rest of the book is still chock-full of amazing sketches and information.
There are a number of color glossy pages dedicated to specific animators, but since the images are all sketches, it seems like a waste to put them on the “nicer” paper at the beginning when there are full color stills that do not get the benefit of similar nice paper later on in the book (see images below). This is a very nitpicky critique, though, as the animator-specific sections and associated interviews provide a lot of interesting insight and it’s nice that Studio Trigger decided to highlight them by putting them towards the front of the book.
It’s so pink! I love how psychedelic it is. The Blu-ray itself is self-explanatory, but the bonus production documentary “How the Magic was Created” is definitely worth mentioning. It includes English subtitles and clocks in at a whopping 66 minutes, and is an eye-opening glimpse at what work in a Japanese animation studio is like.
The soundtrack CD consists of 13 songs, making it 18 minutes of full orchestral music. It’s not often that I even notice the music in an anime, so the fact that I listen to this soundtrack when I’m not watching Little Witch Academia is pretty high praise. One of my favorite tracks is Shiny Chariot’s Theme – it has a great sense of grandeur and wonder that I feel encompasses my feelings for the show as a whole.
Honestly, I can’t believe this Little Witch Academia Blu-ray set is only ¥6,171 (approx. $60)! It’s an amazing package and it really does the episode justice. While the Kickstarter for Little Witch Academia episode two has already been funded, I’d definitely recommend supporting the series by purchasing the episode one Blu-ray. You won’t regret it!
|I guarantee by the end of this post those soulless eyes will start freaking
you out (if they don’t already)
I received these as a Christmas present from my mom, and I have to say, even though it’s the middle of the summer here in Australia, I can’t help but want to wear them around the apartment. They’re just so cute!
|How can you say no to that face|
Hopefully my Felnye slippers will keep me happy and my feet warm for years to come!