In anticipation of 14, I read the last two volumes of Umezu’s 漂流教室.
It’s a story about a school full of children suddenly teleporting to a strange world, and things going significantly worse and worse for them from there.
I think Umezu’s art is an acquired taste – which is maybe why he’s not mega popular in translation (yet?) like Junji Ito who he inspired. His characters’ stiff posing and very distinctive yelling faces aren’t initially very appealing. But I was really won over by this series!
Things really do go bad for this unfortunate school, in a variety of bizarre and unusual ways, and there’s a surprising level of suspense and horror in watching them struggle to survive in such an unusual situation – like a rougher, weirder Lost in a way. I think a lot of what makes it work is the sci-fi horror isn’t treated with any irony. On the face of it, the situations are often ludicrous or even zany, but the protagonists are children, and so they accept all of them at face-value as situations they need to deal with, and can only guess at how. So it feels like a strangely authentic account of kids flailing around trying to deal with life’s curveballs, it’s just those curveballs are like, giant bug monsters and mutant future people. So you get the enjoyment of both silly pulp spectacle and genuine suspense and horror. There’s an especially memorable part in the last volume that may make it difficult for me to look at Marilyn Monroe the same way again…
I thought the ending was fitting – the right mix of hope and despair to stay true to the series I think. But I read the series over a long period of time and in two languages, so there’s some threads I don’t fully remember… I’d be curious to read the beginning again someday knowing where it goes.
Language-wise, it’s generally emotionally very straightforward, like 90% just reacting with alarm to the situations, so this is one where I think reading it in English if you have that available (the Viz hardcover editions are very nice) is completely fine.
There’s a movie adaptation of this, directed by the ハウス guy, I think with some amount of English-language involvement (?). I badly need to track that down… I have absolutely no idea how you would film this story, particularly because of all the um, graphic deaths of children involved. I imagine the tone is significantly lighter!
Also on a whim one evening I played two short steam games in Japanese みんなで空気読み 1 and 2.
These are kind of like if the Voight-Kampff Test were a Warioware game. 100 short vignettes each, for a combined length of about 45 minutes to an hour per game where you’re meant to “read the room” and exercise your etiquette, empathy, and cultural expectations to do what you think is best, in often silly scenarios.
It’s pretty fun! The language barrier adds significant challenge. For several situations, I struggled to read quickly enough to tell exactly what was going on, or I just plain did not recognize a crucial culturual reference. I imagine even in translation a lot doesn’t get across! The second game has jokes about the reveal of Reiwa as the new era name for example. I’d be curious to see how (or even if) the English version handles things like that. But – that all said, even without the language barrier that confused experimentation seems like the experience they’re going for. And there’s a kind of magic feeling when despite all that (and the often confusing controls), you actually do “read the room” and instinctively handle a situation.
One drawback for language-learning is the lack of feedback. It’s not the kind of game where it’ll tell you “right!” or “wrong!” - it just quietly observes and moves on to the next scene, with a vague summary every 5 questions (I got “なんとはなしに。。。読めてるっぽい” a lot). Which is good for comic effect! Less good for study.
I imagine the longevity comes out of playing it with someone else around and chatting about the various scenarios, which is why it seems like a good streaming game (yep, that’s where I heard about it…).
Not that metrics really matter, but I arbitrarily decided to mark this as 1 game together in the chart at the top of the thread - it doesn’t feel substantial enough to mark them both individually, but playing through them and watching streamers play them ought to count for something at least!
Finally, here’s some stuff I thought was interesting in this* week’s wrestling magazine.
(*not really, shipping takes time)
(customary @fallynleaf tag)
El Desperado had a big interview about suddenly being a double champion after Hiromu was injured again. Despy’s one of my favorites in New Japan, so I should really catch up a bit since he’s having such a streak right now! The magazine gave the match where his mask came off (deservedly) best match of last year if I recall correctly too. Anyway - he comes across like a very humble craftsman here, not the usual heel(? Is Suzuki-gun still heels at this point?) wrestler bravado. He talked about tag team wrestling as the 醍醐味 of wrestling (always a good vocab word) and I forget the exact metaphor but described himself as part of the buffet of options a NJPW viewer may have.
So it doesn’t sound like we should expect this as a big breakaway singles wrestling moment for him.
Tana’s column is about advice for people graduating amid コロナ禍 as it’s 年度末 at the time. His advice is pretty bad lol. Basically saying that because their school life now is so terrible, they must be fated for good things in the future since luck is zero-sum, and also that, on the bright side, in many years they can gather over drinks and say “boy that pandemic was sure rough huh”
This issue builds to Yokohama Dream Cinderella, and it transcribes the press conference where Natsupoi tore all those pictures of Tam Nakano, suddenly making the feud a “昼ドラ顔負けの愛憎劇.” I have a hard time buying Natsupoi as that melodramatic of a heel, but I really enjoyed that match! I think Tam’s really great at selling matches as being taxing both physically and emotionally.
Mayu’s column is about haircuts - apparently the reason her hair is long now is her hairdresser left and she’s too shy to get another one. And she mentions if she’s last eliminated at Yokohama and forced to join Oedotai and become a heel it could be a good time to get a haircut (but reiterates she does want to win).
The column about wrestling history talks about a show on 1980.3.31 as being(I think roughly) the most lop-sided invasion/cross-promotion battle angle in history, as New Japan stars destroyed 国際プロレス ones and the promotion folded shortly thereafter.
国際プロレス is most memorable for me as the promotion I bought multiple books about before belatedly realizing I had foolishly misunderstood its name, thinking I was buying books about, well, international pro-wrestling literally… Embarrassing! But tidbits I’ve seen since and names like 阿修羅・原 or アニマル浜口 do make me curious to learn more about it, so maybe it all worked out…
There’s a big feature at the back of the magazine about Antonio Inoki’s medical condition, wishing him well, and directing fans to his youtube page for updates.
If there’s any pro-wrestling figure anyone should know just for the sake of being a more literate reader and getting cultural references in other Japanese material, it’s probably Antonio Inoki. He founded the largest pro-wrestling company in Japan (NJPW), fought Muhammad Ali, was elected to the National Diet, negotiated for the release of hostages, brought tabasco sauce to Japan, and has a truly remarkable chin.
I heard Genichiro Tenryu had medical trouble recently too, and he’s actually a columnist of this magazine, but I didn’t spot mention of that… maybe it hadn’t happened yet!
The last column is about Giulia and the aftermath of the hair vs. hair match and main-eventing still and stuff. It seems that match had a lot of criticism leading up to it as an anachronism, which doesn’t really make sense to me since I thought it made perfect sense for those two wrestlers (and I mean, Triplemania had a way more old-school hair vs hair match just a few months ago), and obviously it was there for Giulia to look cool with short hair - which she does, so I feel like this was born out.
Anyway, I feel kind of bad for Utami Hayashishita that Giulia and DDM keep upstaging her, but at the same time Giulia right now reminds me of Shinsuke Nakamura at his peak that got me into wrestling, so I really can’t complain.
The gnarliest death match photo yet, with the silliest tagline
get in the ring shinji
Is that really Keiji Mutoh???
Apparently Kairi is going to have a “talking battle” With Masahiro Chono?? I would watch that…
P.S. - 蝶野 is far and away the #1 “sounds badass but the kanji are incredibly sweet and relaxing” name out there.