CLAMPdown: Flipped pages unflipped (spoiler warning)

In my book CLAMPdown, in order to avoid giving away spoilers to series to readers who may be new to manga, I put some of the sections in mirror writing in order to prevent giving away the plot to some stories.

I have had comments on my Kickstarter that some people have had difficulty reading these passages, and thus below are the passages unflipped (i.e. the right way around).

The first is from p. 94-95, from the Tokyo Babylon chapter.

The second is p. 165-166, covering the first half of Magic Knight Rayearth.

The third, from p. 175, is about second half of Magic Knight Rayearth.

In the audiobook, the passages are also backwards, but I will ask the producer to provide me with these extracts unflipped to and post them up later.

CLAMPdown – Now in print

This is something I hardly ever mentioned on this page, on the grounds it doesn’t get that many visitors, but I managed to successfully fund a book I wrote on Kickstarter, all about the manga group CLAMP, called CLAMPdown. I will be giving out details soon about where you can buy your own copy.

Cover drawn by Robin Kaplan, with text designed by A.L. Kaplan.

Candy Flurry: Chapter 1 – Rainfall review

Copyright: AME NO FURU © Ippon Takegushi, Santa Mitarashu SHUEISHA Inc.

Chapter 1 can be read for free on Viz Media.

I originally planned to post this review on Anime UK News, but it is too personal so I’m putting it on my blog instead.

There is one overriding reason for me review this brand new manga – and by “brand new”, I really do mean that. The first chapter came out just a few hours of me writing this review via the Shonen Jump website. The reason is “morphic resonance”, the theory that ideas develop in various different parts of the world simultaneously. The classic example given is sheep rolling over cattle-grids to avoid getting caught in them, with people claiming that it was happening in two completely different parts of Australia at the same time, with no-one observing it before then.

In order to delve into this, I’m going to have to share something personal before I review the manga in question, but don’t worry this is all relevant for reason that become clear. In 2019, I was attending Hyper Japan, and bought among other things this rainbow cardigan because I thought it look cool and cute. However, it’s not the sort of thing that I can wear out and about where I live, so it just sat in my wardrobe.

Over recent lockdown months, ideas formed. At first, I considered something related to decora fashion – the Japanese fashion style noted for using loads of accessories, bright colours etc. I decided to do a candy theme, and this morphed into creating a original character (OC) which I have been developing personally over time. Eventually, I got all sorts of over-the-top, decora style, candy themes for my character: a dogboy, candy-loving supervillain whom I’ve called Terry Fry (“Terrify”), named after the confectionary companies Terry’s and Fry’s.

This Thursday (15th April 2021), I went to my local comic book shop, Geek Corner of Stockton-on-Tees, which was finally able to reopen its doors again following the COVID-19 lockdown (remember to give your local comic book shop a visit during this time). As well as buy and selling comics, they also make cosplay props and have in the past done entire cosplay outfits for me. We talked about all sorts of wacky, sweet-based OTT decora-inspired elements I wanted Terry Fry to have, including but not limited to chocolate lederhosen, boots with platform cake soles, and decorating my rainbow cardigan with pompoms including some candy-themed ones. Being a supervillain, I’ve suggest weapons including a bat which is a Toblerone-Rolo combo (one for the QI fans). Even today (18th April), I’ve been suggesting other ideas to go with the outfit, such as necklace featuring that most destructive of confections, the “waffer” thin mint (one for the Monty Python fans). Today also happened to be the day that Shonen Jump launched the first chapter of a brand new series which stars people with candy-based super powers. Yeah, that’s put a new spin on things.

Written by Ippon Takegushi and illustrated by Santa Mitarashi, Candy Flurry (Ame No Furu) does have some of the typical Shonen Jump elements, it appearing to be a battle-based series which the central characters having different powers. The story begins with a company called ToyToy Candy releasing a limited edition range of 100 pieces of candy, each of which has a unique surprise. While the ad seemed plain at first, it was quickly discovered that the secret was that each candy gave the consumer to conjure a specific item of confectionary out of thin air. Thus, if you consumed the special cake candy, that person could magically make cake. These became known as the “Sweets Users”.

However, the plan was a disaster. One person, the Lollipop User, used their powers to destroy Tokyo. The city has been ruined, with nothing in it except shattered buildings and gigantic, multicoloured, swirling lollies. Five years after Tokyo’s destruction, there are no plans to rebuild it, and now there are many Sweets Users on the loose committing crimes. The series follows schoolgirl Tsumugi Minase. She still loves sweets, despite the fact many people are put off them following the destruction of the city. On her way to school, she is attacked by the Doughnut User, but Tsumugi is able to fight back. We learn that it is she that is the Lollipop User, or rather “a” Lollipop User. Although it is claimed that there can only be one user of each candy, Tsumugi believes that she witnessed another Lollipop User and that this was the person who destroyed Tokyo and not herself. Obviously, she tries to keep her identity secret for fear or being arrested.

Tsumugi defeats the Doughnut User, but as witnesses come to the scene, a gigantic fork flies past. This is the weapon of Misaki Midori, a member of Recette – the Sweets Police, who deal with crimes committed by Sweets Users and thus people Tsumugi tries to avoid. However, in typical shonen comic fashion, when Tsumugi arrives at school, she learns that her class has a new student: Misaki Midori, who ends up sitting behind her in class. Misaki is not surprisingly suspicious of Tsumugi, but the two get along in class. However, things change when Tsumugi finds herself the victim of another attack.

Regarding the manga itself, there are elements of which will be familiar to anyone who has read battle-based manga in the past. Comments on the Shonen Jump website have already highlighted the similarities between the Sweets Users gaining their abilities by eating a particular item of candy, and the pirates in One Piece who can gain powers eating Devil Fruit. The main difference however, if the first chapter is anything to go by, is that the downside of being a Sweets User is more ambiguous. Tsumugi clearly has problems because she claims to be accused of a crime that she didn’t commit, but that is because someone else had similar powers, rather than she was unable to control her own power or that there was some cost to it like the Devil Fruit users who sink like stones in water. This will eventually develop as we learn more about these powers. Some of the more critical comments have been that Candy Flurry is too similar to One Piece‘s “Whole Cake Island” arc. Concerning the characters, readers have talked positively about Tsumugi being a rare female-lead in a Shonen Jump, which is of course great, but at the same time worrying that it feels that this should be highlighted in this modern age. Guess it highlights that there are still some problems with representation in manga generally that titles like Candy Flurry can help to solve.

While the character design is fine, it seems that so far it is the design of weapons that is the main artistic appeal to the story. Tsumugi’s gigantic lollipops are fun to look at, especially in the promotional colour artwork that comes in the opening chapter; while Misaki’s massive fork has comedic elements. It is fun that rather than a hero fighting with a typical sword or even a knife, they are fighting an oversized piece of cutlery. When characters are discussed by readers, the comments are mainly about a pig-dog animal that Tsumugi sees abandoned in the street, which she takes pity on and give her umbrella to protect it from the rain. The same animal crops up late in the chapter. The animal already has fans.

Regarding production, Junko Goda translated the story, while James Gaubatz does the lettering. Goda translation appears to be fine, although it word be nice if some words used had the odd translation note. For example, the manga has no explanation as to where “Recette” comes from. I’ve since looked it up and it is the French for “recipe”. It is also annoying that the term for people with these powers is “Sweets Users”, because I’m constantly writing “Sweet Users” and having to correct myself. Gaubatz’s lettering appears to have no problems when I first read the chapter.

Thus, when it comes to this opening chapter, I would say that so far Candy Flurry has been good and it will be nice to see how the story develops over the coming weeks, if it is given the chance to flourish.

However, there is also a big part of me that when I first learned about this (thanks to emails from Viz Media) thought: “Oh damn it! After all my plans! Can I do my outfit now. Will people think I’m just copying this and that I’m jumping on the bandwagon?” I am annoyed that I’ve got so far with my own plans and then this crops up.

Having said that, the fact that I have indeed gone so far does show that I have been able to created something that I hope is original enough to be not be a problem for either myself or for Takegushi and Mitarashi when it comes to plagiarism. I think Terry Fry is different enough avoid confusion with being associated with Candy Flurry – my character is a dogboy, and so far their only Sweets Users are humans; Terry Fry is more in the standard western comic book-style supervillain, whereas we don’t know much about the Lollipop User who destroyed Tokyo yet; my OC has abilities and weapons based on many different kinds of confection, whereas the Sweets Users are limited to one each; and my original influence was decora fashion, which I hope is different enough from Takegushi and Mitarashi to be unique.

Given my plans with my outfit and my OC, I for one will be following Candy Flurry with deep interest. I hope Takegushi and Mitarashi find success with their work and go on to influence many other people.

I was going to end my review here, but just before I did so, I got an answer message on my phone. It sounded like someone was barking down it for much of the time, and often it was muffled because the called seemed to eating constantly. I’ve done my best to transcribe the message here:

“Attention Sweets Users and Recette – you don’t know me, but I’ve… hang on…*munch munch munch* hummm Maltesers *munch munch* … I’ve been following the past five years in Tokyo with interest. The time has come… hang on… *lapping lapping* Woof! Woof! My drinking toilet is empty! You, fill it up with more hot chocolate, and put two bags of sugar in it this time, one white, one brown! Now, or I’ll plant my doggy dentures into you and give you an overdose of the sweet stuff! Err… yes, yes, the time has come to make my bark, I mean mark. For my gingerbread kennel here in England… *munch munch* I’m planning a full scale attack on Japan. *munch munch* Smartie pants here is coming for you! Not one dango, wagashi, Pocky or funny-flavoured Kit Kat will be save from my muzzle. I hope you look forward to our showdown. *munch munch munch* Anyway, I need to get through my baker’s dozen of cakes this morning. You don’t want to see this terrier-ist when I’ve had a sugar crash, hahahaha! … Err… could one you pups press stop, my paws are covered in caramel and the touch screen doesn’t work.”

What I’ve been doing during lockdown…

Yes, I know I don’t update this blog nearly as often as I should. The reason this hasn’t been updated can be explained thusly.

During the UK’s Covid-19 lockdowns, I wrote a book. The book is about the manga artists CLAMP, so I called it CLAMPdown.

I’m now trying to find a publisher. For more information, see here.

To see extracts, visit the Twitter account @clampdownbook

Yes – it’s a new post (and a big apology obviously)

Yuri on Ice

Hi there,

You may have been wondering where I have been. Well, actually I’m guessing you haven’t.

Let’s be honest, this is a very minor blog, which is why I haven’t updates in ages, although I have still been doing my work for MyM and Anime UK News. My anime writing for On The Box however dried up, and I had to put “The Beginner’s Guide to Anime” on hold while having to focus on more mainstream British TV coverage. Luckily, during that time more anime is being shown on UK TV, albeit on Viceland, a channel with small viewing figues.

The updates stopped mainly due to my work for the British Comedy Guide, covering the Edinburgh Fringe, and because of that everything else got put on hold, and due to the small number of people who visit this blog it didn’t feel much point in updating it.

However, I’ve now written a new “Beginner’s Guide”, and as the Winter Olympics are coming up I’ve covered Yuri!!! on Ice. I’m certainly hoping one of the skaters at the games performs to their music.

Again, sorry for the lack of updates. I intend to be more active in future. Luckily I got a new computer, meaning everything should be much quicker to do.

Anime UK News review: Land of the Lustrous, Volume 1

Land of the Lustrous

And now… if you can believe such a thing… an Anime UK News review that was actually published today! This one of the first volume of the manga Land of the Lustrous, which has been picked up for an anime adaptation.