[livejournal.com profile] oyceter, [livejournal.com profile] yhlee, and others will be getting together over the 4th of July weekend. We want to watch insane cracktastic Hong Kong (or mainland) movies! The crazier the better! Artistic quality is a plus but not actually required; entertainment quality is!

These movies must be commercially available on DVD via easy sources like Netflix or neighborhood video shops. I am very sad that the genuinely excellent Peking Opera Blues is NOT easily available, nor are the excellently cracktastic 2002 or Wicked City.

We have already had group viewings of Heroic Trio. We are definitely going to see Andy Lau's Armageddon, which I started to watch myself, but when a priest spontaneously combusted within the first five minutes, I decided it was better saved for group viewing. (Please do NOT spoil the even more hilarious thing that happens soon after, I want to spring it on them.)

We are also going to watch the Red Cliff movies.
The art is still gorgeous. The incest is still disturbingly hot, and there was a surprise heterosexual and as far as we know now, non-incestuous affair that was both hot and sweet. The plot, which featured an evil hand and crystal wings of demonic D00M, is so deliciously insane that I ended up live-blogging them to [livejournal.com profile] oyceter over email.

Click here to buy or feast your eyes on the exquisite cover art: Cantarella Volume 5 (Cantarella (Graphic Novel)) (v. 5)

Cantarella Volume 6 (Cantarella (Graphic Novel)) (v. 6)

Cesare: (as Volpe attempts to lick the blood off his chest wound) You'll die. My blood is poisonous. [...] Volpe: If that is so, then I have already been violated by the poison that is you. The sweet poison that is you. My life and my death belong to you! )
These are preliminary notes. I have only read the first three volumes, so please do not spoil me.

Gorgeous, gorgeous art and bishounen Cesare Borgia would probably be enough to addict me to this awesome quasi-historical manga; however, it also has accurate historical details interspersed with actual historical myths presented as facts, or at least I think it was a real legend that Cesare Borgia's father sold his son's soul to Satan so he (Borgia Senior) could become Pope. Oh, and it has an evil Pope! And Niccolo Machiavelli as a talking moth with a human head, or, as I like to call him, Mothiavelli.

And that's not all! There is incestuous longing between Cesare and his angelic blonde sister Lucrezia! (Yes, that Lucrezia Borgia.) Cesare's blood is a deadly poison! He has an extremely slashy relationship with the extremely pretty and surprisingly sweet boy Chiaro, who has a possibly magic mask which turns him into the deadly assassin Michelotto! Double-crossing, poisons, assassinations, and demonic magic abounds!

And by the end of volume 3...!!! )

Really, there are not enough exclamation points for this series. And I'm told that it gets even better.

Click here to buy it from Amazon: Cantarella Volume 1 (Cantarella (Graphic Novel)) (v. 1)
I hereby reproduce the complete text of the back cover of Steven Barnes' Blood Brother. If the novel is one-tenth as awesome as the description, it will be pretty damn awesome:

Austin Tucker was a Green Beret, a man with lightning reflexes and the training to use them. But his life was shattered one Thanksgiving night when strangers invaded his home and killed his son, his daughter, and his wife.

Derek Waites was once an outlaw computer hacker, the infamous Captain Africa. Now he designs computer games. Someone has just tried to kidnap his son, while his daughter cried a strange warning and burst into flames.

The two men have nothing in common - Tucker is a white man from the suburbs. Waites is a black street hustler trying to go straight. But they are brothers in the same cause. If Tucker and Waites can resolve their differences long enough to work together, they can defeat an ancient evil. Between them they have the skills and the knowledge to break an ancient cycle of supernatural predation, and save the lives of a generation of children.
Moon Child continues to grab my attention by the lapels, despite some dubious racial and gender issues (oddly mixed with some cool gender-bending and cameos by totally normal random people of color) and a somewhat tasteless use of real-life disasters. Whatever. It's totally awesome and awesomely insane! I urge you to read it!

It wins the prize for Most Bad Wrong Relationship Ever, given that the heroine is a boy named Jimmy who is supposedly twelve but acts six and is an alien mermaid who is a descendant of the Little Mermaid and was raised on the moon, swam through space to spawn on the Earth, and transforms into a beautiful woman-- with the mind of child!Jimmy-- named Benjamin and is the object of desire in her female form by the abusive Broadway dancer who has adopted Jimmy, and sort of in any form by the male mermaid who is desperate to father his eggs on her. Also, she sometimes wears panties on his head.

The biology of the mermaids is based on clown fish, in which the fish all hatch as androgynous, and then the most dominant becomes female and the second-most male. Others remain neuter. In Moon Child, all the mermaids are absolutely desperate to either become female and lay eggs, or father eggs, or find a father for their eggs. There is also spirit possession, resurrection, the Apollo astronauts, musings on water pollution and nuclear power, amnesia, backstage rivalry, cross-dressing ballet, and bargains with the undersea witch who gave the Little Mermaid her legs.

The art is incredibly beautiful and striking, the (unsurprisingly bizarre) omake are hilarious, and there are random pin-ups of the characters dressed a la the court of Louis XXIV. And endless discussions of "birthing eggs." And giant hallucinatory fish skeletons. Volcanic eruptions. The male mermaid sadly muses that his kiddie true love likes cake better than him. Why are you all not reading this already?
Just when I think I'm inured to the insanity of manga, something like Reiko Shimizu's Moon Child comes along.

This remarkable work combines total freaking insanity with gorgeously surreal images and an astounding amount of plot for a first volume-- concluding with the mangaka's explanation that volume 1 is just a prologue, and the story really gets started in volume 2! I can't wait!

Jimmy is a blonde amnesiac child living in New York City with Art, an abusive, washed-up Broadway dancer who may or may not have a heart of gold. But unbeknownst to either of them, Jimmy is actually Benjamin, the beautiful daughter of the Little Mermaid, who was one of a race of alien mermaids who must return to Earth to spawn by mating with each other and laying eggs!

There are identical twins or clones or creepy illusions of Jimmy, backstage drama, poltergeist activity, telekinesis, demons biting people's heads, giant catfish swimming through the air above Time Square, and dialogue like "Space is like an ocean. I can swim there. That's how I got here, to the Planet Asgard. I was just a hatchling back then, so it took several hundred years."

It reminded me a bit of Please Save My Earth, only with extra bonus insanity.

Warning: the leader of the mermaids is drawn as a bizarrely stereotyped African woman. This is especially unfortunate as Shimizu manages to include other black characters who are not your typical manga stereotypes (a doctor, random mermaids), thus lulling me into a false sense of security.

A complete and hilarious review, with pictures.
Welcome back to insane cracktastic Gothic land!

In a moment of synchronicity, last Friday I was invited to share some Belgian chocolates labeled individually by province. Unfortunately, the font's capital I looked much like a small l, and so when asked to choose, I said, "I'll take the leper!"

I do not often come across books containing leprosy, though when I read Darcourt I immediately regretted forgetting about the YA novel in which the heroine develops leprosy, watches her mother agonizingly die of rot, is shipped off to a leper colony, and dies, the end -- I would have certainly included it in my YA agony award nominations if I had. I was also reminded of Thomas Covenant. Normally I don't find characters whiny if they have something to whine about. But Covenant managed to be so whiny that I thought, "Oh, get over your leprosy already!"

Young journalist Sally Wainwright impersonates a friend of hers in order to get hired as governess for a wealthy teenager on Darcourt Island. The island is owned by reclusive billionaire Tristram Darcourt. Sally is ostensibly doing this to write an expose on him, but really because her mother was jilted by him and she wants to find out what happened. (She can't ask because both her parents are now dead.)

Teenage Alix is wild and has a Mysterious Skin Condition for which she takes Mysterious Meds. Darcourt is high-handed and arrogant. He is also said to have let his brother die in the super-quick quicksand which is featured in the Mysterious Marsh surrounding the house, into which Sally is forbidden to go. Sally is promply menaced by snakes and scorpions released in her room, plus Mysterious Figures, and people shooting at her, whomping her over the head, and trying to kill her dog.

Could it be the Mysterious Mrs. Darcourt, alternately said to be in the south of France and lurking in Mysterious Marsh?! Or the off-stage Mysterious Middle Eastern Group which is the subject of a code-named Pentagon study? Or Andre, who is a cousin or something? Or some blonde kid with a cowlick?

rachelmanija: (Anime is serious)
( Apr. 18th, 2008 05:25 pm)
I stalled out on Gravitation ages ago, but tried picking it up again to see if I wanted to keep the books or give them away.

Okay, I realize that it's a cracktastic manga regardless, but what I want to know is this: did I forget where I was and start in the wrong place, or is this a dream or fantasy sequence, or does it actually really happen in canon that Read more... ) And if that actually did happen... how shall I phrase this... why?
I am not sure if this live-action Chinese martial arts soap opera drama is awesome or just cracktastic, but I had a ridiculous amount of fun watching it. And so can you: it's available via Netflix.

The heroine is a lovely assassin/forced concubine who wears gorgeous flowing red clothes and a red beauty mark on her forehead. This distinguishes her from the rest of her all-female color-coded assassin squad, who all live in an underground palace which is dank and infested with scorpions, torture machines, and creepy skulking plotting men, but which the assassins find warm and cozy because they were all kidnapped as girls and raised there.

This all takes place in pre-Tang China, by the way. Well, sort of. The score is distinctly modern, featuring extremely long synthesizer solos that go "BWAAAAAANG!" at dramatic points, and also disco and C-pop. Plus really bad subtitles. Characters often say things like, "I knew he was the man when I first saw the shinny thing in his eyes," "How's crippled grandpa?" "There's a siskin behind the preying mantis," and "He's desperate to kill you alive!"

I have forgotten everyone's names, so I will call the heroine Red. Red is sad and stoic, unsurprisingly since her first love, a stone-faced dude with a bell on his pants that rings to show emotion, kidnapped her and made her into an assassin who can kill people in 49 different ways, including with a leaf and her hair, and turned her over to a gross evil councilor who pried apart her thighs and took her virginity. Stone-face, by the way, canonically never changes expression or ages, which explains a lot about the flashbacks where he looks exactly the same.

The councilor has an idiot son who's plotting to kill him. Yellow assassin has a crush on Idiot Son, which is odd since he has so far vomited on her, insulted her, torn up her painting, called her mom, and hurled a Persian cat at her. You see why I enjoyed this show so much.

A country bumpkin feng shui psychic detective scholar guy who has long intimate conversations with his horse comes to town. He charms Red, who as you have probably noticed, is surrounded by men who would have been rejected from match.com. Also, he tells her she'd make a great general, and furthermore, "I'll make you soup and protect you with my life." She spares his life when she was sent to bring back his head in a jar, and runs away with him.

Blue assassin and Stone-face pursue. Blue kills a horse with her sleeve, and without getting permission, hires drunken bandits in furry masks to kill Bumpkin's village. Stone-face slashes Blue's face, and she treasures the scar because she has a creepy hang-up about him. "You want to screw her face?!" someone asked. Oyce explained to me that it was actually "screw up."

It's revealed that the underground palace is actually the tomb of the empress whom Stone-face loved. He practices wu shu and hallucinates her before him. But no! It's Blue dressed as the empress! Stone-face sneaks up on Blue while she sleeps and rubs her hair over his face, pretending she's the empress. When he leaves, she smells her hair in ecstasy. A creepy healer dude heals her scar without asking, and she tries to scar her face again!

I was rooting for Bumpkin for a while, but then he displayed his... um... interesting battle strategy in what was possibly the best fight scene ever, for certain values of "best."

Spoilery, but you know you want to read it. )
Rilina also posted on this set of episodes.

After a remarkably slow start-- 25 episodes in which I was moderately caught up by the plot, but didn't really give a damn about any of the characters-- it suddenly made a 180 into sheer awesome. Well worth sitting through the first half!

...I still can't believe the singing pink girl became one of my favorite characters. And without contradicting her apparent passivity early on, either.

They disappoint, they disappear, they die but they don't )
This is the most appropriate use of my cockatiel parakeet of D00M icon since I posted about the Bleach episode where it first appeared, for this series prominently features a cockatoo. And not just any cockatoo! A cockatoo with a secret.

Karasu is a scruffy blonde agnostic angel with glasses and a soul-patch. As seems to be usual in manga, Heaven is some cross between a totalitarian dictatorship and an uptight beaureaucracy. Karasu has been sent down to Earth to retrieve a devil who's been living with humans. This is forbidden, as is devil-angel sex and other fun stuff.

The devil, Shirasagi, is really cute, incredibly sweet, loves God, wants to do good, and is currently helping small children as a pastor. With a cockatoo. He has black hair and wears a cross.

Sparks fly. Karasu gets in trouble with Heaven. Shirasagi is kidnapped by Beelzebub, who used to keep him as a sex slave in a giant birdcage in Hell. Karasu gets knocked out trying to protect Shirasagi, and the cockatoo flutters around his unconscious body looking both mournful and strangely fierce.

Two miscellaneous notes of interest:

1. If you look closely at the last panel of the first page of chapter three, you will see that some anonymous dude is giving Beelzebub a blow-job.

2. Beelzebub is the Archduke of Hell. The typeface made me repeatedly read this as "Artichoke," ie, "The Artichoke is waiting for you underground."

Most hilarious spoilery reveal ever )
From the creator of the surprisingly undistinguished manga which inspired the brilliant anime Revolutionary Girl Utena comes this strikingly incoherent manga.

Opening narration: Once upon a time, the source of the devil R's invincible powers was The Book of S&M. But one day a young man stole the book without knowing what it was, cut it into strips, and used it to create a girl doll named S and a boy doll named M out of papier-mache. With that act, the unimaginable power that the devil held from the book was divided between the two dolls!

Cut to Sekai, a Japanese schoolgirl, confessing her love to her classmate Midou. Her turns her down. The train crashes, and Sekai falls through time and space, and lands on a creepy boy, Sovieul, who looks about six years old but proclaims that she is his bride. And that they're now in 17th century France. And her soul is bound to a doll he has, because they both have jewels glued to their chests. She tries to take a photo, and is attacked by a mob who think she's a witch. Creepy Boy protects her, she runs, and a guy who looks just like a more swashbuckling Mudou appears and proclaims that she is his bride. He goes away and Creepy Boy returns and explains that the doll, S, gives him the power to travel through space and time.

Then they get arrested. Then there's random court intrigue. Then they're in court and she's sentenced to death. Not!Midou appears, identified by Creepy Boy as Machiavello. They squabble over some incomprehensible backstory. Machiavello also has a gem in his chest! He disappears and Sekai is tied to a stake to be burned. Creepy Boy offers to duel for her. Aramis appears and takes him up on it. This is Aramis:

Look at his rose-like face. Aramis castrated himself as a youth when he vowed to join the church.

Machiavello appears and demands her body. There's something about Louis XIV and poison. Sekai falls through time. Machiavello gets stabbed and dies. Then he's OK again. Some of that was probably a vision, I'm not sure whose. Something explodes. Creepy Boy wins the duel with Eunuch Musketeer. More intrigue with poisoned wine. Creepy Boy and Sekai ride off together in a cart.

That, my friends, is the end of Part I! In Part II, the second half of this slim manga volume, there are random sheep, Joan of Arc, Gilles de Rais, and much, much, much more random appearing and disappearing.

Has anyone read more of this? Does it ever make more sense? Does it ever make less?
rachelmanija: (Fowl of DOOM)
( Feb. 17th, 2008 10:28 am)
Last night I dreamed that my Dad had a career writing Firefly AU tie-in novels in which Mal and Zoe solved cozy mysteries. The main recurring villain was an evil chicken.

In related news, I am amazed that I completely forgot that the very first few episodes of Fullmetal Alchemist contain a flock of zombie parrots, a giant attack parrot, and a giant zombie attack human-parrot chimera.
The poll is funny, but the comments are funnier. Particularly the bits about the egg and the windchimes, Krycek as a mute mermaid, and the surprising plot twist which occurs when I inquire about a notorious X-Files fic, "Oklahoma."

It's pre-Revolution France. A cult of evil poets are sacrificing female virgins because when they write poems in their blood, they become possessed and turn into monstrous dragons! Who you gonna call?

The Sphynx, dead sister and sometimes possessor of her brother, the Chevalier d'Eon. She is a busty blonde who wields the sword of Thor and says things like, "I shall destroy the poet of the evil psalms who feasts at the table of blood and gore!"

When not possessed, the Chevalier holds lengthy and erudite conversations over the possible meanings of the words psalms, palms, and palmss-- all of which appear repeatedly in the manga, written in blood or magically appearing mirror-reversed ("Like a printing press!" someone exclaims helpfully) on the body of a girl who can thereafter only speak anagrams of the word "palmss."

I swear I'm not making this up. The effect is only enhanced by the careful research and learned footnotes at the back explaining the historical Chevalier d'Eon (transsexual swordighter and spy) and the association of pilgrims with palm leaves. And also psalms. Probably palmss too. Possibly Gollum could explain the latter.

Not actually good, but memorably insane.
One of the characters, a whore/assassin, is named Surreal. This is never commented upon. Her sister is named Dada and her baby brother is Hallucinatory.

And yes, I did get to the magical child abuse and magic virginity loss/extra-special Witch Hymen (it bleeds an extra-special amount.)

The worldbuilding is unusually bad. I mean, even for the type of book it is. Characters drink coffee and eat sandwiches. No setting is ever described at all, so the book seems to be floating in a formless haze, except occasionally when there's a wish-fulfillment moment, like Mary Sue's extra-special bedroom with the sand-colored plush carpet and ocean-colored wallpaper, and then it's described in great detail. By the way, the bedroom is in Hell.
Stephanie kindly gave me this to read on the plane, explaining, "You said that if I gave you the magic cock ring book you would read it."

How do I even describe this...? I abandoned it on the plane, so I shall merely share the fragments I recall, which now have the air of a very bad trip.

There are magic cock rings. They are controlled by witches to enslave the wearers, who often magically zap them with pain. This makes many of the male characters perform actions like, "Moaning and clutching his groin, he staggered up the stairs," or "Carefully holding his crotch, he pursued her."

On page two, someone gets his balls eaten by rats. He has a tragic death scene, in which he says tragically, "The rats ate my balls!"

There is a character named Saetan. (Pronounced, perhaps, like the vegan meat substiitute?) He is the lord of Hell. There is also a kingdom called Hayll. I found this rather confusing.

There is another castration somewhere later in the book. I think Anne Bishop has some issues.

One guy has membraneous bat wings, which Bishop forgets exist for chapters on end, but which come into play when he:s particularly Byronic and crotch-clutchy.

The hero is impotent because he can only get it up for his Twoo Wuv. She is the world"s biggest Mary Sue-- golden ringlets, frequently compared to a cat, called names like "hoyden" and "snippet," and ten times more powerful than anyone ever. She has a Destiny and Very Special Magic Rocks. There is a whole system of color-coded magic rocks-- Mary Sue has the best set of anyone ever.

When the hero meets her, she is twelve, and he feels a strange pull toward her, but freaks out because she]s a kid and he:d be a perv if he got a hard-on from a kid. So he rushes upstairs and puts his hands down his pants to see if he got one or not. Um, I:m not a guy, but you don"t actually have to touch it to tell, right?
I read this manga a while ago, but while culling my bookshelves recently I re-read it to see if it was as insane and incoherent as I remembered. Indeed, it was! I will now recount the plot for posterity before placing it on Book Mooch.

ETA: I forgot about the incest. See comments.

The manga begins with this narration: “My older brother was a kind, generous man. One day, he said, ‘I want to be like Cain.’ Later I realized he was talking about Cain, the model.”

Splash page of Shun, our hero and narrator, looking at a poster of blonde, beautiful CAIN.

One page later, Shun randomly blunders into a Satanic Mass. “Our Dark Lord, Lucifer, will join us tonight!”

The hysterical Shun, who is about to get sacrificed as a virgin, muses, “I can feel Lucifer taking over my body to accept his gift!”

But who should rescue him but… Cain! The golden beast! He leaps in and says, “I am the devil,” before carrying Shun away. "Jesus!" exclaims a Satanist. Shun flashes back to his brother giving him an expository lump regarding the Biblical Cain. This is followed by an expository lump on the mysterious model Cain. (“Three years ago, he appeared in a cosmetics ad…")

Cain explains that he is half Japanese but was raised in Vietnam, which explains why he will periodically murmur endearments in Vietnamese. “My income provides medicine and education for the poor,” he adds, lest Shun think him a worthless parasite. Then he gives Shun a blow job and vanishes.

Cain then appears as a student at Shun’s high school. This contradicts the note at the beginning of the manga informing us that all characters depicted in sexual situations are at least nineteen. Uh-huh. Shun flashes back to his brother’s horrible death in a car crash, which he feels very guilty about—so guilty that he must have more sex with Cain! “Shred me with your fangs,” says Shun. “Em yeu qui cua anh,” says Cain.

From foreign lands, he has come… to wield the sword of revenge )
Kallista is a naitan (magic user) of the North school of magic. She can control lightning, and has a hot bodyguard named Torchay who is secretly madly in love with her and carries a lot of knives. Since her magic is only useful for warfare, she's in the army. Her country is invaded, she's in trouble on the front lines, she calls out to God for help, and ZAP!

She gets tons of uncontrollable power poured into her, and is now chosen by the Gods and can do basically anything, since she now has the powers of all the cardinal directions. She also has a Significant Mark, and must find all these other people with Significant Marks. And marry them. All of them. And give them no-touch orgasms. Except mostly she doesn't actively seek them, they just show up, or she randomly runs into them, and marries them the next day. And then there are many no-touch magical orgasms. You think I am making this up, but I am not.

This book had enough elements that I like in the abstract-- unconventional romances (in this case, polyamory), hot bodyguards who carry a lot of knives, complex magic systems, romances between soldier comrades, female soldiers, and a group of mis-matched heroes from different cultures and backgrounds who must work together-- that I did finish it, and yet I cannot recommend it.

It was clunkily written, poorly constucted ("This happened and then this happened," rather than "This happened, and so this happened,") read as if it was a first draft, and the succession of events is often comically abrupt. One guy shows up, displays his mark, and is married to all the other main characters in something like fifteen pages. Kallista is way overpowered, and also rather unlikable. Things keep happening more-or-less of their own accord, or because destiny or God made them happen, rather than because the characters made a decision.

Orgasm is the least interesting part of a sex scene, because one earthshaking orgasm is pretty much the same as the next earthshaking orgasm. Taking out the mechanics of sex and leaving only the orgasm is dead boring, and also un-erotic. And-- this keeps coming up, as it were-- unintentionally humorous. In a non-orgasmic instance of this problem, I dissolved into giggles every time one character very solemnly addressed a senior member of the Barbed Rose School (or some such) as "Master Barb."

Read Diane Duane's The Door Into Fire or Jacqueline Carey's Kushiel series for a much better take on some similar themes and plot points.


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