Sunday, October 3, 2021

Animal Crossing: Deserted Island Diary; Vol 1

Translation & Adaption: Caleb Cook
Touch-Up Art & Lettering: Sara Linsley
Design: Shawn Carrico
Editor: Nancy Thistlethwaite

There is a long list of manga that are based on or adapt a variety of genres of video games. And while not all of them are licensed, we do have access to quite a few of them; my personal favorite being the Legend of Zelda series, but that’s a story for another day. Animal Crossing has had many but this is the first one we’ve gotten licensed here in the US and Canada. With Animal Crossing New Horizons being the best selling game in the series and one of the best selling games on the Switch, it seems like a no-brainer that we’d get at least one of the two currently running Animal Crossing manga fresh out of Japan.

For anyone unfamiliar with the series, Animal Crossing is a simulation video game that revolves around social interactions. Contrary to my belief when I was 14, it isn't about helping animals cross roads and/or train tracks....yeah, I don't know where I got that either. In the games, you play as a human who moves into a village inhabited by anthropomorphic animals with different personalities. New Horizons, which this manga is based on, is a bit different because you have to start the whole village -or in this case: the island, from scratch. Every day you can walk around, talk to the animal villagers to raise your friendships, plant and water flowers, shake trees to gather and sell fruit, or fish in the rivers and sea, or catch bugs. The games run on real time so 2 PM your time would be 2 PM in the games, and the weather and seasons change as they would in real life. This makes catching bugs and fish more interesting as you can't just go out and catch anything you want at any given time. It's actually quite relaxing and doesn't involve gaming skills, although I can see how some people can find it boring and somewhat tedious. But I digress, let's pull out our shovels and dig into the manga.

The story for Deserted Island Diary By Kokonasu Rumba is simple, four friends go on what they think is a vacation, but as it turns out there was some miscommunication and the island is actually deserted. So they bid adieu to Tom Nook and fly back to their homes and that ends that.

We at WSSTB would like to remind readers that we don't keep Jecka for her bad jokes. Now back to the review...if you can call it that.

Of course, they take the whole thing as you’d expect they would for a comedic children’s manga. Coroyuki, Benben, Himepoyo, and Guchan find themselves as the island’s newest (and only) human residents. Tom Nook may have gotten more than he can handle with this cast of hilarious characters: Coroyuki seems to have no fear and is up for anything. Benben is constantly learning and let’s just say his heart is in the right place. Himepoyo lives up to her name as the princess of the group, and Guchan, though a man of few words, is the role model we can only dream of. Nook tells them to make their new surroundings into “an island of your dreams” and off they go. From here we follow Coroyuki and company unsure how to proceed in creating their dream island, and getting help and inspiration from some familiar animal faces.

The new villagers are all drawn uniquely using actual styles found in game. The art is expressive and cute making this appealing to the younger audience. The NPCs are recognizable and endearing even with their over the top reactions. The characters are reintroduced in each chapter of this first volume which is a source of comedy as Guchan’s description changes with each chapter and it’s fun to see what he puts on his resume. While all of the characters are enjoyable in their own way, Guchan is my favorite of the four. Side note: of course the lettering in this is top notch, but Guchan's magical snot bubbles are especially nicely drawn. I’m hoping the other characters get more chances to shine as the series goes on, especially Benben and Himepoyo.

Something else I enjoyed was the comedy. The first two chapters are just silly jokes-- puns that I am not really a fan of, but I found myself laughing out loud for the rest of the volume. The chapters featuring Raymond, Lucky (one of my favorite villagers), and Gulliver actually had me in tears. I'd talk more about it but these jokes are funnier experienced while reading. Though I will remark that the chapter with Lucky reminds me of the first time I saw him. Coroyuki, the fearless leader™, quickly makes befriends him despite the others caution. Unlike Coroyuki, I wondered if he was meant to be scary. However, like Benben and Hime, once I spent time with Lucky, I quickly learned he’s just misunderstood and lazy. As far as personality types in the games go, lazy villagers are my favorite.  

The series is serialized under Shougakukan's CoroCoro comics label in Japan which is primarily for grade school children. Though really this can be enjoyed by the young and the young at heart. CoroCoro comics tend to be on the wacky and over the top side which some people may see as too silly, but that’s the charm! The comedy reminds me a lot of Monthly Girls Nozaki-kun mixed with a bit of Sleepy Princess in the Demon Castle (with far less death) so if you're a fan of either of these, definitely check it out. This manga can also be great for people who have never actually read manga before as it’s a franchise millions are familiar with, but not everyone reads manga. It’s not text heavy which makes it great for the younger audience and a light read.

Overall, Animal Crossing: Deserted Island Diary volume 1 is a fun lighthearted read for all ages. Fans both new and old can find something they like about the series. The manga comes at a great time to rekindle the lost motivation for the game. I’m also guilty of pushing New Horizons aside because of work, life, and burnout from the game, but after all these years I’m still a huge fan and the manga only adds to my excitement. A limitation however is this series isn't available digitally in Japan and that is the same for this English release as well. Animal Crossing fans are probably used to DIY crafting, so it might be worth getting out the tools and crafting a bookshelf for the series (which is still ongoing in Japan!)  Luckily, the volumes are smaller than most so I guess I can spare some space. With that this diary entry is done, and I hope it's convinced you to visit an island with some friends soon! Just avoid taking a Nook loan. Trust me, it's not worth it. 

Thursday, August 12, 2021

Return of the Otakon


Greetings, fellow Sunday enthusiasts! Like Otakon I, Sakaki have also revived from the depths to bring you a review of the little con that could, all with a little Sunday activity to boot! 

The con was on!

For those not in the know, Otakon is an anime convention starting in 1996. Its name is a portmeau between "convention" and the ever coveted Japanese word "Otaku." A name that makes it pretty obvious as to what you're getting, no? It's been one of the premiere cons on the East coast of the United States since its inception, with many fabulous guests, announcements, and cosplay to dazzle guests. It's also the second con I've ever attended so I have dear feelings towards it too. In 2016 it ended it's run in Baltimore, Maryland and moved over to the Walter E Washington convention center in you guessed it Washington DC due to it growing in size. All was fun and games until, well, it wasn't.

I don't think I have to remind you of what an....interesting year 2020 was, and how it affected many of us in various ways. Otakon was no exception as due to COVID it had to shut it's doors for a year so that the convention center could be converted to a field hospital to treat COVID victims during the pandemic. 

2020 marks the first year since its inception that there was no con.

As if being cancelled wasn't enough, its parent company Otakorp soon had to ask for donations to keep from cancelling the con permanently. The con is volunteer run and nonprofit, so admission goes towards the con itself and planning the subsequent otakon. So without the income from the 2020 con the likelihood that closing forever rose exponentially. You can read about the story here. The con got what it needed to continue in 2021 which brings us to the present.

And now back to our regularly scheduled OtaContent.

Overall this Otakon was smaller than usual (for good reasons) what with the bevy of Japanese guests being curtailed due to travel restrictions and overall caution of the pandemic/quarantine. Paradoxically because not as many people were there, it was a better experience for those who don't like how gaudy cons normally are. That being said there is a sense of melancholy of what could have been in a fairer world. Ah, I'm beginning to get sentimental. Let's get into what you're here for: that Sunday coverage!


Confirmation that Denpa Has good taste!

Overall there wasn't really a whole lot of new announcements at Otakon. Mostly this con served as a reminder that anime and manga are being worked on behind the scenes and releases are still coming as part of an effort by passionate people putting their all into publishing. That being said I was personally surprised at the Sunday/Shougakukan manga representation! Long gone are the days where we'd be lucky to get a license or two from Viz and nothing more. 

From Gessan (Monthly Shonen Sunday) We get two titles from Denpa books. The first of which is KamenTotsu's Koguma no Keiki-ya-san. Or in English Baby Bear's Bakery. In which a Baby Bear Cub runs a cake shop, and while he's great at making bread he's not quite so good at managing it. The series is four volumes long at the moment and will be released in English this fall. It's worth noting that the series had a special merchandise collaboration with the Doraemon a few years ago! 

Baby Bear's Bakery by KamenTotsu.

Also from Gessan is Ahdongshik's Renjoh Desperado which ran in the magazine from May 2015 to April 2018 for a total of 6 volumes, 36 chapters. It's a fun pastiche of spaghetti westerns and the chambara (Samurai sword fighting) genres as Monko who roams far and wide defeating brigands and low down cowpokes alike in her quest for a husband. This release is a bit farther out with an estimated date of Winter 2022, but I can assure you it's well worth waiting for. It's worth noting that there was a mention of wanting to work on more of Ahdongshik's works aside from this one. He has drawn the dragon fantasy manga "Lindbergh" in Gessan, and is currently working on "Appare Ranman" for Young Ace. We've also seen that he's looking for assistants on another work, so hopefully that means a return to Shougakukan! 

Renjoh Desperado by Ahndongshik

Coming from the Seinen magazine Sunday GX is Akili's Vampeerz which currently runs in the magazine and has 5 volumes out as of this writing. The series follows Ichika who at fourteen years old hasn't experienced the usual events one would at her age: Extracurricular activities, looking forward to her future, and love. Though a young guest she meets at her grandmother's funeral could change all of that. Dempa will release volume one this November. 

Vampeerz Volume 1 by Akili. 

Last but certainly not least is Moto Hagio's Juichinin Iru! or They Were Eleven. This series comes from Bessatsu Shojo Comic and is the oldest of the bunch running from September to November 1975. The series follows ten young space cadets on a decommissioned space ship promised if they can survive they will be granted status beyond their wildest dreams. Except, suddenly there's an eleventh member among them and no one can remember who was always among them and who is, well, pardon the modern parlance but sus. It's worth noting that Denpa will be basing their release on a version published by Shougakukan in 2019 to celebrate the 50th anniversary Hagio's debut of a manga artist which will include both the first series and its sequel. Like Renjoh Desperado it will see release in Winter of 2022.

They were 11 by Moto Hagio.

Denpa books wants to license manga not just based on their viability but on being unique, and if this lineup is any indication, I feel they've succeeded both from a Shougakukan point of view and in general! Here's hoping they're able to pick up more in the future.

The other big panel and the one to have actual new acquisitions was Discotek Media. This one is a bit light in the Shougakukan/Sunday content, but the one they did announce was a fairly big one. Detective Conan vs Lupin the 3rd: The Movie is getting an English dub! The movie had been released by the company and TMS previously in a sub only format. Though with the Conan movies getting dubbed through a partnership with the studio that animates them: TMS, it's not surprising that they'd go back and eventually re-release previously undubbed content. Especially since Lupin is a hot commodity for the company, and Conan is doing quite well too. The company is looking to release the updated version in December, but you can have a look at what this'll include below:

Just in case that's a bit tough to read: It'll feature a new dub with the classic Lupin cast and the new Detective Conan dub cast members, 2.0 and a real surround mix for both Japanese and English audio, the first time release of the creditless OP sequence, Liner notes, and a new and improved translation that has been approved by Detective Conan experts! 

Here's a look at the disk too! We've reviewed Discotek's release of the Detective Conan Episode: ONE special here and it was a splendid dub and release for the series, so we can only imagine how much they've improved since then! If you already have this movie it's worth double dipping as we sure are! 

And that's about it as far as Shougakukan/Sunday coverage goes for the con. This is the blog's first foray into covering conventions, and while there wasn't a lot of news per se, we hope you enjoyed it. If you have anything you'd like to see more of in these writeups, please let us know either here or on the twitter! A big thanks to Otakon for allowing us press passes to cover the con, and here's to a COVID free con next year!