Rave Master Cap. 10-11: In Your Eyes

Chapter 10 starts with Haru and Elie meeting up, both happy to tell the other that they’ve found Musica, which might have resulted in some kind of “Who’s on first” comedy, if not for the fact that our heroes get interrupted by Demon Card goons. Haru, Hot-or-Not Musica and Elie start fighting with the mooks, though Elie is quickly rendered useless when her tonfa blasters stop working.

There are also puns.

I love a good pun (is that an oxymoron?), but this just made me groan, and I’m pretty sure the thirteen-year-old version of me was rolling her eyes as well. The trio seem to be in a tight spot, but are saved by a drunken Plue, stabbing his nose into their feet. Why no one thought to kick a small, uncoordinated animal is beyond me. Did their sisters also teach them you shouldn’t be cruel to animals?

Once Haru, Elie, and Musica #2 are out of danger, Musica reveals that his family was killed in an accident years ago, and the blacksmith is clearly a fraud. I think this is supposed to build tension, but if you’ve ever watched an anime or read a manga, you already know that the two Musicas are going to be long-lost something or others, and probably have special powers because of that.

Anyway, it turns out Haru did leave the Rave stone with Musica the Blacksmith, because…


You met the guy twenty minutes ago, and he was horribly, horribly drunk. You’ve been attacked, and have been told that the country only gets more dangerous as you travel. WHY THE HELL DID YOU GIVE HIM THE RAVE STONE?!

I’ll let Musica the Blacksmith sum up my thoughts on this chapter:

Moving on to chapter 11, we get our first glimpse of Lance. He wastes no time in kidnapping Elie, and this is where I realize that she’ll probably be pretty useless for the rest of the series. From what I remember, another volume of Rave Master consists of almost nothing but Elie needing Haru to rescue her. I don’t remember a lot of the series aside from some scenes that really stood out, but I really, really hope that she won’t be the damsel in distress all time time. Lance gives Haru two hours to bring him the Rave stone, or he’ll kill Elie. Because this is still early in the series, there’s no real need to be original, right?

Haru goes back to Musica the Blacksmith to get his sword repaired, only to find Musica being attacked by mooks. Musica says that he’s hidden the Rave somewhere they’ll never find it. To me, that sounds like a secret hiding spot, maybe someplace in his disused forge, or underneath a floorboard, or maybe Musica has a secret room full of awesome swords that he’s forged in the past. Or, you know, in a drawer in plain view of everyone.

The goons are cleared out with a couple punches and Haru explains the situation to Musica. Musica initially refuses to fix the Ten Powers sword, citing that he’s old and washed up. That doesn’t take a keen observer to see. Haru convinces Musica to forge a sword again, not by impressing upon him the need to have a weapon and save Elie’s life–but because he believes in him. 

I’ve read a lot of manga in my time, and this is a medium that truly believes that eyes are the windows to the soul. “You still love him, I can see it in your eyes.” Or, “You’re strong, I see it in your eyes.” Or, perhaps most shojo of all, “You’ve got fire in your eyes.” It seems like a cool sentiment the first time you read it, but then you read it over, and over, and over again. It would seem that all you need to perform a small miracle in the face of insurmountable odds is to look deeply into someone’s eyes and tell them what you see there. In this case, its “You’re better than that. I can see it in your eyes.”

Musica isn’t so readily swayed by Haru’s Peter Gabriel-esque charm, but decides to fix the sword when he learns that Haru will be fighting Lance. Lance, it turned out, killed Musica’s entire family.

When I was a kid, I thought Lance was evil, evil, evil. He killed Musica’s family for no reason! How much worse could you get?

And that’s the problem with Lance that I see as a grown-up. He had no characteristics other than being a psychopath. He is evil for the sake of being evil. He reasons behind it, his motivations, are never further explored. The only backstory we have on this guy is that he killed Musica’s family.

I’m not against fictional psychopathic characters, as long as they’re interesting. There are plenty of well-written characters who are evil for shits ‘n’ giggles, the kind that give you chills when you think about how anyone could be that coldblooded. Not Lance. If we knew anything about him other than “I like to kill things”, maybe he could have been a great villain. Instead, he just falls flat.

 

Rave Master Chap. 9: Speedy Sobriety

There’s one thing I’ve always loved about Rave Master: the cover art for each of the chapters. It’s the sort of thing I would draw if I had any artistic ability. Every time I see one of them I think that Mashima must have had a grand time working on them. They don’t have anything to do with the story, they’re just fun. The one for chapter nine, though, was my favorite as a kid and is my favorite as an adult.

I just love that! Where’s that manga? I would absolutely read Rave Master as a medieval fantasy. Of course, I’m reading it now anyway, so….

Anyway, Haru, Elie and Plue make their way to Punk Street. Like the rest of the manga so far, I’m having the most fun looking at the settings that Mashima’s put in. There’s a lot to see, and often jokes or small stories going on behind the main one. It’s an enjoyable Easter egg hunt.

The trio decides to split up, Haru and Plue to get food, and Elie to go gambling. I don’t know exactly what money Elie has to go gambling with, as she spent everything she had on the dog race earlier. I’m pretty sure she didn’t get any of her cash back after blowing up the stadium. They both agree to look for Musica and meet back later.

Anyway, I had to stop reading for a minute when I came to this panel:

FINALLY.

It always bewildered me that people would see Plue and think, “it’s a dog”. Or, worse, “it’s a bug”. People are actually freaking out about the weird thing eating lollipops.

I remember watching the anime Gankutsuou when I was in high school, and one of the characters in it had blue skin. One, out of the entire cast. No one every said, “hey, he has blue skin, that’s weird.” It bugged the hell out of me. So, everyone’s bewilderment over what the hell Plue is – even if only for one panel – is awesome, and so much better than the crowd accepting him the minute the see him.

Anyway, Haru runs into a crazy drunk guy at the restaurant who claims to know where to find Musica. Haru tries to get the drunk guy home, who engages in some dancing and some crying, antics that were hilarious to me as a kid, but not so much anymore.

Alcohol dependency! Hilarious!

 

More hilarity does (not) ensue when Plue gets drunk as well. Haru, frustrated by all this, throws a conveniently placed bucket of water at the drunk. As soon as the water hit him, he begins to melt–

–No, wait, that would make more sense than what actually happens next.

As soon as he gets doused, he sobers up.

This is another trope I can’t stand. Please allow Morbo to explain:

Listen up, anime. We need to have a little talk about alcohol:

  • If you are drunk and have a bucket of water thrown on you, you don’t become sober. You become drunk and wet.
  • If you’ve been off your face for days and suddenly hear that the man who murdered your father is in town, your oath of vengeance will not sober you up. You will be drunk and pissed off.
  • If you’ve drank too much sake at the cherry blossom festival and an alien attacks, you will not become sober just long enough to save the day. You’re more likely to trip over your katana that your master handed down to you than anything.
  • If you wait long enough and rehydrate yourself, you will become sober, often followed by a hangover.

I know that suspension of disbelief lets fiction get away with a lot, but this is ridiculous.

Anyway, the magically sober man finally reveals that he is Musica, the legendary blacksmith, surprising absolutely no one. He agrees to fix the Ten Powers sword with the caveat that Haru stays away from the shop during that time.

One weird thing I remember about Rave Master is that the name of Haru’s sword changes between the first and second volumes. The sword itself has ten different forms, and Haru can switch between its forms if he has the right Rave stone. In the first book, it was called the Ten Commandments. Maybe because I was raised Catholic and went to Catholic school for most of my life, I thought this was a completely badass name for a sword. In the second book, it’s known as the Ten Powers. I have to wonder if Mashima changed the name of the sword, if there was some kind of translation error, or if keeping the name “Ten Commandments” was too potentially offensive for Western audiences.

Tokyopop – at least when I was reading manga all the freaking time – wasn’t known for being consistent with names, especially with fantasy series when there’s lots of made-up names. I thought that the sword’s name might change from volume to volume, but it remained the “Ten Powers” sword ever since.

Translated manga is weird.

If you ask me, Haru probably shouldn’t have left his sword with a drunk guy that he met not ten minutes ago. Especially because the minute he leaves the smithy, you find out Musica agreed to give Haru’s Rave stone to Demon Card.

So…Demon Card doesn’t know Haru’s in town, didn’t know Haru would be going to Musica, and trusted an alcoholic with that is incredibly important.

Oh, wait, maybe they trusted Musica with it because he can magically sober up.

No, Rave Master, I’m not forgiving you for that one.

C’mon, he’s a total bad boy!

At the same time, Elie is gleefully leaving a casino and runs into another guy…who also happens to be named Musica. Now, as a thirteen-year-old girl reading this, I was always on the lookout for bishis. That is, the pretty anime boys worthy of squealing over. The moment I saw Musica #2, I knew he was the bishi I had been waiting for.

Yep, I immediately declared him the hot guy and ran to show my sister his picture. She saw him and informed me that he was “butt ugly”. And if my older sister didn’t like he was cute, then he probably wasn’t. After all, she knew more about that kind of thing than I did.

And so chapter 9 ends, with me wondering if Musica #2 was cute or not.

 

Rave Master Chap. 7-8: My Sister Taught Me That!

Haru was mostly raised by his older sister, and he really took whatever she taught him to heart. I know this, because he’s always talking about, “my sister taught me that!” I remember that he said something along those lines a lot early in the series, and I remember that it really annoyed me. Possibly because I was thirteen when I first read these books, and therefore my older sister – if you were to ask me – was an idiot. Re-reading these now, it still bugs me a little bit. Not because Haru’s taking his older sister’s advice, but because he mentions “my sister told me…” so often. The other reason is because everything that Haru’s sister has taught him is completely obvious.

Take a drink every time Haru talks about what his sister taught him.

Really, Haru? Dogs are getting impaled on spikes and exploded, but you need your sister’s advice to figure out that animal cruelty is bad?

Despite Elie’s warnings, Haru interrupts the race again. This was Georco’s plan all along, of course: to put Plue in the dangerous race and lure Haru out. Now, there is one thing, and one thing only I will applaud Georco on: he learned from his mistakes. Instead of fighting Haru out in the open, where another explosion could blow his gaseous form away, Georco traps him in a giant steel box with no way out – in other words, no fresh air for Haru to breathe. It kind of begs the question why Georco had a giant, ten foot tall box laying around in the first place, but I can forgive that, because the ridiculous trap was pretty effective. However, I cannot forgive Georco for constantly referring to it as the “Smoke Hiz-ouse”. A part of me died every time I had to read that phrase.

Without oxygen, Haru can’t make explosions, and so it looks like he’s screwed.

The day is saved by Elie, and I love that, purely because it’s the girl saving the guy, and not the other way around. She uses her tonfa blasters (which are like side-arm cannons, I actually like them) to blow up the smoke house to let Haru escape. Plue manages to steal Georco’s dark bring, so he can no longer turn himself into gas. Out in the open again, Haru delivers the final blow to Georco, thus finishing our first Monster of the Week.

With all the action, there wasn’t a lot of plot in Chapter 7, so we’ll move on to Chapter 8.

Now that Georco’s been taken down, Haru and Elie take a minute to talk. Of course, this is after Elie nearly blows up half the stadium with her tonfa blasters.

That’s actually good advice, Haru. Don’t stick it in crazy.

 It turns out the Elie knows where to find Musica, the blacksmith that can repair Haru’s sword. She also reveals what little there is to reveal about her backstory: she has lost her memory. It’s a tired trope at this point, but what I like about Elie is that she’s not angsty about it. There’s plenty of “waaah, I can’t remember!” characters out there, but Elie is happy, excitable, and generally a fun character, rather than being mopey about it. She doesn’t take up too much time feeling sorry for herself, which is nice to see. Yes, she would like her memory back, but she’s also not going to let herself be miserable over it.

Haru and Elie decide to leave Hip Hop Town together. They say that Demon Card is out of commission, so they won’t have to pay the fee to leave. But how does punching the daylights out of Georco take down an evil organization that’s clearly taken over the town? I’m sure Georco has some underlings who would gladly take over his role as boss. Or maybe that’s the end of dog racing in Hip Hop Town forever because Elie completely destroys the stadium.

Seriously. She’s so excited to be leaving town with Haru that she lets off another couple shots from her tonfa blaster and the stadium starts to collapse. Her reason:

The duo escape the stadium by…jumping on a chariot pulled by dogs. I’m not joking. This whole series is so goofy, though, that I think I’ve learned just to go with it by now.

 We’re nearly at the end of the chapter, but there’s just one more thing I want to bring up. We get a brief cutaway to some of Demon Card’s generals, hanging out in the fortress Rhapsodia.

This is when it hit me.

Rhapsodia, like “rhapsody”. Song continent. Hip Hop Town and Punk Street.

THE TOWNS ARE ALL NAMED AFTER MUSIC GENRES.

Ever since I was a kid I thought that all the town names in Rave Master were really dumb. And I never once thought there was a musical motif in the names. HOW THE HELL DID I MISS THAT?

It turns out the town names aren’t dumb; I am.

Rave Master Vol. 2, Chap. 6: Down with the Kids Today

Chapter 6 starts with Haru facing off against Georco. And I hate Georco. There are plenty of reasons to dislike a villain, but I don’t hate him because he’s villainous and actively trying to kill our hero. That’s just part of what villains do.

I hate him because of the way he talks.

Did you ever have a teacher who wanted to prove he could talk to kids by attempting to use their slang, but was a few years behind what everyone else was saying? Or see middle-class kids who listen to rap music and then decide they’re “ghetto” too, and try to act like it? Has your mom ever tried to talk to you using words like “swag” or “fleek” or whatever the hell it is those darn kids are saying today?

Georco sounds like all those people.

#YOLO #BILBOSWAGGINS

I think that he’s supposed to sound cool and “with it”, or maybe it has something to do with the way the manga was translated. Maybe “I’ve peeped this cat before” sounds really cool in Japanese, instead of something ripped from a 1920s gangster movie.

An annoying and otherwise forgettable one-shot villain is made utterly detestable because of his dialogue, and for a twist, it’s not what he says, it’s how he says it.

Georco has a Dark Bring, which gives him the power to turn into carbon monoxide. That’s…actually kind of cool, now that I think about it. The way Georco’s attack names are translated, though, seem weird. The first attack Georco uses is called “Toxic Gas Blast”, because when you live in a manga, you always need to announce exactly what you’re doing to your enemy. However, a footnote lets us know that the original name of the attack is “CO Heaven”. That sounds a lot more bad-ass, if you ask me. So why bother changing it? It would probably help me take the character more seriously.

Even though his sword is broken, Haru can still use the power of Rave to make explosions. He can’t hit Georco directly, so instead he creates an explosion to blow smoky Georco away.

Hang on a second. A thought just occurred to me. Isn’t carbon monoxide invisible? If Georco really turned into carbon monoxide, why can we still see him? Because it seems to me it would be a lot smarter for him to just disappear from view and asphyxiate Haru. The kid was having a hard enough time with the fight when he could see Georco.

He’s RIGHT. FUCKING. THERE.

Anyway, Haru manages to get away from Georco, but isn’t in good shape after their fight. In fact, he completely forgets to rescue Plue as he makes his escape. You know, the thing that made him break up the race in the first place. Okay, he’s in respiratory distress at the moment, so I’ll handwave this one. For now. What I can’t forgive is how easily the mooks chasing Haru overlook him.

How did I let them get away with this when I was a kid?


With that potentially exciting scene squandered, Haru takes a minute to catch his breath, literally, and talks with Elie. It turns out that Demon Card has a lot of power in Hip Hop Town and anyone who wants to leave has to pay a huge fee to Demon Card. This kind of makes me wonder at the implications of this for Hip Hop Town’s economy, but that’s neither here nor there. Elie tells Haru her plan for getting out of Hip Hop Town: she’s bet all her money on the dog race. This…is very poor financial planning.

It turns out Elie’s placed her bets on Plue to win the Battle Road race. Battle Road is essentially greyhound racing meets the Hunger Games.

Am I a bad person because I think that sounds kind of awesome?

It is decidedly not awesome for the dogs participating, because along with them attacking each other, there’s all sort of traps set around the race track, like spears that pop out of the ground and explosions. Even though Elie claims that no dog has ever died on Battle Road, I’m finding that a little hard to believe.

Her reasoning for putting all her money on Plue? She’s convinced that he’s a bug who will fly at the end of the race. I know Elie’s supposed to be a goofy character, but…really? He barely looks like a dog, how the hell did you look at Plue and decide he was a bug?

Haru wants to rescue Plue, but since Elie’s bet everything she has on the race, she refuses to let Haru do so, and threatens to alert Demon Card thugs if he tries to stop the race. And so ends chapter 6.

I’m trying to remind myself of the MST3K Mantra: “Remind yourself it’s just a show, I should really just try to relax”. It’s perfectly normal for goons to make bad choices and heroes to, likewise, make bad choices. It’s what propels a story along. So I’ll forgive the story for now, and try to enjoy its goofiness.

Rave Master Vol. 2, Chapter 5: Introduction

Through junior high, high school, and early college, I was an otaku. That phrase itself dates me, as I believe the acceptable term today is “weeaboo.” The point being, for a long while I was an anime and manga fan, and was probably pretty obnoxious about it.

Being an anime geek when I was growing up wasn’t like it is today. You couldn’t go down to FYE and buy a DVD of your favorite show, and Netflix didn’t exist, so you bought box sets from eBay with your parents’ credit card. If you wanted merchandise – a t-shirt, a plushie – you were probably out of luck, unless you were looking for pokémon.

If you went to my school, there were a few rules you had to follow. You had to hide your nerdiness away. That meant you didn’t hang up pictures of your favorite anime characters in your locker, you didn’t talk about your favorite shows to people who weren’t otaku, and you definitely didn’t bring your manga to school. Naturally, I broke all these rules. When you’re so unpopular most of your classmates don’t bother to register your existence, you haven’t got much to lose.

So it was in eighth grade, the worst time of anyone’s life, when I discovered manga. The second volume of Rave Master was one of the first mangas I ever owned, and I remember loving the series. My older sister read it as well, but declared that it was dumb. More than a decade later, I’ve started re-reading it to determine who was right.

I never actually owned the first volume of Rave Master, but I remember it well enough. It starts with our hero, Haru, living with his older sister on a small island. Haru is an orphan because of course he is. While fishing one day, Haru catches a creature named Plue, which looks like a snowman with four legs, though is frequently referred to as a dog. Plue is the bearer of Rave, a magical stone that was broken into pieces at the end of a war to stop something called the Overdrive, or a really large explosion.

Plue is shortly joined by Shiba, an old man with a spike on his head. The spike really bothered me, until I realized it was a tuft of hair that made him resemble a unicorn.

Shiba, it turns out, is the current Rave Master. That is, the only person who can use the Rave stones. With Shiba also comes Demon Card, the evil organization that’s searching for Rave. Eventually, it’s discovered that Haru is the new Rave Master, and now he must find all the pieces of Rave and defeat Demon Card. Because we can’t have a manga series starring an old man now, could we? That would be ridiculous!

Near the end of the book, the Ten Powers sword breaks, and Haru leaves his island to find Musica, the blacksmith that first forged the sword, to repair it. Haru and Plue set sail for the seas of adventure, and that’s where the first volume ends.

Got all that? Good.

Dusting off the second book, I realized that the art wasn’t as good as I remember. Certainly, it’s much better than I could do, but the characters’ necks just look way too thin to support their heads. Or is that just part of the anime style of art that I’ve forgotten about? Of course, I shouldn’t be too harsh when the characters from my all-time favorite manga, Dragon Knights, look like this:

Huckleberry Finn Haru and Plue land in Hip Hop Town, and I really like the weird world that the manga-ka, Hiro Mashima, has built for us. The panels can be a bit cluttered because there’s a lot going on, and Mashima’s slipped small background events in. I also want to point out these guys:

The sun and moon, to show time passing. I completely forgot they were in the manga, but I thought they were hilarious as a kid and I love them now. Don’t ask me why.

After getting on shore, Plue promptly gets kidnapped. After a thrilling two pages of Haru searching around town, he finds Plue has been entered into dog races, which are a pretty big deal in town. Okay, I can go with it. What I cannot get past is why someone would actually think that Plue is (a) a dog, and (b) would be any good in a race. This is what the racing dogs look like:

This is Plue.

Plue gets taken off the track for being the worst racing dog ever, and Haru interrupts the race and comes to his rescue, in a mad dash for the arena that would make Legolas proud. I still can’t decide if using non-skateboard things as a skateboard is amazing or stupid. I’m probably going to go with stupid.

Haru beats up some mooks causes enough commotion that the head of the dog racing rink finally appears, who is…*gasp* a member of Demon Card!! So here we have Monster of the Week #1, Georco. Thus ends chapter 5 of Rave Master.

It wasn’t that good. I did like that Haru got completely lost in Hip Hop Town while looking for Plue, which is what I would expect from someone visiting a large city for the first time. There’s some world building already, and it’s pretty fast-paced so far, so it’s easy to keep my attention. Right now I kind of find Haru loud and obnoxious, but maybe that’s because the only character he’s interacted with thus far (that he wasn’t beating up) is some kind of animal that doesn’t talk.

Speaking of Haru beating up mooks, where did he learn how to fight? For a sixteen-year-old kid from a small, peaceful town, he sure knows how to throw a punch. By the time Georco shows up, he’s already taken down about ten other people. As a kid, that seemed perfectly acceptable to me. As an adult, I realize that it’s completely ridiculous unless Haru got a blackbelt before the series started.

Geez, all these things you don’t think of when you’re reading something for the first time.