Sunday, July 18, 2010


Genre: Shoujo, Drama
1996 Fuyumi Soryo, Kodansha, TOKYOPOP


Mars Manga
Mars Live Action (Sometimes available) Product Description:
Popular Rei and shy Kira are worlds apart, until one fateful day brings them together. Rei stumbles upon Kira in the harassing hands of her sleazy art teacher and saves the quiet girl from his clutches. And when the jock plants a kiss on a statue of Mars in the studio, Kira finds herself drawn in and even summons up the nerve to ask him to model for her but problems already lurk on the horizon. Vicious upperclassman Harumi has had her sights set on Rei for a long time, and is not about to let go now. One of the most popular teen girl manga series in Japan, Mars is a drama that will meet the demand of the growing female comic-reading market.

Heartwarming, despite the serious overtones. >>> by skysenshi
It's not often that I read shoujo manga these days, unless they're funny like Nodame Cantabile or Mars. If I went by the cover summary, I would not even pick this up. It was my sister's brief (and shocking) summary that captured my interest.

Despite the the high school setting and the young ages of the protagonists, Kira and Rei's histories are very dark. In fact, the artwork itself -- defined by airy and gentle strokes -- contrasted heavily with the theme. The manga starts out very light; the seriousness gets deeper with every volume. It's also quite fascinating to find that Rei isn't your typical bishounen. He's not very smart and his plans for the future are shaky at best. This is not to say that I actually approve of boys like this, but the situation made me curious enough to wonder how this comic book will turn out.

Kira isn't your regular bishoujo character, too. I understand her initial hatred of men. Like I mentioned earlier, her background is very dark. I'm also quite surprised to find myself thinking that she's a strong character, resilient in her unquestioning support of Rei. I don't usually like meek girls, especially one that's as helpless as Kira. Maybe that's one of Fuyumi Soryo's talents, making her characters likable in spite of their flaws.

In a nutshell, Mars could make for a good telenovela. Perhaps this is why the Taiwanese picked it up and made a live action version starring Vic Zhou and Barbie Hsu (both actors are of the Meteor Garden fame).

Individual Rating: Art 10; Story 10; Characters 10

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Final Fantasy XIII (Girls on the Couch Review)

Girls on the Couch Talk:
Final Fantasy XIII

I just thought of having a different format for this particular review since I experienced playing Final Fantasy XIII with a group (the girls of ABMA61). I was attending their exhibit -- on official business -- when they approached me with the question, "What do you think of Final Fantasy XIII?"

Since I don't own a PS3 (Boo me!), I told them that I just wanted to see Lightning, the game's protagonist, and that I was girl-crushing on her. So they invited me over to one of their overnight sessions at Angeli's condo. Angeli (girl at the leftmost side of the couch) was insisting that the game is good, while Hanna (girl with dyed green hair) said that it was nothing more than eye candy. Juju (girl in the middle) insisted she was interested in something else. They would not stop bantering, exchanging opinions rather passionately so they turned to me. They wanted to know what I *really* think.

Two Saturdays later, they picked me up at Star Mall. There were about five of us, with Ice being the only dude in the car. When I thought of the Girls on the Couch review format, I was joking that maybe Ice could be our resident butch (he could pretend to be a girl that looks like a boy).

Anyhoo, these are the highlights of our gaming experience.

Hanna: See? All you do is just mash the circle button repeatedly.

Angeli: But the paradigm shift makes it interesting!

Me: *button mashing my way through* Um...I'm getting bored. When do I get to the paradigm shift? Better yet, when do we get to the meat of the game?

Juju: After you finish the first 10 chapters.

Ice: *imitates Vanille's voice in the background* Kyaaa! Uh-huh!

Hours later...

Juju: Let's just look at the character profiles.

*Everyone screams at the sight of Lightning turning her pretty head.*

Hanna: Since we're all getting bored, can we just go and look at Fang's profile?

Juju: Let's! Please! I wish we had a professor that looked like that.

*Everyone screams at the sight of Fang turning her handsome head.*

Ok. Here's how I summarized everyone's thoughts.

Battle System: If you thought that Final Fantasy XII bred lazy gamers, you can begin to imagine how much lazier you'd become with this game. It really is just circle button mashing. I also immediately noticed that the FF victory theme had been completely changed. (Bye bye Nobuo Uematsu?) In the 90s, people complained that FFVIII didn't feel like an FF game, but at least FFVIII retained many of what defined the previous FFs. One of them is music.

Audiovisuals: Speaking of music, we suppose the creators were veering away from the classic FFs but the sounds here are not as memorable as the ones done by Nobuo Uematsu. Sorry. As for the visuals? Everything is breathtakingly beautiful but...I swear Final Fantasy XIII is a monument to the 3D modelers' ego. (Sorry, I know that job's not easy but this is a game...)

Gameplay: What gameplay? Walking, circle-button mashing, and watching lots and lots of cut scenes do not constitute gameplay. Even the summons, though more interactive, have been relegated into this boring routine. We also pitied Shiva. I personally don't see anything cool about turning her hotness into a motorcycle that unappealing Snow sits on. Plus, everything's just so linear!

We think they forgot the actual game. This is a shame. We were happy that a kick-ass female character finally gets to play lead (Terra does not count), only to find out that a supposedly better Final Fantasy XIII (Versus) is coming out. Its lead is male.

I hope he's gay like Firion. (Skysenshi wants vindication.)

Oerba Yun Fang. Is probably the only reason I'd get Final Fantasy XIII for collection purposes. She reminds me somewhat of FFX-2's Paine, except they finally did something about the scary gothic getup.

Anyway, if you're still interested in knowing more about Final Fantasy XIII, you can read more about it in this section of the Fridge.

Screenshots courtesy of
Girls on Couch illustration by Hanna Angelica Ong
Final Fantasy XIII is copyright 2009 of Square Enix Co., Ltd.
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