Otaku Corner: Tokyo Tribes Vol. 2

Tokyo prepares for all-out gang warfare in Tribes Volume 2

In a previous Otaku Corner column, I reviewed the first volume of the manga series “Tokyo Tribes.” Tokyo Tribes is the first manga series I’ve read that perfectly combines Japanese comic art with the raw power of urban American pop culture, mainly hip-hop and R&B music. When I last reviewed Tokyo Tribes, it morphed from a standalone work to a trilogy, giving way to various spinoffs, a live-action movie, and a in-development TV series supervised by creator Santa Inoue.

A short recap: The story is set after a time where riots occurred in Tokyo where gangs known as “tribes” control certain areas via a shaky truce. Kai of the “Saru” and Mera of the “Wu-Ronz” are sworn enemies, whose history sets the stage for all-out war involving all tribes for control of Tokyo’s streets.

On the way to drop off Saru’s leader Tera to work, Mera and the Wu-Ronz ambushed Kai, Hasheem and Steno, resulting in Tera being seriously injured. Kai goes after Mera through Shibuya’s rooftops leading to a bat vs. katana battle between the former friends. During the battle, both men nearly fall from a building. Iwao, leader of the Hands, show up with military-grade weaponry, shooting Mera down. Skunk and the other Wu-Ronz rush to Mera’s aid, but Iwao and a few Hands members intervene, demanding payback for Mera cutting off a Hands member’s arm.

While onlookers and police are distracted, Mera miraculously survives his fall, and attempts to kill Hasheem as Hasheem guides Kai to a safer exit from the building. Kai and Tera rush to Hasheem to protect him from Mera but Tera is beheaded by Mera and more chaos ensues. Hasheem, feeling responsible for Tera’s death, attempts suicide while a few of Saru’s members rampage through Shibuya looking for payback against Wu-Ronz members. They find an opportunity through Unkoi, son of the Wu-Ronz benefactor Big Bubba, at a local karaoke bar. While the Saru members made short work of other Wu-Ronz members, Unkoi gravely injures two members, while his personal bodyguard Galileo chases the third to the final page of the book. Meanwhile, Kai is dealing with troubles of his own as his father appears determined to remove him from the Saru for good.

During this volume, I still felt the awesome vibe from the first one, but more meat was in the storyline. Inoue-san gave readers a better explanation why both characters have this vengeful hate toward each other beyond Mera blaming Kai for his girlfriend’s death. During a brief backstory, Bubba’s corruption took Mera’s moral compass and the lives of his parents, which made me feel a little sorry for him since he not only hates Kai but also wants to destroy Bubba’s life as well. I also felt Kai’s pain after Tera’s death since Tera was also a mentor to all the Saru members.

Inoue-san also showed his special skill of adding certain pop-culture references such as Tower Records and displaying renditions of hip-hop and R&B artists’ album covers. The artwork was also top notch, especially when showing Unkoi’s ruthless side as he fought the Saru members. It was as if I was reading the battle scene from Kill Bill Volume 1. Tokyo Pop’s dedication to Tokyo Tribes remains strong, thanks to Alexis Kirsch and David Walker handling translation and adaptation, along with Stuart Levy collaborating with Inoue-san as executive producers, ensuring that this hip-hop vision continues without compromise.

With the Saru in turmoil without a leader, and the Hands and Wu-Ronz preparing for all-out war in Tokyo’s streets, what will happen? Can Kai and Mera triumph over their personal issues and make peace? We’ll revisit the scene of gang warfare in Volume 3.

Brandon Beatty is Editor-At-Large of Gaming Insurrection. He can be reached by email at brandonb@gaminginsurrection.com

Strip Talk #25: Black Panther film is needed, necessary now

Needed. Necessary. Now. Black Panther’s release was all of this and more in a time when melanated super heroes on the big screen are far and few in between.

Why was the ensemble tale so necessary? While little children can throw a stone in any direction and hit any number of white superheroes, the number of black superheroes is small. In mainstream comic book movies, at most there are: War Machine, Storm, Cyborg and Falcon. That’s it. That is, until T’Challa and his nation of advanced progress hit the scene.

The presence of the almost entirely black cast was sorely needed. The presence of a capable black director was needed. Seeing positive images of black folks was needed. Why? Because it’s about time that black folks were shown as human, beautiful, smart and good people. It’s long overdue, but the thrill of seeing a black man run his nation and do the right thing when given a choice never gets old.

And why now? Because for the positive side of black superheroes to do well in this climate, it was nothing short of genius and a miracle. Now is the time for the conversations surrounding representation and diversity, and Black Panther is the perfect vehicle. Now is the time for black folks to rise above negative stereotypes and look at how we are perceived, point to Black Panther — a fictional character aside — and say, “We are more than capable of bringing in box office dollars and, most importantly, we are human and here to stay. We have a seat at the table.”

Wakanda forever.

Lyndsey Hicks is editor-in-chief of Gaming Insurrection. She can be reached by email at lyndseyh@gaminginsurrection.com

Property review: 300: Rise of an Empire

300: Rise of an Empire
Warner Bros., 2014

300: Rise of an Empire late but bold enough to make impact

The first movie in the possible pantheon of tales about the valiant Spartans who died at the Battle of Thermopylae was a rollicking good time. There were epic one-liners, fighting, sex and death: Everything you could ask for in a movie about ancient Greece and Persia. The second film had a name to live up to and a reputation to uphold. While it manages to recreate some of the fun of 300, Rise of an Empire comes much too late to capitalize and continue to curry the favor that 300 cultivated.

Rise of an Empire starts with the premise that King Leonidas and his brave brigade of warriors from 300 are dead. Taking place during, before and after Leonidas’ sacrificial trip to the Hot Gates, Rise of an Empire shows the beginning of Xerxes I’s reign, his creation of Persian city states, his rise to power and seeming immortality, and his ruthless general Artemisia’s background and eventual lust for revenge and power. With simultaneous story threads, the film moves along at a quickened pace despite being an hour and 42 minutes long. It needs that amount of time to flashback for multiple characters and push the present events forward.

While the look at events in Rise of an Empire are interesting, quite frankly it was too long between movies for there to be much interest in the proceedings. Rise comes seven years after the original, which means there’s plenty of time to forget the original plot, character motivations and reason for most of anything that occurs. There are plot recaps at the beginning, thankfully, but it’s hard to remember a plot from seven years previously and remain engaged.

Despite the passage of time, the film looks good. The chroma key technique used in the original is used again and then given a fuzzy sheen. While slightly jarring, the sheen doesn’t detract too much from the original look that matched the comics. The soundtrack remains the same as well, so not much has changed aside from the focus and some of the stars. Lena Headey returns as Queen Gorgo as does Rodrigo Santoro as Xerxes. Eva Green — a former Bond Girl — and Sullivan Stapleton join in new roles to round out the cast. The new additions are great and seamlessly fit the universe. Green and Stapleton sizzle with chemistry and Green, in particular, is a standout. Santoro still commands as Xerxes whenever he is onscreen but the God King seems to take a backseat, which is hard to understand. As he remains the main villain, he should remain front and center.
Despite the long wait and storyline lagging from time to time, 300: Rise of an Empire is still a fun history lesson for the comic book lover and casual moviegoer alike.

Story: 7
Like the comics: 10
Casting: 9

Total: 36/40 or 9

HOW WE GRADE
We score the properties in three categories: Casting (or voice acting in cases of animated), plot and similarities to its source material. Each category receives points out of the maximum of 10 per category and 30 overall. The percentage is the final score.

Marvel character highlight #23: Pyslocke

Name: Elizabeth Braddock

Alias: Betsy, Betts, Kwannon, Lady Mandarin, Captain Britain, Lady Briton, Death

Affiliation: X-Men, Captain Britain Corps, X-Force, S.T.R.I.K.E., Extinction Team, the Mandarin, Sisterhood of Mutants, Exiles, Hand, Hellfire Club, Horsemen of the Apocalypse, X.S.E.

Special abilities: Psylocke is an Omega-level mutant who has the ability to generate psionic weapons with her mind. She is a near-Omega-level telepath who can use telekinesis, telepathy precognition and teleportation. She is capable of generating shields and flight.

Background: Psylocke started life as the daughter of Otherworld resident Dr. James Braddock, who fathered three children on Earth. She grew up with latent mutant powers as a telepath, which were unlocked after a battle at Braddock Manor with Dr. Synne. After this, Psylocke became a model and encountered S.T.R.I.K.E, the British version of S.H.I.E.L.D. Through them, she learned to harness her powers and strengthen herself. She later became a version of her brother’s superpowered identity, Captain Britain. While using this identity, the villain known as Slaymaster beat and blinded her. She regained her eyesight when villains Mojo and Spiral abducted her and gave her cybernetic eyes. With these eyes, she was used to spy on the X-Men for Mojo. After the defeat of Mojo, the Morlocks were massacred by the Marauders and she helped those who survived. After the battle to avenge the Morlocks, Psylocke was invited to join the X-Men in a full-time capacity and she accepted. In her later adventures with the X-Men, she was forcibly switched from her body to assassin Kwannon’s body by Kwannon’s lover, crime lord Mats’uo Tsurayaba. Kwannon, in Psylocke’s original body calling herself Revanche, then developed the Legacy Virus and died. Psylocke has remained in Kwannon’s body. She has battled the Crimson Dawn and gained new powers, such as the ability to fuse with the shadows and travel with them. Through contact with Jean Grey, her powers were magnified on a cosmic level to reach Omega status.

Relationships: Brian Braddock (Captain Britain), brother; James Braddock Jr., brother; Warren Worthington III (Angel/Archangel), lover; Nathan Christopher Summers (Cable), lover; Tom Lennox, lover; Agent Michael (alias), lover; Neal Shaara (Thunderbird), lover; Victor Creed (Sabretooth), lover; Fantomex, lover; Cluster, lover.

First Versus appearance: Marvel vs. Capcom (character assist)

Appearances in other media: X-Men II: The Fall of the Mutants (video game), X-Men: Mutant Apocalypse (video game), X-Men 2: Clone Wars (video game), X-Men: Children of the Atom (video game), Marvel Super Heroes (video game), Marvel vs. Capcom 2: New Age of Heroes (video game), X-Men: Mutant Academy 2 (video game), X-Men: Next Dimension (video game), X-Men Legends (video game), Marvel: Ultimate Alliance (video game), Marvel: Ultimate Alliance 2 (video game), Marvel Super Hero Squad Online (video game), Marvel: Avengers Alliance (video game), Lego Marvel Super Heroes (video game), Marvel Heroes (video game), Marvel: War of Heroes (video game), Marvel Puzzle Quest: Dark Reign (video game), X-Men: Battle of the Atom (video game), X-Men: The Ravages of Apocalypse (video game), X-Men: The Last Stand (film), X-Men: Apocalypse (film), X-Men: The Animated Series (television), Wolverine and the X-Men (television)

Top 5 on The Strip: Batman versions

1. Batman (Earth Two version): This version of Bruce Wayne settles down with Selina Kyle and has a daughter, Helena Wayne, who becomes Huntress. Eventually, Bruce becomes police commissioner. After a one last adventure as Batman, he is killed in battle trying to stop the destruction of the city. As he was still using his secret identity, Doctor Fate of Earth Two changes reality to keep his identity secret and lets everyone believe that Bruce died of cancer at Wayne Manor.

2. Batman film — Michael Keaton: Michael Keaton, the first of the film cowl wearers, was derided when he was announced in the mid-1980s. No one could believe that “Mr. Mom” would do the trick. And then 1989’s Batman hit the silver screen and the noise stopped. Not only was Keaton excellent, but also he brought a much-needed severity to the character and was wholly believable inside and outside of the tights.

3. Flashpoint Batman: In the Flashpoint version of Batman, Thomas and Martha Wayne — the murdered parents of Bruce Wayne in all Batman origin stories — don’t die. Instead, Bruce is killed in Crime Alley in their place. In their grief and attempts to cope with Bruce’s death, Thomas becomes Batman and Martha becomes the Joker. Eventually, both learn that in the true timeline, they die in the place of Bruce and he becomes Batman to avenge their deaths.

4. Batman film — Christian Bale version: Christian Bale took a franchise that was mired in the depths of mediocrity and downright unintentional hilarity and gave it life again. Bale made it cool to like Batman and the Caped Crusader’s credibility was restored. It only took two movies, arguably, to achieve this feat: Batman Begins in 2005 and The Dark Knight in 2008, all lead by Bale. The Dark Knight Rises was just an added bonus to seal the deal.

5. Batman kills the Joker/Injustice: Gods Among Us Year 3 Batman: In a version of the Injustice storyline, Batman actually kills the Joker. After the Joker plants a bomb killing Lois Lane, Batman captures him and attempts to turn him in. As they’re riding to Arkham Asylum, the Joker intimates that he will likely try again to torment Superman and hints at trying to kill Superman’s baby. Batman snaps and well, breaks the Joker’s neck.

Anime Lounge #15: Yuri on Ice!!

Get ready to skate

Episodes: 1 to 12 (all)

Premise: Professional figure skater Yuri Katsuki is in a career slump, suffering his worst defeat during the Grand Prix. Yuri’s confidence has hit rock bottom and he’s thinking of giving up and quitting skating for good. But he’s visited by his idol, fellow skater Victor Nikiforov, after a video of Yuri performing Victor’s signature routine goes viral. With Victor’s tutelage, Yuri works to get back into performing with a renewed vigor. Yuri’s efforts to become something better and his work toward developing relationships and confidence in his work and himself are documented.

Is it worth watching?: Yes. The story is hilariously played out, from Yuri’s struggles to stay in skating shape to his awkward attempts at befriending fellow skaters. The serious side of the story is also worth noting as it showcases what pressure to succeed can do to even the most confident of us all.

Breakout character: Yuri Plisetsky. The other Yuri, known as Yurio, is good and he knows it. He manages to steal every scene he’s in, whether he’s impressing with his brilliant skating prowess or creating a new depth of rudeness to everyone around him.

Funniest episode: Episode 10, “Gotta Supercharge it! Pre-Grand Prix Final Special!” The end of the episode reveals the motivation for Victor to come to Japan to train and teach Yuri. The scene is shown through flashbacks and gets increasingly funny as it goes forward. Yuri’s convincing of Victor to train him is right in line with their relationship: Surprising yet obvious.

Where it’s going?: With the end of the first season and Yuri’s move to St. Petersburg, Russia, to continue training, the ending was left open for a future sequel season and there is a movie in production. That season has been announced, so it remains to be seen just where Yuri’s career will take him and what he will have finally accomplished in his renewed state.