We live on a boat that sails across the sea. The ship is called the Sunchaser. I consider this to be a lazy name, because it’s simply a description of what the ship does. We follow the sun around the world. I used to wonder how we could follow the sun all the time, so I asked one of the captains.
He told me, “the ship is powered by wind blowing in the sails.” When I asked where the wind came from, he said, ” the air moves from cold places to warm places. So, when we see the sun, the ship moves slower, and our ship starts falling behind. Then, when it’s dark, we get caught in the winds that blow from behind us, where it’s cold, back towards the sun. This gives us a burst of speed, and we eventually catch back up to the sun and to the slower moving wind. This is how night and day work on the ship.”
We have been following the sun for many years. There are families, plants, and animals here too. In fact, I was born on this ship. Occasionally, we encounter other boats who sail alongside us. We meet new people. Sometimes, I wonder about the islands and lands that we pass. I decided to ask the other captain what’s on the land.
She told me, “on the land are other people. Many years ago, the other captain and I decided that we wanted to ride on a ship that would chase the sun. We wanted to take control of our abilities and use them in a productive way. So we learned how to sail, and found others who had the abilities and wanted to come along. Living on the sea is a lot more work than living on the land, but the reward is the sun.”
I asked her why we don’t ever stop on the land.
She told me, “we have stopped, when you were much younger than you are now. Some of the eldest of our group were unable to keep up with the tasks of sailing. We had to wait a very long time for the sun to return and bring us wind again. When you stay at harbour for too long, people get out of practice, and lose the important routines needed at sea. Some of our people gave up during the wait and decided to stay on the land instead. It’s easier to live on the land than here at sea. The ground isn’t made of ever-shifting waters. There were people living on the land, however, who were interested in taking the place of those who left. We were grateful that they would come help us follow the sun.”
I asked the captain why the sun was so important if we could never truly reach it.
She replied, “keeping up with the sun is a very difficult task, but the reward is that we have more frequent exposure to its light than those who don’t. We are able to see it by applying our own efforts. Instead of waiting on the land for the sun to come to us, we go to the sun.”
The other captain overheard us, and as we spoke, it came time for the two to trade duties. He told me that he could take a short break with me, and that I could ask him questions. So, I asked him if the people on the land were different.
He told me, “as you know, some people can’t sail, so they have to stay on the land. Some have decided that they would rather not take the effort to learn, so they remain on the land. Others realize that the effort needs to be maintained even after learning, while sailing, so they stay too. Others still never hear of life on the water until later in their lives, and they decide to train then, and join a ship.
“There are also those who were sailing that tire of the life following the sun, and decide that the rewards aren’t worth the effort any more. Others are pessimistic, and choose to believe that it wasn’t worth the effort in the first place. On the other end of the scale, some people were lucky enough to be born sailing, and learn the ropes as they grow up. Some people sail all the way until they die.”
The captain gave me a chance to think through what he had said.
“But, to answer your question directly, the people on the land are different, but not in the way you might think. As an example, you might find someone just like yourself living on the land. Outside of those who are simply unable, anyone can train and become a sailor. Anyone can learn, and practice the skills.”
He scratched his chin thoughtfully, then said, “as my partner said to me, the real difference between the people on the land and the people chasing the sun is the level of discipline and the kinds of habits they maintain.”
I asked if habits really was the only difference.
He told me, “yes, and the discipline to maintain those habits! Now, with that in mind, I think we both have duties we should be tending to, is that right?”
I hopped up and nodded. I headed to the area of the ship that I was responsible for. While I was working I thought back to what I had believed about the ship’s name. Was it a lazy name?
Inspired by the words, “ever receding horizon.”
I’m struggling to create narratives with underlying meaning. I know that this piece might be a little overt about the whole process, but it’s a first step, and I’m really happy about it. Once I get a solid grip on all this, then I can play with subtlety.
“I could see myself, lifting things that I could not touch.”
“COULD NOT TOUCH?”
“Yes, I could move things that were far away, I could… control matter as I pleased. It was… frightening.”
“YOU ARE NOT THE CHOSEN ONE, AND YET YOU HAVE STOLEN THE POWER.”
“The… the power?”
“YOU ARE THE CURSED ONE, YOU ARE THE DEVIL. WE MUST KILL YOU. WE MUST KILL YOU SO THAT THE CHOSEN CAN TAKE YOUR POWER. YOU ARE NOT THE CHOSEN!”
“Kill me? What? What… what if I am the CHOSEN?” She said.
The Shriken Elder’s face became fierce. It was a look that Yaska was used to. All the Shriken people were the same in this respect. They had three pronged pupils, many long, sharp molars, and a they could pull back their cheeks to let their jaws open wider.
That is what the Elder was doing. He bared his teeth, and brandished his claws. His giant leathery wings unfurled, and he swept himself forward.
Yaska was knocked to the ground. She stood and clawed at the man, but nothing happened. His skin was hard as stone. She drew her sword from the clasp on her back and cut across. The man did not flinch, he simply walked towards her slowly.
“Why are you attacking me?”
The Elder said, “YOU ARE NOT THE CHOSEN, BUT YOU WILL HAVE THE POWER. THIS IS NOT ALLOWED, YOU HAVE TAKEN IT.”
A young woman appeared in doorway holding a Plainkind medical knife.
Yaska stepped away from him, backpedaling until her back was to the wall. she looked left and right. She saw a square hole, a window.
The Elder was slow, Yaska knew it was because he was cursed, and suffered from grinding bones in both knees. He would get over it in a few years, the Plainkind did were immune to chronic illness. But for now, the man edged towards her, death in his eyes.
Yaska turned left and dived out of the window, a hole. She opened her wings and dropped to the ground with grace, plummeting. This place, this ancient Shriken temple, was built into the mountain that overlooked the Plainkind desert, the rolling hills of sand and its inhabitants, the Plainkind and the dinosaurs. They were all Plainkind, even the Shriken, but they liked to pretend they were better.
From within the building, the Elder shrieked. The sound cut the air, travelling hundreds of kilocubits.
This is mountain where they watched the youth survive.
Yaska could see them, the Shriken people, heeding the Elder’s call. They soared through the sky towards the mountain.
Yaska didn’t know what she was going to do. She didn’t think she could take out an entire settlement’s worth of them.
She turned around to see if she could find refuge back in the mountain. The stone door was sealed.
Yaska ran to it and started knocking, her fist creating deep seated cracks in gate. She frantically looked around. The Shriken were getting close. Where was the elder? He had not followed her. Who was in the crowd?
She saw someone flying in front of them, it was her sister, Reyla. What, was she coming for the kill as well?
The first of the Shriken landed. She looked around and saw her sister’s back.
“Run!” Reyla shouted. She drew a ten foot wooden pole and began beating her companions with it.
Yaska beat her way through the door and turned back. Reyla had subdued three or four of them, Yaska couldn’t tell.
“Go! Do not worry about me. The would not kill another Shiken. Are you the CHOSEN ONE?”
“No, they want to kill me because I stole the CHOSEN’S powers!”
“What nonsense. Now go!” Reyla pushed her stick against a group of attackers and stepped forward. She walked, shoving more and more against the dull blade, and then she swung. The wood strained, but Reyla successfully managed to fling a small group of her attackers into the air.
Yaska spun and ran into the temple and was confronted with a wide open stadium, and was immediately confronted with the Elder. She looked around, her eyes cutting the dark environment. She saw the hall that followed the mountain’s circumference and dashed, pulling her wings out a touch. Her gait was one step above a run, maintaining a glide by launching herself forward with each stride.
The entire temple was black, because the Plainkind could see in the dark. Various limbs and bladed weapons crashed through the wall, they were locating her by her vibrations. Most of them missed, but Yaska also collected a few scrapes and cuts from the odd sword.
Yaska ran down the claustrophobic tube for three, then four strides before she was confronted by another person, the woman with the knife.
“Ah, wait!” Yaska skidded to a stop, her clawed feet digging into the stone.
“No, we are done waiting, you will stop now.”
Yaska was thrust into the wall. The Elder’s hands made a pair of holes through the stone behind her, and Yaska was caught in his hold. She was held around the waist by the Elder, and pinned by the shoulder by the woman.
She said, “The knife,” and then handed it over.
The man punched a hole for his head with his off hand, and Yaska squirmed beneath the woman’s pin.
“What are you?” Yaska looked around. The attacks from outside had stopped, and she wondered if it was due to her capture, or if perhaps Reyla had defeated them all.
The Elder forced his torso through the wall, and stone crumbled around him.
“No!” Yaska moved her shoulders. The woman dug her fingers in until she drew blood.
“Yes. It is what must be done.”
The Elder stabbed the knife into Yaska’s left thigh, and then slowly drew it up her body. It cut deep, deep past the nerves. For the most part, Yaska did not feel much. He cut upward, nicking her ribs as he went, cutting the upper edge of her right breast, and then up the shoulder.
Yaska looked down and watched as the think line of pink slowly turned red.
The Elder began cutting around the shoulder and down her back.
Yaska’s heart began to pump faster, and for a few beats blood squirted out of the long incision. She gritted her teeth and forcibly pulled the laceration shut by the sinews.
Her eyes glowed red, and she looked into the maroon eyes of the woman.
Yaska pulled free of both holds and grabbed the young woman’s face in her hand. She slammed her head into the outer wall, cracking it along it’s length. And the she did it again, and the poor woman was thrust into the hot desert air. She was no longer concious. Yaska’s wound was still oozing, but it greatly inhibited by the sheer force of her clenching muscles.
“YOU MUST DIE FOR THE GREATER GOOD!” The Elder said.
Yaska spun to face him, “THE GREATER GOOD WILL BE THE DOWNFALL OF CIVILIZATION.”
The Elder’s expression became fierce; murderous. He stepped forward and thrust the sword into Yaska’s heart.
One pump emptied the organ of it’s blood. It splattered across the elder’s torso. Yaska stared, eyes wide open.
“YOU CANNOT KILL…” Yaska spoke, as though in another language. Words came out, as if she was speaking in tongues. “YOU CANNOT KILL THAT WHICH IS ETERNAL.”
She took his hand and stabbed him with the knife. The Elder stood in shock, his own hand, his own knife piercing his chest. Then elder the died in shock.
Then, Yaska fell on top of him.
Shortly after Reyla found her.
“Wah!” She turned her sister over and looked at the wound.
It had healed, leaving a long scar running across Yaska’s body. The woman woke up, her head pounding.
“Reyla… did we kill the thief?”
Yaska’s eyes opened. She looked around.
“Are you okay, sister?”
“You are my sister then?” Yaska said.
“Yes, do you not remember?”
“I only remember dying. I remember language, and I remember all my knowledge but… I don’t remember any people.”
Reyla embraced her sister. “Once more you have abandoned me… Don’t worry Yaska. I will take care of you.”
The next few days of my life will be a sort of strange vacation. Me and 1-2 friends will be playing Tales of Symphonia in its entirety. So, most of my blog posts will be like this, a simple stream or youtube video of us playing this game,
So, if anyone is interested in watching me and my pals play this game, check it out! You can hear my voice and my opinions almost in person.
Hey, it’s my birthday! Well, capitalism stops for no man, so here is your daily post!
By now it should be clear that I’m a fan of all forms of narrative. Specifically, I like series and I like concept music. The world of anime is not new to me, I was a huge follower of Japanese art during my adolescence, starting around the age of ten when I watched Bleach, and then age eleven when I finished all three Dragonball series.
Since my younger days, two things have happened. I’ve found I have far less time for TV and far more time for books, as I am an artist, I can pass reading manga off as “research.” Actually, aside from the terrifically paced Death Note (which I dropped after Near and Mellow showed up), I don’t really like manga.
That’s why Hajimete no Gyaru stands out so much. It took me into a medium I don’t particularly enjoy, and gave me enjoyment.
What is a Gyaru?
What is a “gal?” Well, a gal or gyaru (what I will be referring to it as for the rest of this article) is a form of fashion based rebellion in Japan. At least, it started as a form of rebellion back in the late twentieth century. Now it’s mostly a fashion trend.
The Gyaru or Ganguro style originally came about in the 1970s and hit its top in the 80s. It shows a stark contrast to what was and still is traditionally fashionable in Japan. Like all cultures in the world, pale skin is valued above all. I’m not sure why, maybe I’ll write about that odd mentality in the future, as I am not pale myself, but instead a mixed person. Anyway, gyaru artificially darkened their skin with something similar to rub-on or spray-on tan. This darkening is less common nowadays. Black hair is nearly universal in Japan, so obviously, the gyaru had to ditch that too. They wear a lot of make-up usually, and certain branches go for a younger look, enlarging the appearance of eyes with liner.
Gyaru are considered both immature and also slutty. It seems that people assume that like other bleach-blonde girls, the gyaru are “easy.” This viewpoint is repeated in most of the anime that I’ve seen gyaru in, that they makeout as easily as they breathe, that they’re a good place to go for easy sex. Whether this is true or not, well you’d have to ask a gyaru.
In my mind, I like to parallel the gyaru style with the gothic style. They’re both looked at as odd in their respective cultures, and they both tend to group together, as sort of purposeful outcasts. Gyaru has heavy western influence, and so sometimes the two actually meet. it’s pretty cool, if you have tastes like mine anyway.
The Ecchi Anime
Ecchi is a term that just means “sexy,” or “dirty” in Japan. In western culture, it basically means “fanservice” or “tits.” An ecchi anime usually doesn’t feature any nipples (heaven forbid!) but will often show off 90% of a breast, most of an ass, and so on. Some Ecchi get really crazy, as plot generally falls to the wayside in favour of fanservice.
Generally, in a series like this, you have a beautiful and endearing girl with a face of pure innocence, paired with a worthless boy who is good at nothing and never tries to improve. That’s actually fairly standard ecchi/harem based-on-a-visual-novel fair. In fact, it’s so common that about 30% of these carbon-copy, worthless, self-insert main characters have the exact same name, Keita.
I’ve watched enough anime to know when something isn’t worth my time.
The first sign is 5+ girls interested in one guy. Why? Because he never ends up with any of them. It closes unresolved. It’s actually just an ad for their visual novel, where you can go out with your favourite. (For those who don’t know what a visual novel is, it’s essentially a choose-your-own adventure/picture book that you read on a computer. Usually it features a lot of girls who you can have sex with. This is one of the reasons Japan has a NEET problem. (NEET stands for “Not in Education, Employment, or Training”. It’s a term used a lot in Japan, because it’s a real problem there. NEET was term originally used in the UK. (which stands for the United Kingdom.)))
Edit: Apparently the number of NEETs in Japan has been declining since 2015, so that’s good.
The second sign is if it’s based on a visual novel, again this usually means that it will feature an inconclusive ending that can only be resolved if you play the VN.
The third sign is the tags. Ecchi/harem is generally a great pair of tags if all you’re looking for is fanservice. If you want a romance, stay away!
Very rarely is the nudity ever used to enhance the plot in any way. In fact, there’s only one case in all of the anime I’ve watched where this happened. Oretachi ni Tsubasa wa Nai: Under the Innocent Sky used the fanservice and chaos inherent in the ecchi genre to enhance the atmosphere of the anime.
See, Oretachi is about young adults. The kinds of people who walk around filled with repressed sexuallity, searching for decent work, and joining small-time gangs. You know, things typical of 20-25 year-olds. The fanservice is either added as blatant comedy, or very casually and naturally. Oretachi ni Tsubasa wa Nai is actually one of my top anime, despite featuring an almost literal sex scene (Which was really weird to be honest.)
Hajimete no Gyaru
Also known as Hajimete no Gal. In English, it’s called My (Frist) Girlfriend is a Gal.So as you can see, our two main characters are fairly typical Japanese high school students, although one of them has bleached hair and dresses like a gyaru. Something else you might not have noticed is how unusual their expressions are.
I originally found this manga by its anime. The art was nice, and the main female protagonist, Yukana had something about her… something so rare in female anime character expression. Yukana had confidence. This girl is overflowing with confidence, and confidence is sexy! The male character, Junichi (not Keita) is no pushover either. Let’s talk about him first!
Junichi is just a guy, and that’s what makes him so great. He’s not that tired whiner trope like Hope from Final Fantasy XIII, or some crybaby who contributes nothing to the adventure like Yuki of Mirai Nikki. He’s also not an unstoppable omniscient god like Sora from No Game No Life.
He’s just normal. He’s nervous about meeting girls since he and his anti-social friends probably never talk to them, but he’s not petrified. He actually builds up the nerve with some help from the aforementioned friends and asks Yukana out on his own. They meet up outside school, and after a lot of inner dialogue, he musters his nerve and asks her out.
When it comes to personality, Yukana is more than just a pretty face and some tits (although, she is well endowed with both.) Yukana is confident, feminine, and friendly. Like, despite being a gyaru she’s actually pretty friendly. She’s also fairly condescending to the main character, but he’s no slouch! He can take it!
She accepts his request at the end of the first volume and they start going out. She likes shooter arcade games and karaoke.
Yukana also knows how to dress up, which is to be expected of a gyaru. Outside of school, she usually dresses in a fairly normal manner. The gyaru thing might just be to keep people out of her hair.
Hajimete no Gyaru is really awesome when it comes to the main romance. Here’s a breakdown of how romances work, in both eastern and western works of fiction.
The main two want to get together, or maybe one is pursuing another.
Something gets in the way.
They get over it.
In the last chapter they make up and get together.
Well, Hajimete no Gal put step 4 at the beginning. They’re dating for most of the series. It’s great! Why has no one else noticed this? It’s so unique, I mean, name another series like this. Not where they’re chilling from the beginning, but actually actively going out and dating. Love Hina maybe? I can’t think of one. What does that mean? That means something unique is happening here, and unique is good.
If I can think of something to put here, I will. For now, here’s a nice picture.
This panel in particular stood out to me. Why? Because the main character thinks “health committee,” and imagines Yukana as both a doctor and a nurse. No stereotypes. Yame is whatever she wants to be.
Pacing! The pacing in this manga is impeccable! Oh man, I should take notes because this series moves so fast, but still gives you enough time to take everything in! It’s wonderful!
I actually caught up to volume three in one night! For reference, I usually read one volume a day, meaning I covered three times my normal amount. Why? Because I was engrossed. I can only compare the pacing to a Michael Crichton novel.
The characters are very realistic, they truly feel human.
Look, even the side characters contribute something. Even the smallest character manages to eventually gain some relevance. Instead of introducing new people, the author got a clever idea, one that I use in my own works. Why not have old characters do the things I want to have new characters do? Keep the pool of people focused, streamlined.
Yukana’s best friend Ranko? She’s jealous of Junichi because he’s taking all of Yukana’s attention. She sits in on some of their dates, and more often than not actively disrupts them by showing up right when things start to get interesting.
But there’s more.
When Ranko realizes that she’s not going to be successful in breaking the two up, she changes gears. She becomes the badass protector of Junichi and Yukana’s relationship. (While still trying to drive them apart.) How? Why? Well, let’s take a moment to be rational. It seems that Ms Honjo has a very specific set of priorities.
Keep Yukana all to herself.
If 1 is not possible, Junichi x Yame is the next best thing.
If anyone gets in the way of 1 or 2, stop them with physical violence or intimidation.
Ranko is essentially my type, so you go girl! Intimidate that poor deceptive schoolgirl!
This is your typical goody two shoes. The pure girl who the main character is destined to fall for.
Well, this isn’t that kind of story, so instead she gets pushed aside and resorts to deceptive tactics to try and force her way into Junichi’s heart! Does she succeed? Well, read the manga to find out! (Hint, no.)
Actually, she tests Junichi’s outer limits of commitment, and she still gets turned down. Then she tries to force herself on Junichi, and of course, Ranko comes in and saves the day, leaping in from… I don’t know, the sky maybe?
This is our ringleader, the catalyst. He’s the leader of a group of outcasts, the group Junichi finds himself in at the beginning of the story. Some might write him off, but he has clear motivations and a consistent character.
Actually, if it weren’t for Shinpei this story might not have happened. See, he was the one that forced Junichi into asking Yukana out. It was his idea, and he had to basically force it to happen.
Then later he returns to make MORE plot stuff happen! Like, don’t discount this guy, he’s serious!
I’m not a huge fan of this girl, but luckily her arc was short, and way less cringe-inducing than I expected.
Nene is the childhood friend who’s returned to claim her boi. And that boy is Junichi. She makes a lot of advances on him, utilizing handcuffs and nudity and taking advantage of the fact that she knows where Junichi lives.
In the end she claims that she will be competing with Yukana for Jun’s love. Yukana decides that this is both hilarious and adorable, and stops taking her seriously. Good!
Not once, but twice Junichi stops a girl’s advances.
He informs them that he’s already in a relationship, and he’s perfectly happy with it.
Why is this important? Well, consider the typical harem. The main character hasn’t (and might never) decided on a woman, and so he never blatantly turns down a girl. Junichi is and does. His greatest character trait is his resolve, his commitment.
Junichi does more than just pull his weight. He’s a true second half in this relationship, whether his girlfriend is there to babysit his emotions or not.
At first, for both halves, the relationship was sort of a joke, and sort of a test ride.
Yukana wasn’t conceited about it though, she regarded Jun with open eyes, and took it seriously when things got serious.
She dresses up for him, and keeps him at a fair distance. She picks on him, flirts with him, and tests him. She asks Ranko for advice and considers Junichi fairly when he makes an advance. (Although most of the time she turns his advances down. She’s not sure what to do in a relationship either!)
These two are a great match, which is exactly why this series works. Yukana teases Junichi to confuse him, and Junichi spouts his honest thoughts to confuse her. Neither of them has been in a relationship before, it’s new and exciting. This is a prime example of young love!
This is the gold of the series. All the characters, all the situations are so natural. They seem so real, it’s the kind of stuff that happens all over the world, with regular people. It truly is a slice of life, and I love it.
The fact that this series is so grounded, that it invites you to expect a cliche and then instead gives you a natural response, it’s just wonderful. As someone who’s seen over one-hundred anime and is familiar with all the tropes, I was both impressed and refreshed.
If you like realism, and good characterization, this manga is for you. I’m so jealous~!
Hajimete no Gal gets an 8.4 out of 10. I absolutely love it, and if it gets translated officially, I will be supporting this artist by purchasing the manga.
It’s demographic is younger people, so the dialogue and scenarios tend to suffer as a result. Despite this, I enjoyed it quite a bit, although I have to say that it takes way too long to come out.