Looking for a recommendation? Something new to watch, read, or listen to? Well don’t worry I got you covered. Believe it or not, this blog used to be about things that I would watch/read and enjoyed. This blog used to cover media and pop culture but recently it’s taken a backseat due to me working as much as I do and neglecting new forms of entertainment. So in order to write about all the things that I have enjoyed but haven’t written about, I have decided to do a monthly installment of things that I have enjoyed in the past month that I think deserve a shine. Typically, these things will be adjacent to mainstream, so that I can get someone who is more comfortable with mainstream entertainment, to branch out and try something a little different. However, some things that I’m going to leave out include Formula 1 and Chainsaw Man as I have either already written about those, or am planning on writing about those in the near future.
What have I been reading?
This past month, I have started reading a relatively new manga called Blue Box. This sports/slice of life/romance/high school manga started serialization in April of 2021 and is written by Kōji Miura. I find that every few years, Weekly Shonen Jump will serialize one romance series that goes against the grain of its traditional battle manga. In the past it’s been series like I”s, Nisekoi, or something like Ichigo 100%. This time around I feel like they got it right with Blue Box. The series is based on Taiki Inomata, a first year member of his high school badminton team. His school is known for their incredible sports program that dominates every year. However, something that they are also known for is second year girl’s basketball team player Chinatsu Kano. She works hard, she’s beautiful – but most importantly, Taiki has a crush on her. Suddenly a wrench gets thrown in when Chinatsu’s family leaves Japan, but Chinatsu decides to stay at her mom’s friends home. Her mom’s friend? Mrs. Inomata. Taiki now lives with his crush.
Honestly, this story isn’t trying to reinvent the wheel or anything, but it’s a quality wholesome will they or won’t they story. Imagine the cliché girl next door character type but even closer because she’s your housemate. And yes, it’s written through the male perspective but I do think that it’s written with enough thoughtfulness where it isn’t totally giving up the pervy male fantasy vibe. The art is also incredible, especially when drawing facial expressions. The arty style almost feels like a blend of early 00’s romance manga with a modern manga flair. If I were to compare it with something that I’ve enjoyed in the past, it would be a series like Touch or any Mitsuru Adachi series revolving around sports and romance. There’s a good balance of cute romantic moments and sports moments, which gives the story a little more texture, rather than being one note, like many romance manga are.
What Have I Been Watching?
The summer 2022 anime lineup this year hasn’t been very impressive. Of course I’m watching the exhilarating new season of Made in Abyss but overall, there aren’t very many big names out there that have me spoiled for choice like the spring season. But the one new series that I am checking out this season is Isekai Ojisan. In the anime community we love talking about subversion, we have loved them since One Punch Man got popular. But this whole subversion thing has been done before. The apathetic hero has now been beat like a dead horse. And isekai stories have also been subverted like crazy. Reverse isekai, where a fantasy character comes into the real world. Isekai where the protagonist isn’t a protagonist. Isekai where the protagonist doesn’t care about saving the world. I am so tired of isekai. But Isekai Ojisan, does subversion in a way that I’ve never seen before.
The series is about an uncle who fell into a coma for 17 years. In this time, he was taken into a fantasy world, one where he was a strong fantasy hero. He wakes up in reality after 17 years to find that he has returned to the normal world after completing his journey. He is currently 34 years old, lives with his 20 year old nephew and has zero real world experiences, even though he happened to take all his fantasy world powers with him to the real world. Oh and he also happens to be an otaku. So he doesn’t have any real life skills to contribute to society, he doesn’t know how to socialize, and he’s broke and depending on his dead beat nephew to help him survive in this world. I’ve never seen a subversion like this before and it makes me think about how clever the creator – Hotondoshindeiru is. Also, did I mention that the pair are trying to become YouTubers as a way to make a living?
What have I been listening to?
So I’m not one to really listen to music outside of what I already listen to, so this shouldn’t be a shocking pick. It’s a kpop album (of course, cue eye roll) and it’s Aespa‘s Girls album. A lot of big kpop albums came out in the past month including J-Hope’s Jack in the Box, Nayeon’s self titled album, and Chungha’s Rare & Bare but I still enjoyed the Aespa mini album as a whole more. The performances are stellar with strong vocals in both sung and rapped parts. Production is fire, it really is the best of fourth generation kpop. If you like hard hitting tracks that get you fired up while you’re working hard on Excel spreadsheets at work, this is the album to listen to.
The other albums I’ve listed above were not bad either. They had strong singles but many b-sides failed to really grip me like the singles. Granted Arson, Pop, and Sparkling are on repeat all day. However, I don’t think that there is one skippable track on the Aespa mini album. It’s like eight songs, but that’s all I need. There’s a great mix of bops like Illusion and Girls but strong power ballads like Forever, that let us know that they’re not just singing hard songs to get angry about while playing League of Legends. The Aespa girls have a lot of versatility in their sound. American pop albums nowadays have like 15+ songs, with over an hour of run time. That sucks, this album is tight and doesn’t really have a lull.
There’s actually a part of me that thinks about how Aespa might actually be my favourite current kpop group just purely based on consistency to their sound, vocal/rap talent, and just how exciting their concepts are. I know that they catch a lot of flack for their live performances but it’s not like I’ll be seeing them live anytime soon, I just listen to their music when I’m going ham on a spreadsheet, so let me be.