Thursday, April 16, 2015

Gochika the Friendly Cockroach

It's no great secret that Japan is capable of using any object or subject, no matter how unsexy or mundane, and manage to make it cute.  Anything from Lovecraft Lore to Melon Bread to Internet Browsers to Military Weapons to Anthropomorphized Countries.  Even knowing this, the sheer range and subject material of fetishized stuff shouldn't continue to be a surprise, yet it constantly does.  The latest source of amusement comes from a Moe version of a Cockroach of all things.

There have been comic versions of cockroaches before, the most memorable being Milquetoast the Cockroach from Bloom County, and Don Martin's Nature Documentary on subject of same, but those were certainly closer to being on-model compared to the miniaturized girl on display.  If it weren't for her diminutive size, she'd be no different from other openly scorned little people in other literature.  At least she's certainly cuter than the overtly racist Cockroaches of Terraformars.

What sets her apart from other cockroaches is that she's a compulsive cleaner who wants nothing more than to be friends with humans.  Too bad that whenever anybody catches sight of her crawling towards them, their first reaction is nothing short of outright disgust. Much like how Casper's revealing appearance would scare anyone into screaming "A G-g-g-g-GHOOOOOOOOOST!!!" before running away, so does Gokicha face the same dilemma.  Of course, with her, the reaction is much more immediate - "A cockroach!  Kill it!"  Fortunately, since she's an invulnerable cockroach, she gets away with little more than cartoon bandages over her shell.

As such, her constant rejection leaves her wondering why other bugs, such as Cicadas, Fireflies, Butterflies, Dragonflies and Stag Beetles are more popular than she is.  For some reason, the fact that her species is generally associated with filthyness completely escapes her.

It wouldn't be a 4-panel gag Manga without an opposing viewpoint to counter her optimistic worldview, and we have that Spooky the Tuff Ghost figure in the counterpart of Chaba-Chan who just wants a nice dirty place to live, and is constantly frustrated by Gokicha's naivete.

Gokicha regularly eats poisonous insecticide pellets to little or no effect, and is flummoxed when Chaba outright refuses to share in her peculiar tastes.  Both in terms of unusual appetite, human interest and cleaning, which results in being prematurely evicted due to discovery and lack of edible waste.

Furthermore, Chaba seems to totally relish her role as a Cockroach troublemaker.

Currently, only two episodes of this amusingly cute Manga were made, which is just as well given its lengthy production time (8 pages a month) and limited range.  Despite these limitations and its potentially repetitive humour, Gokicha manages to remain outright charming.  In 65 Million years when humanity has long perish, cuteness will continue to dominate the Earth.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Giving up Bread for Lent

Sorry for the lack of updates.  It's been a week of unproductive activity, due to no account of obeying the Passover rules of not eating any bread / pasta during the week (read 8 days).  If it weren't for the loophole of being able to consume potatoes, I'd go mad.  As a result, the lack of gluten going into my brain slows down my creative process.  Just relying on chocolate (even heavily discounted Easter ones) isn't enough of a motivator.  While I'm not particularly religious, I feel it's only right to do my utmost best to pay respect to my spiritual ancestors, even if my craft suffers in the process.

One of the hardest part of giving up bread products is that every year, is that when my Dad goes to visit his family for Easter, they always feel fit to give some doughnuts from a Pinsonneault bakery that's only available in their hometown.  This is a good thing, since the rich quality of these Maple doughnuts prevents me from downing these delicacies on a daily basis.

Don't be fooled by their unshapely lumpiness.  they're jam-packed with maple syrup, which accounts for their unevenness.  The collapse of their structure is due to being unable to fully contain the inherent watery sweetness within.  After having one of these, I suddenly had a craving for Glazed doughnuts (previously only choosing chocolate by default) since they were the closest available substance in comparison.

However, I'm also something of a compulsive hoarder when it comes to preserving limited quantities of foodstuff I'm particularly fussy about.  I've still got a box of frozen pizza rolls that I still haven't cooked, since I used to be visited by a Meatman who would arrive on a monthly basis until the supplier retired, and am thus unable to find any of said pizza rolls that are commercially available.  Pizza pockets and Pizza snack packs don't quite fit the bill.  When this year came rolling around, it was discovered that there were some leftover doughnuts that'd been sitting in the freezer since last year, since I was saving them for a foreign friend who never came over.  (After defrosting them, they still tasted pretty good)
If anybody knows where to get these, let me know.
In the midst of my gluten withdrawal, I was scouring social media in the vain hope that I might come across memes and personal accounts that would distract me long enough.  In the midst of these timesinks, I came across a surprising account of an Aislin comic that was supposed to be left unseen regarding Postmedia purchasing Sun Media.  This was surprising to me because despite Aislin's proclamation that this cartoon never would've found its way in the Gazette, I could've sworn I saw it in the papers recently.

I went through various old newspapers, trying to find the relevant cartoon (while clipping out other articles of interest) but for some reason, was unable to find the paper in question.  Curiously enough, one date in particular was missing - Thursday's paper.  I thought for sure that the missing cartoon must've been in that elusive paper.  (It wasn't - Aislin's comment came out on March 27, and The Gazette printed it on March 28)  I checked the remaining papers to see if it was put at a lower date.  No luck.  I even checked between articles to see if it was sandwiched between older newspapers.  No joy.  I even checked the junk mail bin in the faint hope that it might've accidentally misplaced there.  No go.

When I explained this perplexing dilemma to my parents, they went through the same labourous search procedure I just went through, and were no better at finding the elusive paper that'd mysteriously vanished out of sight.  It hadn't been taken for a road trip or a bathroom voyage, so where'd it go?  The answer came from looking in the least likely place - at the very bottom of the pile, where old newspapers were to be used for garbage.

I feel I should explain our disposal procedure.  Recently, we've divided up our waste into three different bins, one for regular trash, one for recyclables, and one for organic waste.  Now, the latter are supposed to be collected into paper bags for easy collection, but the act of putting lots of potato peelings into a small collapsible bag with a small strike zone increases the risk of missing the target when aiming at a distance, and my Dad didn't like the idea of that.  So he devised a procedure to use folded newspapers into an origami shape of a garbage bag.  When the flow of trash reaches the top, that's when it's time to roll up the remainder into a paper fertilizer ball that'll be carefully placed into the compost chamber along with all the other fragile compostables.  When using smaller wastes, such as apple cores and whatnot, I opt for the more manageable junk mail ads.  At least those come to some use.  So what happened was that by some freak accident, Dad had taken the papers that were meant for reuse at the bottom of the pile, and included yesterday's paper in the mix.

It was somewhat painful for my Dad to admit his unintended bungling.  My Dad is overly cautious in trying out any newfangled electronic device, and won't venture into the field without having carefully read the instructions multiple times over, making doubly certain that he's aware of the implications.  While any other person would willfully experiment and play around with the combinations to see what works and what doesn't, Dad will take agonize over and take great pains to determine the consequences of the action of pushing a specific button at the wrong time.
Choosing Lottery Ticket Numbers the MAD way.
It was recently suggested that he and I are similar in that we're perfectionists that hate to admit mistakes, which is somewhat surprising, given how much we get on each other's nerves.  Our self-determined systems are simply incompatible with each other.  On the rare occasions where Dad actually manages to make a mistake, my Mom never fails to lord over and gloat over his brief ineptitude, which is her right as Dad takes great joy in other people's slapstick suffering.

Once this revelation was revealed, I instantly pounced upon this by saying,

"So, you buried the evidence under paperwork?"

One of my great regrets is that so much of my spontaneous wordplay is unknown from the lack of an audience that's not around to appreciate them.  I can never just tell a joke - I have to give an elaborate backstory with commentary included.  One-liners are a more manageable beast - they occur on the spur of the moment with few select material available.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

April is the Cruelest Month

There would normally be tidbits of Mr. Bean's amusing calendar entries here, but April apparently is the rare month that has NO commentary for any of the dates, not even the first one.  Not even an allegation for Poisson D'avril, which is characterized by placing a fish behind a random person's back.  (It's a French thing)  Mr. Bean would've used that kind of prank as an opportunity to have some fried fish for dinner... if he had any friends who'd try to play it off on him, and reaching around his back to hang a fish would be more trouble than it's worth.

The only holiday mentioned is the 23rd, St. George's Day, and that doesn't even get an allusion to Dragons.
A Village Tavern
Dean Wolstenholme, 1798-1883
I was all set to do some more entries of the April Fool's Comic Strip Switcheroo, but while doing some research, found that someone else had made a very comprehensive entry about those very comics, saving me some trouble, but not after I'd already gone through half of the online database.  Admittingly, the samples found at the Troubleshooting Comics link are of better quality than what I've found online.

One of the most prized images is the long-lost Zippy comics in the style of Fox Trot!

Despite their best efforts, there were a few missed comics, so all my efforts weren't entirely for naught.

I also found an alternative version of the Non Sequitur comic, compressed into a single panel, so a lot of detail from the crowded line is missing.  And by "missing", I mean cropped out entirely.

There were also inclusions of other comics that played April Fools without resorting to switching cartoonists, but for some reason, this one didn't make the cut.

It's hard to make out the details, but I think there's a bunch of hand tools in the cat's food bowl, which is why Kit is so freaked out.  As far as pranks go, this isn't particularly high up the cleverness scale, and closer to sadism.

Happy Easter to those who celebrate the holiday, and happy Passover to those who don't.

Sunday, March 29, 2015

The Canadian Eyeshield 21: The Zuchinni Warriors

I've been on a nostalgia kick lately, re-reading all kinds of old books and comics I've kept for years, just waiting for the opportuinty to present itself.  (i.e., running out of new stuff to read)  One of these was marathoning the excellent Football Manga, Eyeshield 21.  When it was being serialized, I couldn't help but notice that there were some surprisingly similar parallels with the Gordon Korman book The Zucchini Warriors.  The MacDonald Hall series centers on two boys, Bruno and Boots, who are always getting into various states of trouble at a boarding school, long before Harry Potter made such an institution look cool.

Gordon Kormon also wrote other Sports-themed books, such as the misfit Baseball team The Toilet Paper Tigers (led by a Female Hiruma, no less) and the Slapshots Hockey team, but they're pretty much by-the-numbers in terms of storytelling compared to the zaniness that is Zucchini Warriors.  It's possible that most of these traits are part of overused themes from Football movies, but since I have no interest in those, I'll have to plead ignorance.  The only Sports cliche I'm aware of is from Sakuraba's being a major inspiration to an invalid kid in the hospital.

The identity of Eyeshield 21, the infamous running back is secretly Sena Kobayakawa, an wimpy short kid whose trait of being a gofer for bullies gave him incredible sprinting speed.

The identity of the Zucchini Warriors Quarterback, Cathy Duncan, from Scrimmages's Finishing School (who doesn't even attend MacDonald Hall) is given the secret identity of... the school nerd.  Normally, the role of the S-hero is hidden behind the unlikely facade of the unassuming quiet nerdy kid.  Here, it's inverted, with the role of the qualified athletic girl hiding behind the facade of a wimpy nerd.
"What's your name, son?"Bruno was babbling.  "It's - a student!  Yeah, that's it.  A student.  Someone who missed the tryouts but still wants to play.  It's -""Elmer Drimsdale," supplied Cathy."Elmer Drimsdale!" repeated truimphantly.  He staggered back and stared at her.  "Elmer Drimsdale?!""Elmer Drimsdale?!" chorused most of the players.
The leader of the Deimon Devil Bats, Hiruma, love child of Kurata Sana and Akito Hayama, gets players to do his bidding by threatening to reveal their most embarrassing secrets, lest they wind up dying of embarrassment.

The Zucchini Warriors have Myron Blankenship, a notorious blabbermouth who simply can't stop telling people about their most personal embarrassing gossip, even as it winds up making him extremely unpopular in the process.  He even reveals to the headmaster the particulars of an elaborate nighttime prank that he himself participated in.

While Hiruma is able to accomplish great feats and deeds through threat of blackmail, Bruno's friends agree to comply through his wishes only through his constant and convincing arguments.
"So why are you all here?" Bruno challenged.
"Haven't you figured it out yet? asked Boots, half in exasperation and half in amusement.  "We're here because talking you out of something is ten times more work than actually doing it!"
(From MacDonald Hall goes Hollywood, but applies here as well)
After each victory from his ragtag team of football players, a building extension is made to the clubroom, thanks to Hiruma's intimidating information over the principal.

In The Zuchinni Warriors, the sole driving motivation behind the MacDonald Hall students in playing football is not out of pure love of the game, but to get a Rec Hall that the money was used to make a football field instead.  Hence Bruno Walton's force in convincing his classmates to appeal to their sponsor, even if they have to eat dozens of unappetizing Zucchini sticks in order to do so.

On Sena's first game, when he got possession of the ball, he wound up making an amateur mistake:

Sidney Rampulsky is the fastest receiver for the Zucchini Warriors, but despite his speed, he has one glaring fault - he's notoriously clumsy.  Cathy even said that she'd never seen someone trip over the 30-yard line before.  In one of their early games, Sidney wound up making an unintended benefit for the other team.
"He can catch a pass, he can run like a gazelle, but he can't stand on his own two feet!""When he's going the right way, he falls!""Somebody should have told me," said Sidney reproachfully."We couldn't catch you!"
The Deimon Devil Bat's rivals, the Ojo White Knights have an excitable uncontrollable player, Ikari, who has to be constantly chained up otherwise he'd just beat up on anybody who says something disparaging about Ojo's team.  It doesn't even have to be insulting - he'll attack on the vague notion that sounds like an off-hand insult.

In The Zucchini Warriors, they've got Calvin Fitzhart, an external braggart who is constantly hyping himself up as a force to be reckoned with.
"The other teams are in big trouble!  I pity the poor guy who has to stand in the line against me!  I hope he's got his life insurance paid up!"
"Why?" asked Pete Anderson.
"Because I'm the roughest, toughest, meanest guy in the whole league!  My nickname is The Beast!"
"You mean you've played football before?" Boots asked hopefully.
"No!  But these nicknames have to start somewhere, and this one's starting right here!  The Beast!  That's me!"
Calvin is forever growling, snarling and basically ripping up pieces of equipment and patches of land in preparation of laying waste to the other team.  Of course, like any movie with multiple ads, his first debut ends with a dismal thud on the first play, which he weakly complains that he's suffered from a compound fracture that's little more than a bruise.  Even with this "injury" in a cast, he still continues to portray himself as a capable linesman, albeit temporarily benched.

Hiruma in addition to having a booklet full of lurid details on people's lives, also manages to heighten his intimidation by stockpiling a vast array of rifles, guns and other high-powered rifles.  Yet despite his impressive armory, his rapid-fire gunshots never amount to more than popgun stinging.  Likewise, one of the stronger rival football teams, the Seibu Wild Gunmen (loosely based on the Dallas Cowboys) signature move is the Shotgun.

You'd think a Canadian boarding school wouldn't have access to firearms, and you'd be right, but that rule doesn't apply to the Headmistress across the road who's notoriously worried about the well-being and safety of her girls (despite all evidence that they're more than capable of handling themselves on their own) and routinely carries a shotgun to capture any potential peeping toms at night.  Amazingly enough, despite Mrs. Scrimmage's lack of precise aiming and common sense, no one manages to get killed.  The closest anybody gets to being hurt is when the Headmaster, Mr. Sturgeon, happens upon a scene where the football coach is lying on the ground late at night.
"Woman, what have you done?!""She didn't shoot anybody!  She just hit him!"
The penultimate team before the Christmas Bowl is an oversized well-built student, Gaoh Rikiya, whose imposing size and girth is a threat to anyone who stands in his way.  Yet despite his destructive nature, Gaoh has a sense of fair play, and won't resort to dirty tactics.

The last team the Zucchini Warriors fight for the Daw Cup has the indomitable figure of Craig Trolley, an oversized 13-year old who overpowers the opposition easily.  He's also the pure definition of a true Canadian athlete, since after every play, he never fails to apologize to the opposing team.

"Are you guys okay?" Craig asked, his face open and sincere."Yeah thanks," said Boots.Craig helped the three of them to their feet, then he did exactly the same as before, sacking the quarterback, only this time he dragged Larry into the pileup as he threw himself on Bruno, Boots, and Cathy."Sorry about that," said Craig earnestly, giving the four fallen Warriors a hand getting up."Don't worry about it," breathed Boots.  He turned to Bruno and Cathy.  "We're all going to die.""That's guy's amazing!  He's a cross between King Kong and Miss Manners!"

There's a few other superficial similarities I didn't include that didn't quite fit the bill:

One of the games the Deimon Devil Bats played was on a muddy football field, but that was more of a detail about the lay of the land, and an extra layer of difficulty for getting solid footing.  The Zucchini Warriors weren't so fortunate, as their muddy field was of more extreme proportions, having everything and everybody soaked in mud, making telling friend from foe an impossibility, constantly washing off the ball and general confusion all around, which doesn't make for a very exciting football match.

While the Deimon Devil Bats is led by brainchild Hiruma, the rest of the team generally consists of well-meaning idiots who have great physical prowess, but little common sense.  While not on the football team, one MacDonald Hall student, Pete Anderson could certainly qualify, given how often he spouts complete non sequiturs, is slow on the uptake, and constantly misunderstanding situations.  Chances are high he'd wonder if Elmer Drimsdale and Cathy Burton were the same person.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Domesticating Walter

In addition to Sunday comics, one of the great regrets of collections of Newspaper comics is how often storylines are shown once and never seen again after their publication.  We're fortunate if week-long (or longer) arcs remain in their entirety in a reprint, with all their recapping intact.  Having gone through various months of online archives, I can safely say that there's a lot of junk material out there, usually with forced punchlines.  To further drive the difficulty of selection, Newspaper comic arcs can come out of nowhere, necessitating the need to backtrack previous days to get to the start of the story.

As with any storyline, it starts out perfectly innocuously, with Adam trying to get his neighbor to be honest about his feelings.  Fanfic slashers, your material is right here.

Deny it all you want, you're only repressing yourself.

After this initial setup, we get to the heart of the conflict:

Walter certainly seems to be quite the stickler for detail, and focusing on the wrong thing.

In a previous post, I mentioned Walter being somewhat helpless in basic household chores.  In case it's not obvious here, he's taking a pair of scissors to the shirt, hence the "SNIP" sound.

The last line is supposed to read "I'm sure someone at the factory made a mistake", but with the faded text, it looks more like "I'm sure someone at the factory Male a mistake", which makes it unintentionally relevant.

To put this joke in context, the year these came out was in October 1985.  The danger of being obsolete may be one of the reasons many strips don't get reprinted.  People eating items that expired in 1947 only gets funnier with each successive year.

With Walter expressing complete ignorance over basic household cleaning products such as mops and vacuum cleaners, I'm guessing he's being intentionally dense or displaying situation-specific amnesia.

Of course, it wouldn't be a typical Adam/Walter confrontation without basic Male Chauvinist ingratitude.

And of course, it wouldn't be a classic Adam strip without a typical Sisyphean reward.