Tao of the Machine

Programming, Python, my projects, card games, books, music, Zoids, bettas, manga, cool stuff, and whatever comes to mind.

Short manga descriptions (2)

More manga descriptions. I'm not so good at this, and I'm running out of interesting mangas, so this will be the last post of its kind for a while. Gomen, gomen...

11. Hajime No Ippo: Boxing manga. Shy guy (Ippo) is picked on, professional boxer helps him (well, kind of) and takes him to the boxing gym. Ippo seems not devoid of talent, and he stays. He proceeds to win official fights and even championships. ... I don't know much about boxing, but this manga seems fairly realistic, correctly depicting the hard work and training necessary for becoming a successful boxer.

12. Lilim Kiss: Sappy, but not uninteresting story about a demon (looking like a cute girl with bat's wings) visits the earth, where she meets a guy that she likes. Slight complications occur because she eats by kissing a person, which drains their life energy.

13. Mahou Sensei Megima: Described as "Love Hina meets Harry Potter", and this seems indeed the case. As his final task to become a wizard, a 10-year-old boy starts working as a teacher at a girl's high school.

14. Penguin Brothers: Girl arrives at a new high school, to find that the students have divided in two major groups, black and white (indicated by the uniform they wear), who are at odds with each other. Determined to change this, she a third faction, the greys (which up until then had only one member :-). Much of the manga is about her efforts to recruit grey members, and the existing anomosity between the leaders of the blacks and the whites.

15. Psychometrer Eiji: Adolescent boy has a special gift, "psychometry", which enables him to touch objects and see images in his head, related to the object. Together with a female police inspector, he solves a lot of (murder) mysteries. Can be quite gory and sometimes ecchi.

16. Yakitate! Japan: Some mangas have unusual topics, and this is one of them. It's about a boy baking bread. As often with "dedicated" mangas, a lot of detail is spent on the description of different breads, how to bake them, etc.

17. Love Hina: As little children, a boy and a girl vowed that they would meet again at Toudai (Tokyo University). Years later, Keitaro, the boy, struggling to get into university, is looking for a place to live, and he goes to the old inn/bathing house owned by his grandmother. Turns out a few things have changed; the inn is now for girls only, and Keitaro has a few unfortunate encounters with the current inhabitants, causing him to get slapped around quite a bit. The rest of the manga (and anime) is much in the same spirit.

18. Rurouni Kenshin: After Japan has been torn by war, the last of a special class of samurai retires to live a peaceful life, vowing never to kill again. He uses a special sword, made to deflect rather than kill. Keeping the vow becomes difficult since quite a few people seem to have a bone to pick with him.

19. Shaman King: High-strung school boy befriends an aspirant shaman, someone who can talk to spirits and conjure them. A tiny bit like Pokemon: shamans can let a spirit possess them and have "shaman fights" in a tournament, to determine who will be the Shaman King.

20. Nausicaa: Good manga, kind of surrealistic. In a strange world threatened by war, a girl goes on a quest to help her people. (If that sounds vague... read the manga emoticon:smile or watch the anime.)

Posted by Hans Nowak on 2003-11-22 18:09:59   {link}
Categories: manga

Short manga descriptions (1)

This category is long overdue, so without further ado, short descriptions of 10 mangas. Most/all of these mangas can be found on the Net, if you know where to look.

1. Midori No Hibi: Tough guy cannot get a girlfriend. An unknown power turns his right hand (!) into one. This is a bit of a... complication.

2. Anima: In a fantasy world, some people have traits of certain animals... birds, bats, fish, bears, for example. These people are called +anima (yes, with the "+" in front of it) and are welcomed by some, persecuted by others.

3. Chobits: (Licensed in the US) In a maybe not-so future world, the so-called persocons are very popular. These are robots that look and act very much like humans (mostly girls), and can be used as servants, data banks, etc. A lonely guy wants one, cannot afford it, but then finds a forsaken persocon in the trash. (How could it be otherwise?) It turns out that this is not a regular persocon...

4. Bokko: In ancient China, there was a clan of great fighters and strategists. Over time, the clan becomes corrupt. One man, Kakuri, leaves for this reason, and goes on to defend a city against a vast army. ... Quite an interesting manga, but not for the weak of stomach.

5. Break Shot: There are many mangas about sports, and this one focuses on billiards. Not extremely interesting; high school boy is a natural talent and wins some tournaments, etc. The billiard techniques don't seem very realistic either.

6. Detective Conan: A very talented young detective is turned into a little boy because of some strange potion. In spite of being little, he doesn't give up his detective work, determined to find the guys who gave him the potion, and to somehow return to his previous state. Of course, a 7-year-old isn't quite believable as an investigator, so he lives with his former girlfriend (who doesn't know his identity) and her father, who also happens to be a detective (although much less talented). So he goes on to solve many cases, almost all of which are credited to the lesser detective.

This is one of those strange mangas that seem childish, aimed at children, but that have a considerable amount of blood and gore.

7. Full Metal Alchemist: In a strange world, magic and technology go hand in hand. There are "alchemists", who can conjure things, turn part of themselves into metal, etc. Mildly interesting.

8. Hunter x Hunter: A bit similar to #6, in that it seems childish, but has lots of gore in some places. 1) A kid wants to be a "hunter", the meaning of which isn't really explained, but it's a kind of special agent. Candidates have to do a gruesome test; after the test, there are some quests, among which is "Greed Island", a computer game that you can enter physically.

9. A Record of Lodoss War: D&D-style fantasy done by mangaka. Not bad.

10. Kirara: A girl dies in a car accident on the way to her wedding. Her ghost comes back, but somehow ends up in the past -- her husband-to-be is in junior high, and, to complicate matters, so is she (or rather, a younger version of her).

1) This is a strange feature of quite a few mangas. Many American comics show a lot of gore too, but they're usually not childish. Mangas also tend to be very, and often overly, explicit in what they show when it comes to violence. You'd think the human body is a high-pressure vessel full of blood, ready to explode at the slightest cut. :-/

Posted by Hans Nowak on 2003-11-19 23:04:02   {link}
Categories: manga

On IRC, nobody knows you're not a dog

Where to download the manga (and anime) I mention in my weblog? First of all, there's the links page. Some groups release their stuff on IRC, though. For newbies, here's a quick guide on how to download from there.

(I'm assuming that you at least know the basics of IRC: logging on to a server, setting a nickname, joining a channel, etc. If not, see this tutorial.)

1. Get a decent IRC client. For Windows, I recommend mIRC.

2. Connect to a server where manga groups dwell, for example:

/server irc.mircx.com

3. Do a /list if you don't know the group names. Some well-known channels are #snoopycool, #omanga and #solaris. Join them:

/join #snoopycool


4. Read the rules first:


so you don't piss off the moderators. On most IRC channels, moderators are *very* quick to kick and ban obnoxious users, or just anyone who puts a foot wrong. Don't expect the manga channels to be different.

5. Get a list of users that have file servers:


You will now see a (possibly long) list with entries like this:

-Lizard_Axe- [Fserve Active] - Triggers:[/ctcp Lizard_Axe Valkyrie Profile! & /ctcp Lizard_Axe #mangarealm releases & /ctcp Lizard_Axe Some #cabbit releases] - Users:[0/3] - Sends:[0/2] - Queues:[0/100] - Record CPS:[16.4kB/s by Omnivore]

This means that user Lizard_Axe has a file server, that is currently used by 0 users (out of a possible 3). He's sending 0 files (out of a possible 2) and 0 files are queued. (Usually, these values with not be 0.)

To connect to the file server, use the triggers. These are usually /ctcp commands. In this case, /ctcp Lizard_Axe Valkyrie Profile! connects to (a part of) the file server, and so do /ctcp Lizard_Axe #mangarealm releases and /ctcp Lizard_Axe Some #cabbit releases. Different triggers give you access to different file collections. Just type them in the input bar, and if everything goes well, you'll get a little pop-up screen asking for confirmation to connect to this fileserver. After confirming, you'll get a DCC chat screen that lets you access the server.

6. File servers emulate a console screen, and common commands like dir are possible. You'll do dir a lot to see what files are available. Use cd dirname to enter a directory and cd .. to leave it. (It's just like DOS... ;-) To get a file, do get filename. (Make sure you don't make any speling errors in the filename, or it won't work!) If there are send slots open, the file will be transferred immediately. If not, it will probably be queued, unless all queue slots are full as well, in which case you're out of luck and have to try again later, when it's less busy.

Most of these screens close after a few minutes, so you'll have to be quick, or reconnect. Also, many users require you to stay in the channel, or they will cancel your download.

7. Some channels allow the @find command. Just type @find foo, where foo is (part of) the name of the manga you're looking for, and search result windows will pop up. Be careful where you do this, though; some channels will ban you if you do a @find.

That's all.

Posted by Hans Nowak on 2003-07-08 17:32:23   {link}
Categories: manga

Sunday roundup

OK, the titles are not getting any more original...

1. I am currently tinkering with an experimental program. May or may not work; development is not going very fast. More later... maybe.

(Update, 2003.07.07: The successfull installation of spambayes makes this project obsolete.)

2. Some ultra-short manga reviews.

  • Outlanders: Aliens threaten the earth. A boy happens to be the love interest of the alien princess, and from this position attempts to save the earth. <spoiler, highlight to see> It doesn't work, and almost everybody dies at the end. An interesting manga with a disappointing end. </spoiler> Rating: 6/10

  • Hotman: Strange title. A relatively subtle manga that tells the story of a family, dealing with everyday problems, emotions, love and death. Rating: 7/10

  • Venus Wars: Not recommended. Boring stuff with bikers and soldiers on Venus. (May sound more exciting than it is.) Rating: n/a

  • Eatman: A bit RPG-ish; explorer/adventurer Bolt Crank has a peculiar ability: When he eats something (usually made out of metal), he is able to reproduce it later. Lots of small stories (quests), some larger storylines as well. Rating: 7/10

  • Tuxedo Gin: Shortly before he can go on his first date, a boy has a fatal accident, but is offered the possibility to return in an animal's body. Turns out he returns as a penguin... Rating: 7/10, for now

3. If I wasn't sure before that bettas had their own personality, how about this. Today I fed my fish some so-called bloodworms. (These come freeze-dried in a container, I don't want to mess around with live worms.) Most bettas liked it, except for Shaggy, the green crowntail. He nibbled at his food, then swam away and sat on the bottom of the tank... I swear, it looked like he was pouting! emoticon:loveit I dropped some pellets in the tank (the regular food), and he snagged them up real quick.

4. Apparently MySQLdb doesn't support the ? parameter in strings. For example, this code works with Gadfly, but not with MySQLdb:

sql = "insert table (foo, bar) values (?, ?)"
cursor.execute(sql, ('blah', 42))

Instead, you have to use:

sql = "insert table (foo, bar) values (%s, %s)"

Or maybe ? is deprecated and I don't know about it?

Posted by Hans Nowak on 2003-07-06 18:06:05   {link}
Categories: manga, bettas, Python

And a quote...

I am not a jack-of-all-trades. I am an explorer.
--Bolt Crank

(Who is Bolt Crank?) (For downloads, look here while it lasts... has some other stuff too. Or go here.)

Posted by Hans Nowak on 2003-07-05 02:09:18   {link}
Categories: general, manga


  • Hikaru No Go has been licensed. (For the non-manga-otakus, that means that some US publisher is going to do the American release, making scanlations on the Net pretty much illegal.) Fortunately, MangaReaders still has a number of chapters that TW didn't release. (If that link doesn't work, go to mangareaders.com, log in (maybe after registering), and go to the download section.)
  • I'm writing this using Sextile. It's quite usable, I only need to add a few more features, like lists. Combined with macros, it's really quite powerful, and it doesn't get in my way.
  • I registered my weblog at Artima buzz. Apparently they just added all my posts to the top, so the whole first page of "latest posts" consists of my writings. emoticon:bloos So far, Pyblagg has far more weblogs, though.
  • The number of Google hits for "luna lovegood" are increasing daily.
  • Occasionally I find myself thinking "gee, this programming problem would have quite an elegant soluton in Lisp". The dark side beckons...
  • Currently reading: Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (OK, I finished it, but maybe I'll do a reread, like the hardcore fans :-); Orson Scott Card: Seventh Son.
  • Currently listening to: In Extremo, Osdorp Posse, Clawfinger, Dawn Penn, H-Blockx, Puhdys, A Split Second, Bloodhound Gang, Gotcha!
  • Currently hacking on: Firedrop2, Sextile

Posted by Hans Nowak on 2003-06-28 15:05:25   {link}
Categories: general, manga, programming, Python, books, music

Yokohama Kaidashi Kikou

Yokohama Kaidashi Kikou is an interesting manga. It’s very different from most comics and most mangas as well.

I find it refreshing that there are still stories that have more to offer than action, special effects, sex and violence. I’m not a preacher of morals, far from it, but it’s nice to see something different once in a while, to ease our numbed senses. I suspect that most (young) people would find YKK boring, though. In 103 chapters, nobody got into a fight, had sex, died, beat an opponent, or even got mad. One might think there is no clear story at all, but it’s there… it’s just very subtle, and it unfolds slowly and gently.

More at this site. There are also lots of downloads. (This manga has not been licensed to the US or Europe.)

Posted by Hans Nowak on 2003-05-02 19:28:02   {link}
Categories: manga

Manga vs US comics

I usually find manga to be (a lot) more interesting than US comics. (European comics are something else entirely, maybe I'll discuss those another day.) Let's look at some of the differences that I have found, going from my (admittedly limited) knowledge.

1. Plots. Manga usually has much better plots than comics. Of course, there are always exceptions, but even the cheeziest little-kid manga will have a contrived plot, making it enjoyable for older readers as well.

2. Topics. Manga is... different. Comics often seem to focus on the "superhero" theme. Yes, these days there are many other kinds of comics, but very often they are about somebody (or something) with special powers. This happens in manga as well, but the scenery is different. I noticed that often there will indeed be somebody with special powers, but they are placed in a world that is otherwise normal... or looks normal.

Aside from that, there are some popular genres, that you don't often see in comics... e.g. samurai stories, romance (often shoujo manga), and sports. (The sports mangas tend to have very long stories, where the protagonist starts out at the very bottom -- often doesn't know anything about the sport -- and rises to the top. And unlike cheap movies, such mangas are actually realistic, describing the sport in detail, focusing on how hard it is to master it, etc. Examples are Hikaru No Go (go), Hajime no Ippo (boxing), Prince of Tennis, and Break Shot (billiards).)

3. Blood & guts. There certainly are some very gory comics around. The same goes for manga. But apparently, many mangaka are not afraid to use gratuitous blood and violence in otherwise "normal" stories. Psychometrer Eiji, for example, is about high school kids (among other things), and in some ways it looks like a typical adolescent manga, but the artist shows no reluctance in killing off some characters in gruesome ways. Ditto for Shaman King; some may consider this a kid's manga, but the level of gore doesn't seem suitable for young children.

4. Gender bending. Even the mainstream mangas regularly like to blur any male/female distinction. This can be just a matter of appearance; in (bi)shounen manga, males tend to "look pretty"; read: they look like females. So, you tend to mistake these males for women. (It can be quite disturbing when after several chapters the nice girl turns out to be a man. ^_^)

It doesn't stop there, though. In Pretty Face, a tough guy has an accident and a mad doctor gives him a girl's face. There are other mangas that deliberately confuse the reader by making girls look/act like guys and vice versa. And, all of these mangas are more or less mainstream and not targeted at the sexually deviant. :-)

There are more differences, of course; for example, how the characters are drawn. Manga has its own distinctive style, very different from US comics. And, while you wouldn't mistake the characters for real people, the scenery often does look pretty realistic.

More on this later, when I think of some more (important) differences.

Posted by Hans Nowak on 2003-04-11 22:40:20   {link}
Categories: manga

Some manga terms

manga: Japanese comics.

anime: Japanese cartoons.

The distinction between manga and anime is simply this: manga appears on paper, while anime appears on screen. Many mangas have anime versions (or vice versa), and they do not necessarily have the exact same plots.

hentai: sexually explicit manga or anime. "Hentai" means "pervert" in Japanese. :)

shoujo manga: manga targeted at girls. The equivalent for boys is called shounen manga. In spite of these "labels", there is a lot of overlap, and many boys enjoy shoujo manga, and vice versa. Also, it's not necessarily suitable for kids only.

bishoujo/bishounen: literally, "pretty girl" and "pretty boy". Manga of this type has beautiful/handsome main characters. (That's in the eye of the beholder, of course...) It may disturb westerners to find out that the character they thought was female, is actually a male. This also happens in non-bishoujo/bishounen mangas, by the way. Hikaru No Go, for example, features several characters that appear female to the untrained (western) eye (Akira and Sai, to name a few).

otaku: a fan, but in Japanese this word has a negative connotation, more like somebody who is obsessed. You could call yourself an "anime otaku", but don't let a Japanese person hear it... :)

Posted by Hans Nowak on 2003-04-10 22:30:10   {link}
Categories: manga

Manga links

I've been reading a lot of manga lately. Here are some links.

  • MangaProject: Alichino, Alice 19th, Angel Heart, Boku No Marie, Flame of Recca, Fruits Basket, Gals!, HEN, I“s, Mononoke Hime, Parfait Tic, Read or Die, Yokohama Kaidashi Kikou (and much more)
  • Manga Downloads: Penguin Brothers, Rurouni Kenshin, Detective Conan, Shin Kotaro Makaritoru
  • SnoopyCool: Flame of Recca, Hajime No Ippo, Psychic Academy, etc
  • Project Omanga: has more of the “darker” mangas. Also has Bokko, Brothers, Psychometrer Eiji.
  • NOATED: The mother of all manga sites. ;-)
  • Manga Readers: Has a bunch of manga downloads, hosting for other sites. Requires login and has a download limit.
  • Solaris Lunae: Ai Ga Tomanarai, B-Wanted, Lilim Kiss, Sai Kano, etc.
  • MangaSync: Break Shot, Cinderella Express, Inviting Darkness, First Love Kiss, etc.
  • Aku-Tenshi: DNAngel, and more. (May have connection problems.)
  • Shadow2K: Hikaru No Go, Initial D, Tenchi in Tokyo
More later.

(This is the first post in a new category.)

Posted by Hans Nowak on 2003-04-07 23:34:51   {link}
Categories: manga

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