Zombie ended the last issue with "Gotta go fast." Well hold onto your pants, Polynauts, because we're not slowing down! This issue, we'll take a look at intergalactic racing on the planet Oban, and the fastest man alive. Oh...but then we do kick back and chat about Spice and Wolf. Yep, it's time for another issue of Crisis on Infinite Polygons.
We've had plenty of Marvel coverage in the past, but it's time to put the spotlight on DC. Everybody knows Superman and Batman, but who they should really know is The Flash. So let me give you some Flash Facts. There have been numerous Flashes over the years, but on the whole there are three of them. The first Flash, Jay Garrick, started his career in the 40s fighting Nazis. He was struck by lightning, granting him the ability to surpass the speed of sound. After Jay retired to live with his wife, a mild-mannered police scientist named Barry Allen accidentally spilled chemicals on himself, imbuing him with the powers of The Flash. Then, in the late 80's Barry Allen was killed in Crisis on Infinite Earths, leaving his then-protege Wally West (also known as Kid Flash) to fill some rather big boots.
From left to right: Wally, Barry, Bart, and Jay
The neat thing about The Flash is precisely that he isn't just one dude. The Flash Family is one of the greatest groups of characters in the DCU, because they are legitimately a family. And it's not just Barry, Jay and Wally. It's their friends, their family. It's Linda, Joan, Iris, Bart, Max Mercury and the Quicks. They're all one big family. They hang out, they get together on holidays and have dinners together. Occasionally, even the Rogues join in! That's how cool the Flash is: even his villains don't mind hanging out with him sometimes.
Yeah, the Flash is a dude that can transcend the speed of light, think, act and react at superhuman speeds, become intangible, and jump back and forth in time at will (to note a few of the perks that come with being the Flash), but he's also a decent guy surrounded by decent people.
So you want to read The Flash? Well, if you can find it, Waid's run (Volume 2) which began in '87 is fantastic. Terminal Velocity, Born to Run, and The Return of Barry Allen are all highlights. The New 52 Flash run is also great, and has some of the best art I've ever seen.
This is technically an anime, but for my purposes it's more convenient to refer to it as a cartoon, so that's exactly what I'm going to do. Oban Star Racers is a French animated show that aired in 2006. It follows Eva Wei, a rebellious teenager living at a boarding school who loves machines. Every year on her birthday she hopes that her father, the famous racing manager Don Wei, can find the time to come visit her, and every year she's disappointed. On her 15th birthday, she decides to sneak out of school and see what Dad's been up to this whole time. Turns out he's getting ready to leave Earth to compete in an intergalactic race on another planet!
Fed up with her father's complete inability to even call her once a year, let alone visit, Eva stows away on the team's spaceship, prepared to give Don hell. And hopefully squeeze in some high-stakes racing while she's at it!
I sometimes describe Oban Star Racers as "IGPX for a younger crowd." Though it paints a decent picture due to Oban's goofier and more colorful designs, it's a surprisingly mature show at times, centering around themes of loss and tragedy. But most importantly, the races are great! Every competitor brings a unique challenge to the table, from one character who rides on a gigantic flying beetle shooting magical arrows, to another who uses what seems to be the flying equivalent of a wind chime, trapping his opponents in hypnotic illusions.
The races are fast and reasonably well-animated (even today, especially impressive considering the show use 3D animation), and a rotating focus on the various alien challengers does a good job fleshing out the setting and characters. Every character has their own reason for racing, and for some in particular, the stakes are unimaginably high.
Oban Star Racers is an entertaining show, and I found it to have a lot of heart. Check it out!
Spice and Wolf begins with Kraft Lawrence, a traveling peddler who arrives in the village of Pasloe to do some trading during the harvest festival. During his stay there, he encounters Holo, a wolf deity who resides in the village's wheat fields. A long time ago, Holo made a pact with one of the villagers of Pasloe, promising to ensure a great wheat harvest each year. But as time went on and technology progressed, the villagers became less and less dependent on Holo, and before long she was completely forgotten; a myth. Bored and infinitely lonely, Holo decides to leave the village, convincing Lawrence to take her back to where she was born; a mysterious place far in the north. And so the two begin their journey.
Spice and Wolf is a great show because it doesn't really dedicate itself to an overarching plot. There are smaller story arcs, but at its core the show is simply about Lawrence, Holo, and their travels together. There are some episodes that consist near-entirely of the two chatting idly; maybe while bumping along in Lawrence's wagon, maybe while strolling through a town, or enjoying a meal together.
These are the best moments because the dialogue is fantastic. Holo and Lawrence have great chemistry and you can tell they enjoy each other's company, despite being such different people. While Lawrence is shrewd and street-smart, Holo is wise and perceptive. While Lawrence is cautious and humble, "Holo the Wise Wolf" is impulsive and full of pride. Whereas Lawrence never stays in one place for long, Holo hasn't left Pasloe for hundreds of years.
Perhaps my single favorite anime, I'd recommend Spice and Wolf to just about anyone. It's a joy to watch from beginning to end. And who knows, Lawrence and Holo might have a few things to teach you!
And that's all I've got. Whew! You guys make this look easy.