Posts Tagged ‘manga’

Lazy Saturday Post


Saturday, July 3, 2010

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Pope/Ware collage

Just a lazy Saturday post here. Frank came up to Brooklyn to hang out. We spent a couple hours at the great Time Machine yesterday and dug up some fun books. I really wanted to get a beautiful Planet of the Apes coloring book I saw there.  They’re all archived online as PDFs here. Of course it’s better with the faded, toothy yellow paper, though. (more…)

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Ryan Holmberg on the Early Years of Garo


Monday, April 19, 2010

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I asked Ryan Holmberg, the curator of Garo Manga: The First Decade, 1964-1973, (running until June 26 at The Center for Book Arts in NYC) to write something for Comics Comics about the exhibition. He came through and more. Take it away, Ryan.

Tsuge Yoshiharu page from Garo

So, Dan has asked me to write something about “Garo Manga: The First Decade, 1964-1973.” Since I don’t want to completely rehash what’s in the exhibition catalogue, I think I will approach this from what I think the exhibition offers as a corrective to the dominant North American image of Garo—a venue for highly inventive and very funny, but supremely crass material, with lots of deskilled drawing, gross body humor, and non-sequitur narratives—an image informed by anthologies like Comics Underground Japan and PictureBox’s Monster Men Bureiko Lullaby that have translated work from the 1980s and ’90s. This standard image—I will call it “hetauma” (lit. “bad good,” i.e. deskilled, punk, et cetera) Garo for short—fits fairly well with contemporary ’70s-’80s underground comics in North America. The mutually adoring relationship between Gary Panter and Japan in the early ’80s is a good example of how there is a certain trans-national convergence of taste in alternative comics-making in that period which did not exist in the ’60s: Garo and Zap had little in common.


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A Little on Makoto Aida


Friday, December 18, 2009

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I imagine Makoto Aida being a kid who wanted to draw manga like Suehiro Maruo, and then the kid grew up to become a gallery artist. I don’t think he’s that well known in American comics circles, maybe because his work is so explicitly about Japan or because comics is a very small part of what he does. Like a lot of contemporary artists, he works across mediums: sculptures, paintings, performances, videos, plans for housing projects, whatever. He painted a quick Fuji watercolor image over his BFA diploma and sold it for the price of the university entrance fee. (After selling it he said: “Though I am not supposed to say, art is so strange.”) And he doesn’t make dividing the works easy; his (beautiful) monograph Monument for Nothing catalogs his works by color, as opposed to chronologically or by medium or theme. All of the mostly blue works are grouped together, the mostly white works, etc. He’ll break up a series of works if the colors of the individual parts are different.

His main comics effort, Mutant Hanako, is actually a continuation of his “War Picture Returns” series of paintings. Here’s how Aida describes the story, from Monument for Nothing: “With the setting of the Pacific War, it is a mixture of elements of extreme nationalism, brutal erotic depiction, and airheaded adventurous action, which as a whole is closer to simply ridiculous absurdity than a crazy constructed air castle.” There’s a good plot summary of the book here:

In his more cartoony work, he alternates between very immediate drawings (Mutant Hanako is an example of that, and his “Minna to Issho” series) sort of like Takashi Nemoto and heta-uma (he’s described heta-uma as “a style of illustration and graphic design which was hot [in the eighties]”), and more illustrative, detailed images that resemble Suehiro Maruo. I like how it’s common among mangaka to draw in such a similar way to other mangaka. It’s like the drawings are just about functioning to create a story. The story/storytelling is where the individual is. But, in Aida’s case, he’s somewhere between being a regular fan mangaka and a pop artist. He’s using something that he likes, as Takashi Murakami does. But Aida’s much warmer than Murakami. Aida’s more like underground comics. It’s all very hand-done.

A side note:
I have the Japanese printing of Mutant Hanako and there’s an English translation of the work in the back of it. That’s rare among manga and more common among art books, so I don’t know if it’s because they thought of it as an art book more, or it could possibly be in reference to the crazy American/Japanese relationships in the Mutant Hanako story. Anyway, I’d like to see more of these limited-audience manga be translated on separate pamphlets (by an English publisher/distributor) that would then be inserted into the original printing of the book, and then distributed online through the English publisher. Obviously it isn’t as ideal as a fully translated new book, but beggars can’t be choosers when it comes to manga translations with such a small potential audience.

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Shoujo Gateway Book: X-Day


Thursday, November 26, 2009

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Whenever someone asks me a good shoujo book to start with, I always recommend X-Day by Setona Mizushiro. Here’s why:

1. The layouts are relatively comprehensible/normal for people new to the shoujo collage-y reading. It’s always clear where you’re supposed to read next. It’s always clear where you are in a scene; but it doesn’t sacrifice any of the enjoyable, airy reading of most shojo comics. Everything flows horizontally—across the pages like a scroll—as opposed to the top to bottom, top to bottom feeling of most comics. This is how a lot of shoujo are, but if you’re new to it and start reading Clamp’s X/1999 it looks pretty fucking confusing. “What’s going on? Why are there birds flying around indoors? Ha ha.” X-Day is clearer. X-Day also doesn’t have all of the flower pattern stuff that seems to turn people off. Personally, I like all the “flower patterns = love” stuff; it’s high school; it’s pop. Blankets is secretly a shoujo comic, I’m just not sure it knows it. If you aren’t into melodrama and “flower patterns = love,” you probably aren’t going to want to read most shoujo anyway. Your loss.

2. It’s short. It can be intimidating if you want to start reading shoujo and it’s a twenty-volume, thousands-of-pages investment; even when it takes ten minutes to read a volume and public libraries are ridiculously well-stocked in shoujo (kids read them; libraries want kids to read.) Anyway, X-Day is only two volumes long. It’s a low-level commitment. Both volumes are probably sitting in a “five-dollar box” at the comic shop.

3. It’s good. Rika, a senior former track star, stumbles upon an online chat room where she meets two other students and a teacher who are all frustrated with the school and their lives. Rika’s ex-boyfriend is now dating her best friend. An injury made it so she can’t play track anymore. They all plot to blow the school up—that’s the titular “X-day.” I think it’s an accurate depiction of high school life. All of the characters are plagued by feelings of isolation: “I’m smiling and … acting like everything is normal.” None of the characters understand why the other characters would also feel the way they feel about the school. Conversations move quickly for a page and a half and then a moment is frozen and broken down. After talking to her ex-boyfriend, the panels are divided into quiet moments where Rika just lowers her head. Rika walks down the school hallways in large panels, repeating, “it doesn’t matter… it doesn’t matter.” After one character says, “At least I … like you,” it’s repeated over and over. It’s all an internal landscape. “What kind of girl … am I?” It can be intensely moving or a laugh riot depending on what you bring to the book. Either way, it’s entertaining. Give it a chance.

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Paid Advertisement


Tuesday, October 27, 2009

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This is an advertisement from your trusty sponsor, PictureBox:

PictureBox currently has a bunch of new products ready to ship that should be of interest to any reader of Comics Comics. In fact, readers of Comics Comics are known the world over for their sophisticated taste. First up, Takashi Nemoto, of Monster Men infamy, is representing with 2 new prints and one poster. This is the first time we’ve offered any artwork from Nemoto, and maybe the first time it’s been available in North America. So hop to it!

We have School, a wonderful new zine about the female experience in contemporary Japanese culture, including two excellent, revealing articles on shojo manga creators Fumiko Okada and Yumiko Oshima, and a blazing new tabloid collection of record covers and posters by comics and graphics heavyweight Saeki Toshio.

And don’t even get me started on Ken (“Snoopee” and Deerhoof) Kagami’s brilliant, subtle zine, Celebrities’ Penises. It’s a masterpiece of drawing and humor in full compliance with the Golden Mean, The Golden Lasso, The Golden Triangle and The Golden Shower.

We also have the excellent Cosmic Collisions by Anya Davidson, the brand new 1-800 MICE by Matthew Thurber, and signed copies of Archer Prewitt’s latest book.

Also, note that we’re now carrying zines and projects from the British collective Famicon. We like these funny British people, and are pleased they’re allowing their publications to reach the colonies. Last but not least, a hot new publication from Michael Williams detailing his views on Copenhagen.

So, indulge your fancies and enjoy a fine, refreshing PictureBox item.

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Hayao Miyazaki Talks about Gekiga


Monday, October 12, 2009

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In Starting Point: 1979-1996, Miyazaki talks about how influential the gekiga movement was, and how he moved away from drawing gekiga. It’s interesting if you’re a fan of Miyazaki and gekiga, or just Miyazaki’s mangaka years.

These gekiga presented the message that things don’t go well in this world. Drawn by manga artists who had suffered through misfortune — in particular those who hung out around Osaka (though I must apologize to people in Osaka for saying this) — gekiga were filled with their grudges and feelings of spite, so there were no happy endings. The artists made every effort to provide cynical endings. For a student in examination hell, this disillusioned perspective seemed totally refreshing.

I had already decided to spend my future drawing pictures, so I was trying to draw ones filled with grudges and spite. Yet, as I didn’t have a concrete blueprint for my future I was filled with anxiety.

As we grow from childhood into youth, this anxiety grows exponentially, and we worry about how on earth we should live our lives. Our anxiety forces us to look for an antidote that will rid us of this feeling as quickly as possible. We want to find that something will help us grab our own chair in this world and sit in it.

I chose manga as a weapon to fight against anxiety, and, as I mentioned, at first I drew gekiga, story-oriented manga. Just about that time I saw Hakujaden (The Tale of the White Serpent.) For me, it was a kind of culture shock. I began to have doubts about gekiga…

From a section titled “Manga-style thought is dramatically influencing Japanese culture:”

So why are manga now influencing so many areas of culture? I would say one of the biggest reasons is because with manga it’s not necessary to read what you don’t want to read…

People take a completely different approach with other forms of entertainment. I really don’t think, for example, that many people would leave a theater after watching only five minutes of a boring film. And it’s probably why people have such strong opinions about films. They often sit through films even while feeling angry and wondering why the heck anyone made the thing in the first place. People don’t get angry about manga because if they don’t like the stories they won’t finish reading them. I think we can say this is one of the biggest cultural characteristics of manga. It’s no wonder that manga criticism is such a barren field.

Another hallmark of manga is that an almost limitless deformation is possible. To give a somewhat dated example, in Kyojin no hoshi (Star of the Giants), an entire episode concludes while the character Hyuma is throwing a pitch. Everything about life is encapsulated in that one pitch, and the artist depicts a whirl of recollections in the time it takes for the ball to travel. It’s hard to imagine anyone other than the Japanese pulling off something like this.

(skipping ahead…)

When works created in this fashion are taken to places like Europe, where people have no exposure to what I have been discussing, they tend to go crazy over it. It was true of the Japanese manga and anime Candy Candy, which really took off in West Germany, Italy, and even France. Of course, now it’s Sailor Moon, and they say that in Spain everyone is nuts about the work, with even adults watching the show, enthralled. [laughter] This sort of thing is actually happening.

There’s a reason shojo are interesting. They depict the inner workings of the mind, so no one draws anything they don’t want to see. And in the images depicted, what we see is not the character, but what the character is looking at. And the stories become interesting because they deform thoughts and psychological states in a more pure fashion.

Anyway, it’s hard to slice out passages like this. Check out the book if you’re interested.

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Friday, April 17, 2009

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I do not have the proper mindset for decent comics bloggery this week, but I still thought I’d quickly post a link to this fascinating essay by Kentaro Takekuma (co-creator of one of my favorite books of comics meta-criticism, Even a Monkey Can Draw Manga) writing on Osamu Tezuka and Hayao Miyazaki.

One of the most interesting parts of this essay, I think, is where Kentaro describes why he feels that Miyazaki’s Nausicaä manga series is “hard to read”, including this bit:

The individual panels are too “complete” as illustrations. This is only true for each singular frame (panel), and there isn’t enough of an attempt to connect one frame to the next, or to guide the reader in following the flow of the manga.

This probably has something to do with why people so often describe Nausicaä as aesthetically “Western”. The whole thing is worth reading, especially for Miyazaki or Tezuka fans.

Oh, and for the record, I personally didn’t find Nausicaä hard to read at all.

[H/t to J.O.G. McCullochuddy]

Ok. And while I was writing this, Chris Butcher linked to it, so this meager post is even more superfluous now. I’ll put it up anyway.

[And apparently D. Deppey posted it yesterday. Whatever. I’m done.]

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Daisuke Muroi


Sunday, March 1, 2009

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My buddy brought home this anthology from Japan called Fellows. 708 pages of run of the mill manga except for Daisuke Muroi. Awesome stuff. I thought I’d scan the most interesting sequence.

Two 2-page spreads that are a “ballet of violence” to use an old Van Damme-ism. (Sorry I can’t arrange them as spreads. My scanner is too small and I don’t feel like making them spreads in Photoshop.) I looked the guy up online and found nothing. Only me writing about him over at Robot 6 this morning. Maybe I didn’t look hard enough. Anyone who wants to track down some awesome “different” manga, check this guy out.

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I Don’t Read Comics Anymore


Wednesday, February 25, 2009

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Sorry about that. It makes it hard to think of things to say about them, though.

Actually, I’m exaggerating. I read and mostly liked the two new Urasawa series that finally got published last week, and re-read and loved the Tezuka story that one of them adapted. I still don’t have anything to say about them, though.

So how about this instead?

1. Paul Karasik can still surprise me, which surprises me. Check out his take on the above Jimmy Olsen cover over at the Covered blog.

2. I like a lot of Alan Moore’s stuff, but have recently gotten tired of reading all the articles about how he doesn’t like movies made of his comics. Not that his stance bothers me, but I’ve heard it a million times now, and don’t understand why the entertainment press still thinks it’s so shocking and interesting. So it was funny (to me) that when I read the latest big Alan Moore interview, this part jumped out at me as being particularly enjoyable:

One of my big objections to film as a medium is that it’s much too immersive, and I think that it turns us into a population of lazy and unimaginative drones. The absurd lengths that modern cinema and its CGI capabilities will go in order to save the audience the bother of imagining anything themselves is probably having a crippling effect on the mass imagination. You don’t have to do anything. With a comic, you’re having to do quite a lot. Even though you’ve got pictures there for you, you’re having to fill in all the gaps between the panels, you’re having to imagine characters voices. You’re having to do quite a lot of work. Not quite as much work as with a straight unillustrated book, but you’re still going to do quite a lot of work.

I think the amount of work we contribute to our enjoyment of any piece of art is a huge component of that enjoyment. I think that we like the pieces that engage us, that enter into a kind of dialog with us, whereas with film you sit there in your seat and it washes over you. It tells you everything, and you really don’t need to do a great deal of thinking. There are some films that are very, very good and that can engage the viewer in their narrative, in its mysteries, in its kind of misdirections. You can sometimes get films where a lot of it is happening in your head. Those are probably good films, but they’re not made very much anymore.

I didn’t enjoy it so much because of his critique of film—which I think (or thought) was pretty banal and almost conventional wisdom at this point (Godard’s work isn’t done, I guess)—but because it just seems so refreshing after reading so many articles and interviews with comic-book people who always seem to be trying to pump up comics by saying they’re just like movies, or could make great movies, or that the reason Will Eisner is great is because he used tricks from the movies, etc. It’s nice to hear someone involved in comics who doesn’t have an inferiority complex about them, and just flat out says they’re better, and on top of that, movies are bad for your brain.

Also, usually I get all bent out of shape when someone admits to not paying close attention to comics and movies for a decade or so before turning around and bashing them on and on, but I have to admit this time I was kind of amazed at how accurate Moore was. (Though admittedly his critiques apply mostly to the superhero and blockbuster varieties.) Maybe that’s a power you get when you’re a wizard.

On the other hand, I tried again this winter, and I still can’t get through Promethea. What a chore. It seems like being a wizard has its bad sides, too.

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A Healthy Selection


Wednesday, January 14, 2009

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Richard Gehr casts his eyes to the gutter this week in the Village Voice and finds (besides Tim’s own Gorey find) Monster Men Bureiko Lullaby. He notes that “By depicting human behavior at its worst, Nemoto recalibrates the limits of what we can bear to consider on a page of comics.” Damn straight. I have to admit, aside from my own publisher-like needs, as a critic I feel like Monster Men was criminally overlooked in 2008. With the release of this book and Hanakuma’s Tokyo Zombie we’ve gotten our first North American look at two of the seminal alternative Japanese graphics novels of the last 20 years. There have been anthologies, but never full length works. It’s a funny thing — but perhaps not unexpected — as though Jimbo and Black Hole were released in another language and more or less ignored. What do these two books say about the form? And lurking in the background is that both emerge from King Terry‘s formulation of Heta-Uma as a valid way to make comics — that this bad/good style is arguably a dominant one in the Japanese underground is worthy of notice. Terry, in fact, has packaged both artists works, and designed the North American Nemoto book as well. As far as I can tell, he’s exerted an influence similar to that of Art Spiegelman (editor/packager/mentor) on the Raw generation. I hope there’s room for more material, but I wonder if the sales will make it feasible. They’re not easy reads (well, Hanakuma is easier than Nemoto, but still…) Remember, there’s a trove of material corresponding to our own 30-odd year history of alternative comics, and a tiny, tiny fraction of it has been shown here. I imagine Top Shelf’s Ax anthology will help remedy that, and of course the mighty D&Q continues to shine light on unseen parts of Manga history. Anyhow, all of this is to say that I’d selfishly love to see an article about all of this by a writer far better informed than I am. So, get on it already!

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