Finally getting into manga (discussion/reviews)

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Postby sevenarts » Sun Nov 04, 2018 8:14 pm

I guess there have been attempts before but I feel like the board needs an ongoing manga thread. I've never read a ton of manga but I want to fix that, check out more of the classics, get some good recommendations, and generally have somewhere to talk about this stuff. My obsession with Berserk has been well-documented here, and I also enjoy Junji Ito, Shintaro Kago, Yuichi Yokoyama, Naoki Urasawa, Taiyo Matsumoto, etc. What's everyone else reading? And where are the best places to get scanlations? I've been using Library Genesis and they have a ton but it's kind of slow and clunky to search.

I'm currently in the middle of Devilman by Go Nagai which is deeply weird and pretty sloppy but rather fascinating anyway. The way the cartoony, somewhat awkward art style clashes with the often grotesque horror material being presented is really unsettling.
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Postby sevenarts » Sun Nov 04, 2018 8:18 pm

And here's a book I also read recently and REALLY enjoyed, I thought this was amazing and very unique. This was my blurb from the alt/indie thread where we've occasionally been covering manga.


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Helter Skelter by Kyoko Okazaki
Cult classic one-volume manga about a supermodel who's been subjected to extreme body-altering plastic surgery, replacing virtually her entire body and identity. The main character, Liliko, torments and manipulates everyone around her, even as she herself is used by an exploitative manager who's already starting to replace her with a younger, fresher girl. This is absolutely bonkers on a story level - Liliko subjects her pliant assistant to psychosexual torture and forces her to throw acid in the faces of her rivals, while the shoddy experiments of the cosmetic clinic that made Liliko so beautiful lead to unsettling body horror moments throughout. And yet in the midst of all the manic lunacy, this is also a deeply sad and fucked-up look at celebrity culture and the obsession with beauty that drives it. Okazaki's very unique style - much more raw and loose than most manga - also adds to the book's effect. Her art, with its ragged lines and tendency to drop out detail - the characters are often quite literally faceless, their heads either cut off by the panel borders or else drawn as blank ovals without features - lends an incredible intensity to every moment and every snatch of cutting dialogue. With its emphasis on dangerous femininity and characters who are both victims and villains, this seems an obvious inspiration for modern cartoonists like Sarah Horrocks and Katie Skelly, and I was utterly unsurprised to quickly find an appreciation of it by Horrocks. Very much recommended, this is phenomenal.

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Postby Annie May » Sun Nov 04, 2018 8:19 pm

My friend keeps reccommending spirit circle to me so i think I'm going to read that next. Only manga I've read is jojo's bizarre adventure parts 1-6 (still need to read 7) and berserk, I'd love to get more into it
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Postby odilon redon » Sun Nov 04, 2018 8:36 pm

one aspect of my poorly concealed dorkery is a dumb abiding love for the og dragon ball manga
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Postby Bad Craziness » Sun Nov 04, 2018 8:46 pm

I was way into Rumiko Takahashi as a kid, but I've barely picked up anything since then besides Lone Wolf & Cub and a few random books

I picked up the first My Hero Academia a couple weeks ago on a whim and I was like "oh yeah, manga fuckin rules, I almost forgot"

I should probably find other things to read as well
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Postby HotFingersClub » Mon Nov 05, 2018 7:55 am

Can't wait to get some good recs from this thread. I spent an hour on Friday making a list of my 50 favourite manga and briefly thought about making it a thread before coming to my senses and remembering I don't know anything about manga really.

I like all those dudes sevenarts mentioned but I also have a deep love for weird comedy manga and 4-panel gag strips. My list was full of stuff like Together With Me, Short Cuts, Castle of the Dragon, One Punch Man, Cromartie High School etc. Any recommendations along those lines would be sick as hell.

Any chance we can get Helter Skelter in the dropbox?
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Postby Montague Terrace » Mon Nov 05, 2018 9:05 am

super basic/foundational here, but you gotta read the Akira manga if you haven't. I vastly prefer it to the film, which is also masterful in its own right.
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Postby milknight » Mon Nov 05, 2018 9:38 am

making my way through one piece and it rules, love the art style. second the akira rec i also think its better than the movie, although i feel like i should watch it again after reading the manga
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Postby churrokbyme » Mon Nov 05, 2018 9:48 am

Recently went through Hellsing again for halloween. It rocks my socks.

<3 u alucard

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Postby Wombatz » Mon Nov 05, 2018 9:59 am

i also have no clue and must admit i'm not into anything with samurai in it, or the fact that proper manga goes on and on and on. the only run where i have the full dozen plus of paperbacks is drifting classroom, which i dearly love, as i keep mentioning on the other thread beyond anyone's patience. i also love osamu tezuka's darker books, ode to kirihito, m, book of human insects ... there are others like parts of phoenix and maybe barbara ... but everything else by him not so much. for koike/ikegami instead of crying freeman, which drops off too deeply, i recommend offered, which is 2 volumes of consistent sickness. if you want healthy ikegami, i heartily endorse mai the psychic girl. gantz is cool. for a more indie vibe nekokappa by imiri sakabashira. for a heartfelt story of sorry youth, which over here would have been thinkable only decades later, red colored elegy by seiichi hayashi ... there are other books i've enjoyed but that's more or less my 'definition' of manga. hfc, give us your darned list.
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Postby sevenarts » Mon Nov 05, 2018 11:54 am

Lots of good recs so far. I love Akira, and Otomo’s earlier series Domu as well. I read these a few years ago - sometimes when I come to a classic work late like that it doesn’t live up to the hype, like I’ll appreciate it but not fully love it, but that’s not the case with Otomo at all, that stuff is just so vital and exciting even though its influence has been reverberating for decades of everyone ripping him off.

Love The Drifting Classroom, I wish more Umezu was available in English because he seems really unique.

I’ll definitely throw Helter Skelter in the db tonight, I hope everyone reads that one.
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Postby sevenarts » Mon Nov 05, 2018 7:53 pm

Helter Skelter is on the db now for anyone who wants to grab it.
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Postby vivian darko » Mon Nov 05, 2018 8:27 pm

nijigahara holograph seems very to your taste sevenarts. it has an oblique approach that attempts to render the trauma of its narrative into something readable without losing its impact. other inio asano has been a bit more hit/miss ime.

also taniguchi's the walking man! which puts the form in service of the kind of observation that is thought of as reserved for literature. maybe my favorite thing in this lane.
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Postby Vegetable » Mon Nov 05, 2018 8:47 pm

Just a few big ones:

Yoshiharu Tsuge- Legendary underground artist, most famous for his dreamlike short stories in Garo, a famous old avant-garde manga magazine. Can’t recommend enough.
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Daijiro Morohoshi- Hayao Miyazaki is on record as calling him his favorite manga artist, and originally wanted him to draw the comic version of Nausicaa. Basically anything by him is great, though he has a broad range. Shiori and Shimiko is a kind of horror Hardy Boys with two high school girls. Probably best known for Yokai Hunter.
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Nausicaa (Hayao Miyazaki)- Famous and widely available, but still somehow feels underrated. Total masterpiece, and makes the movie feel incomplete.
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Fumiko Takano- Offbeat daily life stories that are hard to describe, but stick with you. Think the panels below speak for themselves.
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Minetaro Mochizuki- Famous for the apocalyptic Dragonhead and horror one-off Yashiki Onna, but has more recently put out works more inspired by American indie comics and movies (he made a comics adaptation of Isle of Dogs). Tokyo Kaido and Chisakobe are both funny, moving, and beautifully drawn.
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Postby internetfriend » Mon Nov 05, 2018 8:48 pm

i just started reading berserk (picked up the first couple volumes for my g f b day a couple months ago, finally got around to them)

enjoying it a lot but i wish it weren't like $10 per 30 minutes of reading lol
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Postby jca » Mon Nov 05, 2018 9:33 pm

I’ve been reading Hara’s kingdom which is pretty good. Been meaning to revisit urasawa
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Postby sevenarts » Mon Nov 05, 2018 10:40 pm

Building quite a nice list of recs, everyone, thanks. Asano and Tsuge are on my list for sure.

I've finished Devilman now:

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Devilman by Go Nagai
This thing is really something. From 1972, and I gather pretty damn influential, and it's easy to see why even while thinking the manga itself leaves a lot to be desired. The story of a guy who becomes half-demon in order to fight other demons. Everything about this is inconsistent, from the tone to the plotting to the art style - I guess Nagai is one of those manga dudes who often has a whole studio ghosting for him, which may account for some of the wild swings. At its best, it's inventive and deeply weird, with Nagai taking obvious delight in coming up with ridiculous new beasts and showcasing them in frenzied action scenes. The turtle monster who embeds his still-living victims in his shell is a definite highlight. But then there are stretches of mind-numbingly dull exposition, and lengthy faux-philosophical conversations that tread repetitively over the same ground again and again. The art is very cartoony and goofy, which creates this really unsettling disjunction because most of the time this looks like a much rougher Astro Boy or something, but then there'll be a scene where a bloodthirsty killer stalks in carrying a kid's severed head, with the kid's face still just as cute and wide-eyed as ever. Then in other sequences the art takes on this thick-lined, rubbery quality, with smudges of shading, that reminds me more of Frank Robbins of all people. Even the plot never settles down, as halfway through the main character suddenly breaks the fourth wall to address the reader, announcing that a major change in tone and story is coming, with the second half of the book shifting into really bleak, apocalyptic social commentary. It's a mess overall but packed with so much compelling stuff along the way.

I also read Shin Devilman, the totally ridiculous one-volume follow-up where Devilman travels through time to stop demons at key points in history. It leads with the most insane and frankly offensive story, which includes an actual demonic origin for Hitler's hatred of the Jews, but it's all pretty weird and, when it's not jaw-droppingly bad like that, just plain silly instead.
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Postby traced out » Tue Nov 06, 2018 2:13 am

mangadex is the best scanlator site

Dorohedoro:
about a guy with a transformed lizard head, so he goes around with his friend slaughtering witches/wizards to turn it back. The setting's fantastic, there are three worlds: the shithole with humans, literally "Hole", in which wizards invade and transfigure and torment humans to test their magic; the magic user world; and Hell, where devils torment dead magic users for all eternity. It's a weird mix of the grotesque and goofy, and it's old so it has a cool 90s aesthetic to the character design.
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There's also an indie metal soundtrack to the manga:


Blame!
one of the best sci-fi concepts ever: humanity created a self-expanding superstructure which eats up the solar system, known as the City. In an indeterminate time in the future (hundreds of thousands, millions of years?), humanity has become so displaced and isolated within it that society has reverted to a kind of tribalism. The story kind of nebulously follows the main character's journey through the City, trying to save humanity (long story short, the city sees humanity as an invasive species due to mutation or whatever and slaughters them whenever it detects them). The Dorohedoro creator was also an assistant on this when she started out.
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H.P. Lovecraft's Haunter of the Dark:
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The Shadow out of Time, At the Mountains of Madness, The Colour Out of Space, The Haunter of the Dark, and some other stories adapted into Manga with sick ass art.

Dungeon Meshi:
A bunch of idiots eat monsters in a dungeon. Good characterization, solid fantasy.
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Hunter x Hunter's post-anime arc also finally got really good
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Postby HotFingersClub » Tue Nov 06, 2018 4:42 am

Fuckin sick. Very exciting thread. I love Delicious in Dungeon too!

U guys (Vegetable in particular) can we get any of this stuff on the dropbox? If not I will go and seek it out when I have time. I have a tool downloaded which can turn scanlation sites into .cbrs (PS thanks for Helter Skelter)

I will start posting my little list in a couple of days when I have time to find images
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Postby HotFingersClub » Fri Nov 09, 2018 11:14 am

Okay so as previously disclaimered I don't know jack about shit in the world of manga but I have picked up some series over the years that I really love and want to make sure you all read as well. It's been ages since I actually read some of these but I'll try and remember enough to do little reviews

30.
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Yoshihiro Tatsumi – Abandon the Old in Tokyo
Tatsumi has very different concerns from most other mangakas. He doesn't care about teens or about fighting or flashiness in any sense really. His characters are everymen in the worst sense – cowardly, conflicted, driven by weakness to terrible acts. His cartooning reads like Tezuka through a dirty window – it often suffocates under grime and heavy clouds. This collection is one of his darkest and best. Operating at the darker, pulpier end of social realism, they're more horrific in their own way than Junji Ito, lacking the catharsis to free you from the oppressive dread. Tatsumi is a genuinely unique and adult voice in an industry often oriented towards younger readers.

29.
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Hideo Yamamoto – Homunculus
Magical realism meets psychological horror in this story about a homeless man who agrees to have a hole drilled in his skull by an unhinged medical student. Following the operation, our hero finds that by covering one eye he can see people's homunculi – sort of their innermost selves visualised as a series of disturbing and extremely inventive mutations. Yamamoto's slick, polished art gives these visions a hair-raising intensity; Nakoshi is constantly interacting with people who crumble to sand or sprout spider legs at a moment's notice. There's a deliberate pace to this series, some volumes consist entirely of a single conversation, unfolding in real time as Nakoshi tries to unravel the feelings that make a person feel invisible, or like glass, or like a robot.

28.
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Nagata Kabi – My Lesbian Experience With Loneliness
From the other thread:
HotFingersClub Pick of the Week. This is a scratchy, freehand autobiographical manga about how the author beat back depression and anxiety for long enough to hire a lesbian escort. Kabi is very very honest and brave in a way that I feel I hardly ever see in manga. She talks about eating disorders, trichotillomania and her misplaced lust for her own mother, among other things. Bold stuff. The ten years she spent as a prisoner of loneliness, fear and an assortment of mental disorders seem genuinely nightmarish, and even in this book she seems like she's barely recovered in some ways. Certainly it's a fascinating insight into the mind of a person who completely repressed their sexuality until their early thirties, to the point where she couldn't even write the word “sex” until recently.


27.
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Koji Aihara & Kentaro Takekuma – Even a Monkey Can Draw Manga
This is an unusual one. Aihara and Takekuma's book is a kind of parody instructional manual on how to create your own manga, deconstructing the tropes with a loving scalpel, with the intention to torture and possibly murder the artform. The depth it goes into is genuinely impressive – this is definitely a 100% functional how-to guide at the same time as being a bizarre distortion both of manga and of instructional manuals in general, going in on the driest practicalities of cartooning with bombastic intensity and hyper dense pages of jokes, information and unnatural poses.

26.
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Hiroya Oku – Gantz
Gantz is the sci-fi Berserk I think. For an injection of pure videogame action and fun, very little comes close. Oyu's conceit, wherin random members of the public are summoned to put on super suits and hunt aliens by a mysterious orb, is pure gaming, and the bizarre places that the story goes in 300+ chapters makes me pretty certain that he was making it up on the fly. However, it's also absurdly dramatic. The monsters just get more cartoonishly overwhelming in every volume, and no one is ever safe. It's not unusual to have pretty much the entire primary cast wiped out in a single volume. And the art, although not always crystal-clear in the more insane moments, is often extraordinarily detailed and effective in the action parts (although be aware there's also a LOT of “fan service”). Gantz is essentially divided into three extended chapters which respectively establish the premise, throw in a bunch of vampires, psychic powers and conspiracy theories, and finally settle into a more streamlined configuration that can be brought to a satisfying end. That last act, to my mind, winds down in a way that is not really as interesting as what's gone before, but taken as a whole it's a quick, outrageously entertaining read on an absolutely epic scale.
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Postby shrinemaidens » Fri Nov 09, 2018 11:29 am

i only really read josei or shoujo manga, so thanks for sharing all these! looking forward to expanding into other genres
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Postby Kenny » Fri Nov 09, 2018 11:40 am

I like One Piece, Dragon Ball, Card Captor Sakura and One Punch Man
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Postby internetfriend » Fri Nov 09, 2018 11:52 am

man so much of this sounds like i’d love it so much. i wish hardcopy books were free
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Postby aububs » Fri Nov 09, 2018 12:05 pm

internetfriend wrote:i wish hardcopy books were free


yeah

I love the sound of this one:

traced out wrote:Blame!
one of the best sci-fi concepts ever: humanity created a self-expanding superstructure which eats up the solar system, known as the City. In an indeterminate time in the future (hundreds of thousands, millions of years?), humanity has become so displaced and isolated within it that society has reverted to a kind of tribalism. The story kind of nebulously follows the main character's journey through the City, trying to save humanity (long story short, the city sees humanity as an invasive species due to mutation or whatever and slaughters them whenever it detects them). The Dorohedoro creator was also an assistant on this when she started out.
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no buddy not really
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Postby sevenarts » Sat Nov 10, 2018 4:29 pm

Yea all these sci-fi and horror ones are building up a huge reading list for me. Blame and Homunculus look/sound amazing.
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Postby new blood, old hat » Sun Nov 11, 2018 11:40 am

good thread!! I so rarely read manga anymore, but this thread is giving me the itch

HotFingersClub wrote:Yoshihiro Tatsumi – Abandon the Old in Tokyo
Tatsumi has very different concerns from most other mangakas. He doesn't care about teens or about fighting or flashiness in any sense really. His characters are everymen in the worst sense – cowardly, conflicted, driven by weakness to terrible acts. His cartooning reads like Tezuka through a dirty window – it often suffocates under grime and heavy clouds. This collection is one of his darkest and best. Operating at the darker, pulpier end of social realism, they're more horrific in their own way than Junji Ito, lacking the catharsis to free you from the oppressive dread. Tatsumi is a genuinely unique and adult voice in an industry often oriented towards younger readers.

I love this stuff, thank god for Drawn and Quarterly for publishing it. I remember seeing it in a bookstore and expecting some light hearted classic Tezuka inspired stuff, but just getting sucked into these disturbing, horrific but matter of fact stories.

I always want to buy the big, huge hardcover collections of Showa by Shigeru Mizuki that Drawn and Quarterly put out, but it's so damn expensive
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Postby new blood, old hat » Sun Nov 11, 2018 11:46 am

can't remember who, but someone in another manga thread posted Manben, a tv doc show hosted by Naoki Urasawa. it's basically filming a mangaka making one page and then talking about it and then lots of talk about everyone's favorite pens. so relaxing

it's on dailymotion for the most part https://www.dailymotion.com/video/x3m4fvy
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Postby sevenarts » Sun Nov 11, 2018 8:09 pm

I've read more manga!

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In Clothes Called Fat by Moyoco Anno
Very good late '90s single-volume manga by one of the pioneers of josei manga. An overweight office worker suffers from her low self-image and the mockery she gets from her peers over her body and appearance. It's a pretty intense examination of the obsession with thinness and media-sanctioned beauty standards. It's very internal - Anno spends much of the book in the protagonist's head, with fantasies and nightmare sequences that bleed into the story's reality - and occasionally surreal, especially in the Office Space-like scenes where her office exiles "losers" to a dreary basement purgatory to do totally pointless work nobody will ever look at. And yet its flights of fancy never obscure that it's also an emotionally raw and real study of women's culturally-encouraged obsession with weight, and the eating disorders and body dismorphia that results. Anno's slightly loose style pushes several distinct types of drawing against one another, sometimes drawing with a sense of schlubby realism, at other times drawing in a caricatured, angular style, especially when depicting the stereotyped "beautiful" women who torment and bully the protagonist. A probing, powerful book, and a nice companion piece to Kyoko Okazaki's Helter Skelter which I also loved recently.

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Seeds of Anxiety [Fuan no Tane] by Masaaki Nakayama
A HotFingersClub rec from the indie thread, a real interesting horror manga. This is 3 volumes of extremely short stories, most of them just a few pages long. Even calling them stories is kind of stretching it: in most cases they're just moments, scenes, brief documents of encounters with horrifying, eerie, unexplainable phenomena. Each piece is an urban legend-like fragment, generally of someone catching a glimpse of a creepy figure, or experiencing the kind of illogical, formless terror that sometimes grips people when they're alone in the dark and a shadow or a trick of light conjures up irrational fears. The stories generally start right in the moment, and cut off as soon as the horror is glimpsed. There's little characterization, no explanation of the nature of the phantoms, and mostly no resolution - only rarely does Nakayama even show what happens to his protagonists after they encounter these horrors. Nakayama reserves his most intense, precise drawing for these phantoms and ghouls, who stand out from their surroundings as feverishly scrawled black squiggles and rubbery, amorphous blots. The first volume is especially strong, accumulating this staccato rhythm as one generic protagonist after another comes face to face with inky black monstrosities. Subsequent volumes still have lots of good moments but as the stories get a little longer and the rhythm less frantic - and as the sheer number of similar stories starts to get more repetitive - it does suffer a little.

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Nijigahara Holograph by Inio Asano
Wow this is a rough read. A bleak, apocalyptic novel about the cruelties and violence people inflict upon one another, from childhood on, often taking the form specifically of sexual violence that erupts unexpectedly from outwardly "normal" guys. Only Asano's poetic sensibility saves it from being complete misery porn, though that also counts against it in some ways - it aestheticizes these moments of horror and nastiness so much that at times it threatens to obscure and undermine the horror of what's going on. Even so, it's a pretty compelling and challenging read, with a time-shifting storyline that jumps back and forth in time, tracing the lives of a group of schoolchildren following a series of terrible violent acts that affect them or are perpetrated by them. The book's structure cleverly traces how violence and abuse reverberate through time, finding echoes in people enacting the same crimes, the same tragedies, over and over again, often with the same victims. Asano's clear, achingly beautiful style, rich in details and packed with gorgeous imagery, also makes the book's bursts of violence hit pretty hard. Even though I was repelled and turned off by this at times, and couldn't shake a nagging sense that Asano's storytelling was over-the-top manipulative, it's undoubtedly powerful too, and will stick with me for sure.
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Postby HotFingersClub » Tue Nov 13, 2018 9:25 am

new blood, old hat wrote:good thread!! I so rarely read manga anymore, but this thread is giving me the itch

HotFingersClub wrote:Yoshihiro Tatsumi – Abandon the Old in Tokyo
Tatsumi has very different concerns from most other mangakas. He doesn't care about teens or about fighting or flashiness in any sense really. His characters are everymen in the worst sense – cowardly, conflicted, driven by weakness to terrible acts. His cartooning reads like Tezuka through a dirty window – it often suffocates under grime and heavy clouds. This collection is one of his darkest and best. Operating at the darker, pulpier end of social realism, they're more horrific in their own way than Junji Ito, lacking the catharsis to free you from the oppressive dread. Tatsumi is a genuinely unique and adult voice in an industry often oriented towards younger readers.

I love this stuff, thank god for Drawn and Quarterly for publishing it. I remember seeing it in a bookstore and expecting some light hearted classic Tezuka inspired stuff, but just getting sucked into these disturbing, horrific but matter of fact stories.

I always want to buy the big, huge hardcover collections of Showa by Shigeru Mizuki that Drawn and Quarterly put out, but it's so damn expensive


Tatsumi rules and most of his stuff is scanned now. His autobiography A Drifting Life is one of the definitive documents about making manga in the 20th century. Black Blizzard is also great if you're looking for a crime thriller that doesn't sprawl across dozens of volumes.
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Postby HotFingersClub » Tue Nov 13, 2018 9:27 am

Favourite Manga Pt. 2

25.
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Hitoshi Iwaaki – Parasyte
Damn it’s been a long time since I read Parasyte but I still see its influence everywhere in horror and sci-fi manga, and beyond. This is Invasion of the Body-Snatchers through a body horror lens, centring on a stealth invasion by shapeshifting aliens who possess ordinary people, devouring their brains and turning their bodies into razor-sharp jack-in-the-boxes of contorting, coiled flesh. One boy manages to avoid the brain-eating part and teams up with the parayste in his arm to go on the run and attempt to hunt down the monsters now living in his community. The action sequences here are shocking and spectacular, and there’s a real sense of tension throughout. It’s been at least ten years but I remember it as one of the most tightly-plotted and entertaining manga I’ve read.

24.
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Katsuhiro Otomo – Domu
The other, possibly superior masterpiece by one of the great auteurs of the 80s and 90s. For anyone who liked Akira especially, Domu is essential reading. This is a shorter tale, much leaner and tighter, set around a single apartment block where the residents are being terrorised by a sinister presence and unexplained deaths. It takes the concerns of Akira and turns it into a ghost story of sorts. Otomo’s crisp, beautiful art creates such immersion in his story – his layouts and striking sense of visual space parallel Frank Quitely in the west. There’s also something genuinely disturbing about his choice of antagonist and the dramatic explosions of gore, almost always occurring in close proximity to small children. It sticks with you, and looking at pages now on GIS really brings back that very particular mood for me. Fantastic book.

23.
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Katou Shinkichi – The Idiots & Gogh
It’s books like these that made me want to write this list in the first place. I have no idea how I found this series initially, and I’ve never read any more of Shinkichi’s work or heard anything about them in the 10 years since I was bowled over by The Idiots & Gogh. Has anyone else heard of Shinkichi? Are they popular in Japan? Anyway, this is what you’d call an indie drama I suppose. Two best friends are trying to get their goofy art-rock band into a school festival when they strike up a friendship with a girl who designs her own clothes. All three of them inspire ridicule from their peers, but the friendship that Shinkichi grows between them is a beautiful and heartfelt thing, covering passion, possessiveness, and the difficulty of artistically striking out on your own in Japan’s conservative and homogenous society. Suitably, Shinkichi’s art is like nothing else I’ve seen in manga. The book’s namesake is everywhere in the swirling, psychedelic textures and art deco design, but those elements are contained by a gorgeous thick, inky line. Looking back at it now it reminds me of Philip Bond or maybe Brandon Graham… There are other closer comparisons but I can’t bring them to mind right now. It’s stunning, anyway, and such a rich, bittersweet story. I really hope it gets read by more people.

22.
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Eiji Nonaka – Cromartie High School
I love this shit. Absolute stone-faced silliness in every single chapter. Cromartie High School is a notorious school for delinquents and tough guys who spend most of their time focusing on being tough and scary in the most gentle and surreal ways possible, fussing about the boss hierarchies and being bewildered by their own gang members, for whom the term delinquent is broad enough to encompass robots, gorillas and a Freddie Mercury lookalike riding a gigantic black stallion. The comedy beats are repetitive but glorious – Nonaka’s characters are essentially all the same furrowed-brow goon with an array of nonsensical and arbitrary traits (fake Mohican, motion sickness, strong resemblance to his mother) but he milks an incredible amount of escalating lols from his cyclical scenarios.

21.
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Osamu Tezuka – Dororo
Tezuka never had a problem with getting freaky, but this is probably the most visually inventive series I’ve read by him, relying less on his standard character models and really going to town on some insane creatures, locations and visual flourishes. Although I love a lot of Tezuka’s work, he has a bunch of narrative tendencies that can make even his best books a bit of a slog – primarily the extraordinary length, and the sense that he’s doing a lot of frantic to-ing and fro-ing without really building to anything. In some books though, that doesn’t seem to matter, and in Dororo you barely feel it. Protagonist Hyakkimaru is another in a long line of Tezuka’s (possibly bomb-inspired?) malformed heroes, but this time despite his agility in a fight you actually get a sense of his disability as well: how he has to drag himself through this world of oppressive grotesques, killing demons one by one. Manga has gone on to produce a huge number of books in this vein, but Dororo is still one of the absolute best.
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