Finally getting into manga (discussion/reviews)

'Cause I've been postin' and laughin' so long
That even my momma thinks that my mind is gone

Postby HotFingersClub » Tue Jan 26, 2021 1:49 pm

Image
Suehiro Maruo - Paranoia Star
This is an early Maruo that sevenarts already covered well in his career retrospective a few pages back. It’s a collection of short strips, more of a mood piece than most of the Maruo I’ve read in that the narratives are often minimal or barely existent. There’s little obvious cause and effect, just a succession of mad events and searing imagery. It’s definitely intended to shock, as sevenarts pointed out, but Maruo makes no plea for investment with the characters, so as a reader I experienced it dispassionately, just in awe at the insane drawings. Fascist and bomb-related imagery is placed at the forefront of these stories in a very confrontational way. There’s rubble and jackboots and degrading bodies everywhere, and every character is gripped by a constant state of terror. I think Maruo would eventually refine his approach so that the reader actually feels that unease and sense of dread and perversion that he tries to instil in his work. Maybe it’s for the best that it doesn’t really achieve that effect here – it’s pretty intense as it is, being dropped into his dimension of Nazis and vampires and b-movie madness.
User avatar

HotFingersClub
 
Posts: 2181
Joined: Tue Sep 02, 2014 3:31 am

Postby sevenarts » Tue Jan 26, 2021 2:51 pm

Cool reviews. I think Jiro Matsumoto may fall in the same category for me that Nagai does for you, where I probably have more fun reading your reviews than actually reading the books, but oh my god at that premise LOL. Sounds/looks amazing, I love just knowing that there exists a giant-schoolgirl-mech comic about PTSD.
User avatar

sevenarts
 
Posts: 5735
Joined: Fri Dec 17, 2010 4:05 pm
Location: NY

Postby HotFingersClub » Wed Jan 27, 2021 11:41 am

Haha that sounds accurate

The giant spider in Gon v5 is traumatising me
User avatar

HotFingersClub
 
Posts: 2181
Joined: Tue Sep 02, 2014 3:31 am

Postby sevenarts » Sun Jan 31, 2021 8:58 pm

Image
The Horror World of Junji Ito by Junji Ito
Recently I mentioned that a Yoshihiro Tatsumi collection was the first manga I read, but as I think about it more it was actually probably Junji Ito's short stories, first read not in any systematic way but in bits and pieces, scanned on blogs or in hazy download copies. Though much of Ito's rep rests on his trio of major multi-volume works, Uzumaki, Gyo, and Tomie, he's just as well-known for his huge bibliography of short horror fiction, and with good reason. These big collections gather up many of his late 80s and 90s short stories into 14 volumes (not counting the first 2 which collect Tomie) of crisp, elegant horror fare, and provide the most comprehensive view of the side of his work that's otherwise often seen kinda piecemeal, represented by the most dramatic or meme-worthy stories that tend to get passed around online.

These collections, while still not complete by any means, provide a broader overview of Ito's sensibility and aesthetic in a wide variety of short story styles. What carries through all of them, even from the very earliest, is a stark, clean style, relatively grounded and realistic so that when the descent into horror inevitably comes, the sudden burst of grotesque, startling, haunting imagery are all the more bracing. Ito's style is often rougher and scratchier in the earliest stories, a little more raw, but by the early 90s he seems fully in command of his art, with an elegance and forcefulness that makes his work vibrant even when he's working in rather pat ironic-twist-ending-type horror schlock.

There's a lot here, and certainly a lot of stories that don't work or are simply forgettable mid-tier work. But Ito's best short stories are rich and multi-layered: eerie, horrifying, thought-provoking, but often also goofy or darkly funny in ways that sit uncomfortably with the stories' creepier elements. The signature Ito feeling, one he greatly shares with his chief influence Kazuo Umezu, is the uncertainty about whether an image or moment should be eliciting laughs or chills. This is apparent in everything from the half-jokey ghost revenge story "Long Hair in the Attic" to the inexplicable "Ice Cream Bus," which culminates with the image of a kid gleefully licking and bathing in his classmates who have turned into giant globs of ice cream. There's often a gleeful absurdity to the transformations and reveals that happen in Ito's stories: a young girl who fears slugs might find that her tongue has suddenly transformed into one, as in "Slug Girl," or a young woman might be confronted with the revelation that her fiance is the latest in a family line where the scalps of all the male ancestors are affixed atop one another, stretching back through the generations like a grisly caterpillar atop the oldest heir's own head.

Other stories lean heavier on the haunting, unexplained quality of Ito's work - the horror often defies explanation, there's seldom much deep lore behind why people might spontaneously turn into gravestones upon death in one particular town, or why people's deepest thoughts start manifesting as black spindly balls in another place. At times, in the very strongest works, the unknowability verges into metaphysics. "Falling" is a great example: the young people of a certain town one day begin floating up into the sky, where they apparently encounter some kind of unspeakable horror and then, months later, plummet back to Earth, dead, their faces locked in expressions of shock and despair. The Lovecraftian "Out of Its Element" is another eerie story of this ilk, in which a hideous sea monster washes up to shore, and it's soon discovered that the humans it has consumed over the years have been transformed into unthinking parasites in the creature's translucent guts. Maybe my favorite of these kinds of concepts is "Long Dream," in which a man has dreams which seem to last for months or years every night, so that each morning when he awakes he's increasingly disoriented and alienated - eventually, he dreams for so long that he mutates into a futuristic alien species, awaking to find he's centuries out of sync with the waking world.

Image
Some of these I'd certainly read before, like the alternately creepy and ridiculous "Flesh-Colored Horror," in which a woman's warped idea of beauty leads her to horrifically separate the skin from the inner body. "Village of Sirens" is also an Ito classic, a slow-burn descent into utter madness as it gradually reveals the full extent of a town being controlled by demonic rituals. Others were new to me, like the surreal novella "Town Without Streets," in which a woman's obsession with her family spying on her (an inexplicable series of events that may simply be delusion) leads her to another town that's been overrun with mysterious buildings and the very idea of privacy has become a joke. Probably my favorite discovery here was "Bio House," a very early Ito that's drawn in a sketchy, minimalist style, very rough and awkward in comparison to his later slickness. But as raw as it is, those stark compositions, with geysers of black blood spraying out everywhere, are also ferociously beautiful and refreshing for the way this unrestrained story stands apart from where the artist would go from here.

Of course it doesn't all work so well. A few volumes are dedicated to suites of related stories, and with most of these it's easy to see why they never took off like Ito's more famous longer works. The Souichi stories, comprising all of volumes 5-6, are a definite low point, a set of mostly goofy shorts with a kid who chews on nails and is ambiguously either an evil voodoo practitioner or an ordinary prankster kid. (I did dig the one wild story where Souichi replaces his teachers and classmates with ungainly dolls who act just like him.) "Undying Love," which makes up volume 15, is mostly just a dull and seemingly endless epic about a fortune-telling game that makes people commit suicide. Ito's lame Addams family riff, the Hikizuri siblings, are also a complete flop though mercifully they don't get too many stories. Of the longer works in here, I did enjoy the Oshikiri stories, about an isolated rich kid living alone in his family's mansion - these stories, seemingly disconnected, gradually cohere as Ito introduces the concept of alternate realities to explain the otherwise baffling continuity ruptures between the different tales - by the end, the formalist exploration of these other worlds makes Ito's influence on Shintaro Kago especially clear. Ito's bleak, violent take on "Frankenstein" in the final volume is also very strong; his visions of the monster and its bride are especially horrifying and unforgettable.

The weaker bits aside, these volumes provide a great overview of the first decade of Ito's work and a healthy sampling of some of his best short work.
User avatar

sevenarts
 
Posts: 5735
Joined: Fri Dec 17, 2010 4:05 pm
Location: NY

Postby traced out » Mon Feb 01, 2021 4:28 am

HotFingersClub wrote:Image
Naohisa Inoue - Iblard Monogatari
Inoue is an interesting artist. He dabbles in manga and animation but he’s really more of a painter of fantastical landscapes. His rich, trippy images are half Moebius, half Monet, with the palette of a petrol rainbow, and all take place in his imaginary world of Iblard. His only manga credit is this book, which is still only partially translated, a collection of very small stories that illustrate day-to-day life in Iblard. It’s kind of childlike at the same time as casually hitting you with all these big fantasy concepts – the main cast are a Moominish collection of children and small animals in coats who wander around magical markets, build robots and interact with forest gods with no sense of continuity or jeopardy. It’s fairly relaxing stuff, and often very pretty, especially in the full colour strips. The black and white stories still look good but very much feel half-baked without Inoue’s signature use of colour. With only a handful of the strips translated, the manga is probably not worth your time just yet, but I also wanted to highlight his OVA Iblard Jikan. Inoue was an influential background artist with Studio Ghibli, and in the mid 2000s they let him direct his own short film. What he came up with is basically just a slideshow of his paintings with some light animation flourishes and cool music on top, but it’s a very balm watch and definitely the best way to experience his art that we have currently available.

FYI for some reason this trailer adds in extra animations of Ghibli characters like Ponyo and Kiki that aren’t in the actual movie. Other than that it’s a pretty good representation.



Edit: I have a copy of Iblard Jikan and am happy to put it in the thing if anyone wants it.

man i love iblard jikan, i downloaded that off karagarga like 15 years ago. never knew it was a manga
User avatar

traced out
 
Posts: 6440
Joined: Mon Dec 14, 2009 10:22 pm

Postby HotFingersClub » Mon Feb 01, 2021 4:59 am

That's a fantastic overview; really brings to light how many hits he's had over the years. I could easily see an alternate world where an artist's entire reputation might rest on a story like "Bio House", but for Ito it's just one among literally hundreds, and probably everyone will have a favourite or a particular image that haunts them. For me it's "The Bully" where a single mother inexplicably reverts back to her childhood personality and becomes a "bully" to her young son. I've seen it described as tasteless and schlocky but the final image of the adult woman dressed up as a schoolgirl with a deeply weird look on her face is super disturbing for me. I guess because Ito's protagonists are usually at least teenagers rather than straight up toddlers.

Plus is it "Haunted House" with the tall woman and the famous image of the cannibal boy with too many teeth? That one rules.

Anyway I also wanted to offer a half-baked counterpoint to your take on the Souichi stories, which are definitely outliers but I kind of like them! They're kind of a genre mashup - Ito meets the Beano, but even though they hold back from outright horror I find something simultaneously gross, charming and inventive about Ito's retooling of the Dennis the Menace (UK rather than US of cooourrse although both versions apply so why make the distinction) archetype to make the prankster character deeply disturbed and disturbing rather than a point of audience identification
User avatar

HotFingersClub
 
Posts: 2181
Joined: Tue Sep 02, 2014 3:31 am

Postby jca » Wed Feb 03, 2021 10:18 am

sevenarts wrote:The Horror World of Junji Ito by Junji Ito
Probably my favorite discovery here was "Bio House," a very early Ito that's drawn in a sketchy, minimalist style, very rough and awkward in comparison to his later slickness. But as raw as it is, those stark compositions, with geysers of black blood spraying out everywhere, are also ferociously beautiful and refreshing for the way this unrestrained story stands apart from where the artist would go from here.

stories like 'Bio House', 'Blood-Bubble Bushes', and 'Sword of the Reanimator' make me wonder what an Ito action-oriented series would look like. theyre soooo good, they remind me of Maruo's Laughing Vampire. i love the different 'styles' in TWoJI.. the cosmic horror in 'The Thing That Drifted Ashore', the supernatural in 'Hanging Balloons', and body horror in 'Den of the Sleep Demon'. The Souichi stories were hit or miss, but I think the punchline of Souichi being like pathetic/incompetent villain child dealing out inconveniences is pretty entertaining, like when Michina is reading his diary and observes that its boring and filled with misspellings lol
User avatar

jca
 
Posts: 1020
Joined: Tue Aug 27, 2013 2:22 pm

Postby jca » Mon Feb 08, 2021 6:15 pm

Image
Fire Punch by Tatsuki Fujimoto - 2016 - 8 volumes

In a world ravaged by ice and snow, civilization is on the brink of collapse, thanks to the elusive Ice Witch. Fighting against the cold has brought out the worst in humanity, leading to cults, violence, and the persecution of the "Blessed"—those born with supernatural powers.

Agni and Luna—blessed orphans with regenerative powers—are making the best of their situation within a small society of elders; their affection for each other serves as a distraction from the uninhabitable climate. Nevertheless, what little serenity they have is stolen away when army commander Doma passes through and incinerates the village they are seeking refuge in—Agni's beloved sister included. Doma's flames do not extinguish until they have reduced their target to ash, and due to Agni's remarkable regeneration, he remains ablaze and in constant, excruciating pain.

Written by Chainsaw Man mangaka Tatsuki Fujimoto, Fire Punch is a similar story about revenge with a similar amount of body mutilation. While the plot is pretty straightforward, the world building is surprisingly deep, showing how several social groups live within the winter dystopia and how differently they react to the Blessed. There is a lot of post-explosion Akira here, with religious and military groups propping up super-powered figures, ultra-detailed wide shots of buildings exploding, lots of angst. The main characters are all interesting for the most part, with one movie-obsessed Blessed providing some post-modern comic relief and flipping between good/bad, but on the other hand there are so many super-powered one-off characters that come and go that its almost bizarre. Im thinking this is to hint at a larger world than whats shown, but it still comes off as half-baked, along with the sudden and unambiguous ending. For a story and character like this I was expecting more fight scenes, and while there is plenty of action, it can be over too soon. It's a much more dramatic story than an action one if that makes sense. I think Fujimoto and the characters in Fire Punch are all focused on their narrative/path, and struggle to shape it, fulfill it, go against in, recreate it (plot warning but one characters motivation is to shape the world so that one day Return of the JediToggle Spoiler can be remade because she never saw the conclusion). I think a lot of the series' tension comes from characters grappling with how they think a person/god/killer/human should be and then failing, or succeeding then relapsing. For example, the Blessed are frequently treated like mutants (literal firewood and food in some cases) instead of gods, and Fire Punch seems to always blow people up despite trying not to lol.

The whole thing has a lot of rough edges...some parts of the plot (cw beastiality, incestToggle Spoiler) seem to be there for like 'edginess', some of the humor is kind of flat, if you have a reductionist perspective the whole narrative makes no sense, and I wish the characters were more fleshed-out and not so one-dimensional, but I think overall the whole thing works? There are a ton of gut-punches and memorable scenes, a very cool setting, with some creative influence from Akira and Berserk...so yeah I really enjoyed it. Curious to see how Chainsaw Man matches up.
User avatar

jca
 
Posts: 1020
Joined: Tue Aug 27, 2013 2:22 pm

Postby HotFingersClub » Tue Feb 09, 2021 5:13 am

Woah, I've never heard of that book. Great review though. It does sound a bit like Chainsaw Man, albeit darker and - from that page - maybe more detailed art-wise. CM feels very fast and loose in all respects. That detail you mentioned about spectacular fight scenes that are over too soon is definitely familiar. I guess you get used to manga like Blade of the Immortal where action scenes stretch out over multiple volumes sometimes, but also you're probably not reading a book called Chainsaw Man for the talky bits.

The bit about him being in constant agony is a turn-off tbqf. It's a thing that I've seen done a few times in superhero comics and it's always kind of gross, especially when it's some fun loving dude like Iceman or whatever and he's turning to the camera and tearfully admitting that despite outwardly being the life of the party his ice leaves him in constant pain. It feels like extremely low hanging fruit in terms of pathos and also just like, I'm a reader with a basic level of empathy and I'm reading comics for entertainment - it's counterproductive and distressing to imagine that Strong Guy is undergoing constant painful muscle spasms or whatever

I liked it better in Stormwatch when they revealed that Fuji has an orgasm every five minutes, but it's still distracting.
User avatar

HotFingersClub
 
Posts: 2181
Joined: Tue Sep 02, 2014 3:31 am

Postby HotFingersClub » Tue Feb 09, 2021 5:13 am

In retrospect I bet the Fuji thing was probably a parody of the Strong Guy thing
User avatar

HotFingersClub
 
Posts: 2181
Joined: Tue Sep 02, 2014 3:31 am

Postby jca » Wed Feb 10, 2021 1:53 pm

HotFingersClub wrote:The bit about him being in constant agony is a turn-off tbqf. It's a thing that I've seen done a few times in superhero comics and it's always kind of gross, especially when it's some fun loving dude like Iceman or whatever and he's turning to the camera and tearfully admitting that despite outwardly being the life of the party his ice leaves him in constant pain. It feels like extremely low hanging fruit in terms of pathos and also just like, I'm a reader with a basic level of empathy and I'm reading comics for entertainment - it's counterproductive and distressing to imagine that Strong Guy is undergoing constant painful muscle spasms or whatever

I liked it better in Stormwatch when they revealed that Fuji has an orgasm every five minutes, but it's still distracting.

haha yeah it was def a turnoff in the first few volumes. feel the same way wrt it being gimmicky
User avatar

jca
 
Posts: 1020
Joined: Tue Aug 27, 2013 2:22 pm

Postby jca » Wed Feb 10, 2021 2:07 pm

Image
Blue Period by Tsubasa Yamaguchi - 2017 - Ongoing

Second-year high school student Yataro Yaguchi is bored with his normal life. He studies well and plays around with his friends, but in truth, he does not enjoy either of those activities. Bound by norms, he secretly envies those who do things differently.

That is until he discovers the joy of drawing. When he sees a painting made by a member of the Art Club, Yataro becomes fascinated with the colors used in it. After that experience, Yataro finds himself so invested in art that he decides that it is what he wants to do for a living.

I love this manga, its really special. Its a nice story not only about 'doing what you love' (lol) but also the creative process and imposter syndrome. I don't know anything about the mangaka but the work feels autobiographical with all the drawing introspections. Each chapter introduces new painting techniques (oil, dessen, self-portrait) or art concepts (perspective, texture), and shows how Yataro approaches them and grows from a beginner to a hipster basically (later volumes include a fresh beanie). Theres a fresh mix of artists and rivalries and it's cool to see characters with strengths and weaknesses (good at colors but lacking in composition) and not like a school of wunderkinds. The panels switch up between close-ups of hands and tense faces to like still-lifes of painting supplies to really dramatic sweeping brush strokes. Its filled with like awakening moments (a wide eyed or floating Yataro stunned by a piece) and I'm a sucker for them. The artwork in the manga is submitted by readers/collaborators, and the variety of mixed media and styles is neat. Anyways, the whole thing feels very genuine and relatable, really good
User avatar

jca
 
Posts: 1020
Joined: Tue Aug 27, 2013 2:22 pm

Postby HotFingersClub » Wed Feb 10, 2021 4:11 pm

That's cool man I do enjoy those process mangas, and there are so many good ones. It feels like they really hacked educational programming, and made it fun and engaging right the way into adulthood, in a way that we never managed in the west
User avatar

HotFingersClub
 
Posts: 2181
Joined: Tue Sep 02, 2014 3:31 am

Postby dusky » Wed Feb 10, 2021 4:18 pm

pst
User avatar

dusky
 
Posts: 6600
Joined: Mon Jul 01, 2013 7:09 pm
Location: up your butt

Postby sevenarts » Mon Feb 15, 2021 2:06 pm

Image
Left Hand of God, Right Hand of the Devil by Kazuo Umezu
This mid-80s series is the most brutal, horrifying Umezu I've encountered yet, a gory, grisly horror serial that considerably amps up the intensity of his imagery. It consists of 5 long stories, all starring a young boy named Sou who has vivid nightmares that come true either literally or metaphorically; he also has some vague supernatural powers that manifest as an occasional ability to make his dream actions resonate into the real world as a vengeful spirit. Sou's dreams provide a minimal focus for this wide-ranging suite of horror stories, most of which deal in typical Umezu fashion with children suffering in a world run by adults. The adult world generally has nothing to offer these kids but perversion, violence, abuse, and neglect. The best case scenario for a parental figure in these comics is to be distant and oblivious; generally, the parents who show more interest in their kids' lives quickly make one wish they wouldn't.

The best example is "The Black Picture Book," in which a single father enacts his gruesome violent fantasies in order to provide twisted fairy tale entertainment for his meek, sheltered daughter, who he's purposefully kept isolated and frail. The violence and gore in these books is so over-the-top that it's both absolutely horrifying and frequently almost ridiculous. Umezu has always existed on this queasy line between grotesqueries and hilarity, but here especially all the bulging gouged-out eyes and unreal geysers of thick black blood are so exaggerated that they're both gross and absurd, especially when these brutal murders get re-packaged as sick picture books lovingly read to a doll-like, innocent crippled girl who's confined to her bed. At other times, the violence, presented more matter-of-factly as a slasher set piece, is even more unsettling, although even in the bleakest moments there's an uncanny quality to the way Umezu renders these bodily deformations. Umezu's blunt style, and the simplistic child-like quality of his scripting, add another layer to the story's meta-commentary on the violence implicit in the cautionary morality of children's fairy tales.

The first story, "Rusted Scissors," is the other disturbing standout, one of those wildly unpredictable Umezu thrillers that seems to be continually trying to top itself with each new plot twist. After opening with a shocking image of scissors slicing through a young girl's eyeballs, the story somehow manages to only get even weirder and nastier, progressing through a series of dreamlike sequences. Sou's sensitivity leads him to sense the evil in a pair of scissors that some kids find during a freak storm, eventually leading to the mystery of a decades-old series of child murders. The real core of the story, though, is its viscerally upsetting body horror component, with Sou's sister mysteriously becoming a conduit to the past, vomiting up rivers of mud, skeletons of children, and kids' toys including an entire tricycle.

If the other 3 stories here aren't quite as riveting and intense as those 2, they're still interesting enough, tie in to many of the same themes, and are packed with unforgettable horror imagery. I also noted the muted poetic quality that can surprisingly emerge from Umezu's stiff style, especially in his habit of slowly zooming in to silent, stiffly posed tableaux that seem to pause awkwardly for a few beats too long before belatedly lurching into action. These moments, invariably showing ordinary domestic relations between parents and kids, help highlight the discomfort that arises from such spaces in Umezu's work. Though often tough to take due to its themes of childhood violence and abuse, and its frequent gore and violence, this is a potent example of Umezu's utterly unique sensibility at its most extreme.

Image
Ripples by Hagiwara Rei
A brief poetic manga about grief and mourning, illustrated with a melancholy, lovely style that encompasses delicate pencil shading, fragmentary brushed linework, and watery grayscale ink washes. Very quiet and austere, the book seems to have a submerged plot at its core but it mostly remains ambiguous, just as its figures are often sketched out, faceless or minimally detailed at most. The effect is of faded ghosts drifting through a foggy, windy night, conjuring up shards of disconnected memories, while one of the living drifts among them, trying to hold on even as everything seems to be swirling away into nothingness. Achingly pretty and sad stuff, not bad.

Image
An Invitation From a Crab by panpanya
I finally caught up on this HFC rec from a while back, and it definitely lives up to expectations. Weird, deeply original comics that evoke a very unique mood. Panpanya's comics are oft-surreal and dreamlike, and yet simultaneously seem rooted in the mundane reality of moment-to-moment existence. There's a real sense of being attuned to small details within ordinary spaces (the artist even says as much in one of the brief interstitial text pieces) and just observing the world around oneself. And yet instead of yielding the kinds of routine ruminations that such endeavors usually prompt, the spaces explored here continually open up into quirky, oddball gags, or an atmosphere of ineffable dread and disquiet, or both at once. Panpanya's style is similarly a composite, mish-mashing tones and styles within each panel. Backgrounds often seem photo-referenced and richly detailed, again evoking the observation of real spaces, but the way shadows creep and slither across the frame distort that reality. Moreover, the detail often drops away for looser passages, and the characters strolling through these spaces are generally sketchier, more cartoony, than their surroundings. The overall effect is hard to pin down but the comics are gorgeous, funny, moving, and mysterious all at once. The main character is curious and alert, and their wanderings bring them into contact with all manner of bizarre scenarios. In maybe my favorite story, they work in a factory splitting coconuts, unaware of the purpose except that it somehow leads to the generation of electricity through unfathomable processes; the final reveal's Kafka-esque joke about the role of industrialized labor simultaneously deflates the story's mood through how ridiculous it is, while also deepening the sense of a sinister force at work behind the scenes. That these contradictory impulses somehow exist side by side in this story provides a good summation of this book's fantastic balancing act.
User avatar

sevenarts
 
Posts: 5735
Joined: Fri Dec 17, 2010 4:05 pm
Location: NY

Postby HotFingersClub » Mon Feb 15, 2021 3:51 pm

Sick, so fun to read you on Panpanya, and that's a great review, really digging into the crazy complexity of their work and all the different tonal and artistic elements that go into their stories. I go back to that volume and Ashizuri Aquarium on a regular basis and I think the author is maybe just my favourite-ever mangaka at this point. Feels like it was made totally for me

I'm building up such an Umezu backlog from all these recs, really interesting stuff as usual. I need to space them out a bit more than you seem to though. It's a heavy thing to read a bunch of his work in one go
User avatar

HotFingersClub
 
Posts: 2181
Joined: Tue Sep 02, 2014 3:31 am

Postby sevenarts » Mon Feb 15, 2021 4:31 pm

I'll have to read Ashizuri soon too. I also see that Denpa is putting out a second Panpanya translation later this year which is exciting.

Umezu can be real heavy stuff (especially the one I just covered) but for me he totally resonates with what I want out of manga/comics, I've loved going through all his totally out-there books. I think after a bit of a break I'm gonna dive in to Fourteen soon and oh boy am I excited for that LOL.
User avatar

sevenarts
 
Posts: 5735
Joined: Fri Dec 17, 2010 4:05 pm
Location: NY

Postby HotFingersClub » Tue Feb 16, 2021 5:25 am

Yeh I'm hoping that new volume actually comes out this year. Feels like I've had it on pre-order forever
User avatar

HotFingersClub
 
Posts: 2181
Joined: Tue Sep 02, 2014 3:31 am

Postby HotFingersClub » Tue Feb 16, 2021 5:30 am

People here have read Kingdom right? I'm considering adding it to the reading pile but I just feel like I've read so many edo-period samurai epics recently. Is it worth going out of your way for?
User avatar

HotFingersClub
 
Posts: 2181
Joined: Tue Sep 02, 2014 3:31 am

Postby jca » Tue Feb 16, 2021 11:13 am

its pretty cool. it follows the first emperor of china and his general so it gives maybe a grander perspective of politics, the military and war than a solitary samurai story (which a lot of time follows 1-2 people fighting 1-2 baddies) would. think dynasty warriors in comic form, badass generals fighting thousands of soldiers, castle sieges, forest ambushes, warhorses carving through soldiers
User avatar

jca
 
Posts: 1020
Joined: Tue Aug 27, 2013 2:22 pm

Postby HotFingersClub » Tue Feb 16, 2021 11:24 am

Image
Chika Kurita - Inside the Inside of the Box
This was a Kodansha award-winning debut one-shot from Kurita, telling the story of a young woman who finds it difficult to express herself in her own words until she enters a magical shop where she can explore a visual representation of her own memory. First off, I like that it explores this relatable (to me) and very non-dramatic feeling of finding your language falling into received patterns that don’t necessarily express what you mean. Quite a clever idea for a one-shot. She also has an attractive, hazy art style that reminded me of Tillie Walden, with frequent subtle shifts in how she draws the character from panel to panel. It doesn’t go anything like as far, but there’s also a touch of Huizenga to the way Kurita experiments with visualising abstract concepts and the way memories fit together. Unfortunately it’s all tied together with a pretty cheesy wonder emporium plot, but Kurita’s potential stands out from the pack, and you can see in terms of ambition why she might have jumped out at the Kodansha judges.
User avatar

HotFingersClub
 
Posts: 2181
Joined: Tue Sep 02, 2014 3:31 am

Postby HotFingersClub » Tue Feb 16, 2021 11:26 am

Image
Masato Hisa - Jabberwocky
I wrote about Hisa’s debut Black Bear Killer, in which a bear joins the mafia, on page 14, and talked about the choice of high-contrast shadow filled art as being something that might be the mark of a junior artist. Well, turns out he really doubled down on his twin USPs for his first major series. This is set in WW1-era Russia and follows Lily, a hard-drinkin’ assassin who gets drawn into secret power struggles between factions of dinosaur men trying to control the Tsar. It’s basically David Icke’s reptilian fantasies turned into an action manga. In fact as the series goes on it uncovers the presence of more and more dinosaur men throughout human history. I’m not the first person to say it’s like the Da Vinci Code meets Jurassic Park and I won’t be the last – it’s clearly what Hisa’s going for.

How much you enjoy it will depend a lot on your tolerance for the art, where Hisa amps up the clashing shadows dramatically, often eroding the distinction between physical forms and motion effects like speed lines or explosions. There are still elements of Mignola, but Mignola’s use of colour and shade goes a long way towards softening his work, whereas Hisa’s is almost headache-inducing in its dissonance. He’s a master of this style I guess but I must admit I still find it ugly and hard to look at. His fun dinosaur story is not worth the pain for me.
User avatar

HotFingersClub
 
Posts: 2181
Joined: Tue Sep 02, 2014 3:31 am

Postby HotFingersClub » Tue Feb 16, 2021 11:28 am

Image
Yoshihiro Yamada - Tea for Life
Trying to get a better sense of the manga landscape I’ve been looking at some of the winners of manga’s most prestigious prizes like Tezuka, Kodansha and the awards given out by the Japan Media Arts Festival. I think kind of like the Oscars, there’s a particular type of manga that does well at those awards, and historical epics like this one are particularly attractive for panels who are too highbrow for shoujo but not highbrow enough for anything truly experimental. Yamada’s Tea for Life focuses on Sasuke, a governor/warlord under the legendary General Nobunaga, struggling to balance his military responsibilities with his growing obsession with the tea ceremony, an ancient ritualized social ceremony in Japan that places great emphasis on aesthetics. This is the point on which the whole book balances – almost once per issue, Sasuke is asked to choose between his obligations to Nobunaga and his beliefs about the value of art. It’s half played for laughs: the literal translation of the Japanese title Hyouge Mono is “jocular fellow”, and Sasuke undergoes these tests of his aesthetic faith with crazy bug eyes and cartoonish sweat dripping down his face. Tonally it’s pretty interesting, contrasting a very sincere belief in art and beauty with high-stakes thriller elements and moments of outright comedy, as when one of Nobunaga’s rival warlords attempts to bribe Sasuke with a particularly beautiful tea kettle. You might find your interest limited by how much you care about the history of Japanese aesthetics, but I think Yamada does a commendable job of balancing the different elements of his story. If you’ve read and loved In Praise of Shadows, this makes an interesting companion piece.
User avatar

HotFingersClub
 
Posts: 2181
Joined: Tue Sep 02, 2014 3:31 am

Postby HotFingersClub » Tue Feb 16, 2021 11:30 am

Image
Kotobuki Shiriagari - Jacaranda
So I think this is the best-known work from this gekiga artist whose book ”Wandering Senior” Don Quixote I wrote about a couple of pages back, and at first I thought we were in similar territory, when the book opens with an old man being savagely murdered by a teenager on a packed train, indicating that Kotobuki is going to spend the book decrying the uncaring cruelty of the young towards the old. What he has in mind though, is something even more intense than WSDQ. As the book progresses, branches start to burst through the concrete, and over the course of an apocalyptic evening the rapid growth of this gigantic tree both literally and figuratively undermines Tokyo, reducing the city to rubble and carnage through a series of earthquakes, gas main explosions, fires and blackouts.

It’s a really odd book, clearly influenced by Godzilla and Japan’s weathering of various natural and unnatural disasters, and probably going on to influence a whole bunch of other manga apocalypses, but there’s a striking purity to Shiriagari’s vision here. For one thing, as he puts it in his essay at the back, it contains “no narrative device or human drama”, by which he means there are no characters, just an endless succession of anonymous people caught in the cataclysm and meeting horrible fates. You might catch a name or an occupation here or there but mostly it’s like you’re filming the destruction from a news helicopter. And the destruction is deafeningly, gloriously repetitive. You seriously won’t believe how many times Shiriagari will draw someone burning alive in a single issue.

I can’t really recommend it in the conventional sense but it’s something to behold alright, more of a Blakeian vision than a story. Reframing it in that way while reading gave me more of an appreciation for the toneless intensity and awe of Shiriagari’s concept, but the meaning remains unclear. “If I had enough ability and technique,” he writes, “I would have liked for this manga to be as a joke, which united carefree laughter with the most cataclysmic destruction. May the day that the gigantic tree surges forth never arrive!”
User avatar

HotFingersClub
 
Posts: 2181
Joined: Tue Sep 02, 2014 3:31 am

Postby HotFingersClub » Tue Feb 16, 2021 11:33 am

Image
Hiroshi Masumura - Jaria
This is another pretty far-out fantasy series in the vein of Iblard Stories, which I wrote about last week. I don’t really know enough about manga to know where this style originates, but there’s a particular lineage of eclectic fantasy that it fits into – fantasy where there’s no real premise that links everything together, just a bunch of fun character designs and concepts thrown in a pot for a gentle gumbo of the imagination. Iblard and Spirited Away are obvious examples, but I think Akira Toriyama’s original Dragon Ball material also qualifies, and Masumura’s work seems to take a lot of its influence from Toriyama’s clean lines and cute character designs. Jaria is set in a forest, where humans live alongside animal people on giant trees. The hero boy befriends a cat girl with the power to control the elements, and together they discover and explore a lost crystal city that only they can see. It’s kind of cute, although you also have to shrug and wonder exactly what the point of it is. Masumura’s art is very attractive though, especially the full-colour pages – I’d be interested to check out more of his work.
User avatar

HotFingersClub
 
Posts: 2181
Joined: Tue Sep 02, 2014 3:31 am

Postby HotFingersClub » Tue Feb 16, 2021 11:36 am

Image
Jiro Taniguchi - Raising a Dog
Finally, it’s back to the Taniguchiverse for this 1991 collection of linked stories. We’re in similar territory to The Walking Man, with an average suburban couple experiencing the passage of time and the world around them through the prism of a succession of pets, but anyone expecting a similar lightness may have to steel themselves. The title story gets things started with a hefty blindside. Despite the name, this is actually a story about watching a dog die very slowly of old age. It’s an everyday tragedy but a deep one, as the couple snatch moments of grace and small pleasures with their dog but are obviously unable to arrest the passage of time, and Taniguchi chronicles the dog’s decline in intimate detail. If you’re a dog owner yourself, make sure you know what you’re getting yourself into because it’s powerful stuff. I can’t quite decide how I felt about it – the blatant tugging of vulnerable heartstrings is balanced against the beauty and sensitivity and perfect craft that’s familiar from The Walking Man. I guess having dogs put to sleep is not a thing in Japan? Or this would be a much shorter story.

The rest of the stories continue this potent mix of sentimentality and everyday beauty as the couple take in a Persian cat who quickly has kittens, then later are given an extended visit by the narrator’s troubled niece, a de facto pet in this story. It’s very charming stuff, feeling like comparatively light relief, albeit the current of melancholy left in the wake of the dog never quite goes away. If the whole book had been like the title story, I think I would have ended up traumatised, but Taniguchi eventually won me back via his close observation of kittens and precocious children, and the wonderful way he picks out these crystalline moments with such a clear and beautiful technique. It's a soothing and contemplative experience to reset you after being destroyed by the death of the dog.

The last story “Promised Land” is an unrelated bonus, and an abrupt tonal shift. A thriller following a mountaineer who encounters a snow leopard while lost on a mountain, it prefigures the territory that Taniguchi would return to ten years later in his series Summit of the Gods. It’s solid stuff, but is confirmation for me that I much prefer him in slice of life mode.
User avatar

HotFingersClub
 
Posts: 2181
Joined: Tue Sep 02, 2014 3:31 am

Postby sevenarts » Tue Feb 16, 2021 6:26 pm

That’s a real interesting set of comics I mostly haven’t even heard of before. Jacaranda sounds very interesting to me, I’m always drawn to anything that tries to get outside of conventional storytelling in that way, even if it isn’t wholly successful or satisfying. At the other extreme that Yamada book also sounds interesting, although it’s kinda funny how universal that kind of “Oscar taste” seems to be.

I should read more Taniguchi too, as much as I love The Walking Man I never really ventured beyond it.
User avatar

sevenarts
 
Posts: 5735
Joined: Fri Dec 17, 2010 4:05 pm
Location: NY

Postby HotFingersClub » Wed Feb 17, 2021 6:01 am

I think Raising a Dog was the one I got most out of this week but Jacaranda is really the one to read if you're looking for something unusual. It's a very weird concept and I don't think I really got to the bottom of it in my review
User avatar

HotFingersClub
 
Posts: 2181
Joined: Tue Sep 02, 2014 3:31 am

Postby sevenarts » Mon Feb 22, 2021 9:48 am

Image
Fraction / Kasutoro Shiki by Shintaro Kago
Catching up on a couple Kago scanlations. Fraction, as previously covered by HFC, is a meta detective story, a bit of a departure as he tackles a serial killer mystery, approaching the genre from his own skewed angle. The meta device here, where he alternates chapters of the story with interludes in which Kago himself appears discussing his plans for the story, creates some cool tension, especially as he starts laying out his ideas to disrupt the typical detective thriller by playing games with his readers. The effect is fascinating, forcing the reader's attention away from the actual stuff of the narrative - clues, suspects, motivations - and onto the presentation of the story itself. The mystery becomes not a whodunnit, but a question of what game the author is playing, what info they're holding back outside the frame. The first big reveal/pull-back is pretty amazing but for my taste it's almost disappointing when the rest of the story descends into more typical Kago wackiness - I was enjoying the balance of Kago's formal hijinks with a more traditional narrative. The collection also has some good Kago shorts mostly with more of a horror bent; "Voracious Itches," in which a woman comes to love the feel of insects crawling under her skin, is especially gnarly and intense.

Kasutoro Shiki is a slightly older collection that gathers up a lot of the material that first established Kago's infamy in the West, when stories like "Abstraction," "Blow-Up," "Multiplication," and "Oral Cavity Infectious Syndrome" were passed around via Ryan Sands' old "Same Hat" blog. These stories, which combine sexual material and minimal, often goofy plots with dazzling formal experimentation on the level of basic comic page functioning, retain their impact even now. If there's anyone in this thread who somehow hasn't read "Abstraction" yet, go take a look immediately. Kago makes these stories about the actual construction of the comic, turning the panel into an actual character in the work, sometimes literally as in "Multiplication" where the comic becomes self-aware in crafting its own progress. There are some gems among the lesser known stories here, too. I'd never seen "Genesis" before but it's a bizarre delight, starting with God's creation of the universe in a typical biblical sense ("let there be light") but quickly heading off track as God has to create more and more specific and weird concepts. Soon, there are many gods who seem more like manga authors, competing with one another to guide the progress of a narrative where they want it to go. There's also "When All's Said and Done" which is maybe the grossest and dumbest thing I've ever read, and I wish I hadn't.

Image
Kekkou Kamen by Go Nagai
My Go Nagai adventures have now led to some pretty embarrassing bottom-of-the-barrel sleaze. Here's some '70s Nagai that I read (or skimmed) so that you don't have to. The scene is a sadistic boarding school where the perverted teachers routinely abuse and sexually assault the female students in the name of disciplining them and better preparing them for the competitive world of Japanese higher education. The girls' only savior is Kekkou Kamen, a young woman who fights completely in the nude except for a mask - her theme song goes "no one knows her face / but everyone knows her body" - and uses her body to distract men into submission. Her signature move is the "pubic hair jump" in which she spreads her legs and leaps into men's faces, knocking them flat with her hips. This is one for the guys who thought Cutey Honey was too tasteful, basically. It also lays bare a lot of the uglier impulses lurking underneath Nagai's work, particularly with regards to rape. The girls squeal and scream but never seem too traumatized by all the sexualized torture, and though the guys always get it in the end the audience is clearly invited to leer along with the villains. It's all really repetitive too, I quickly gave up on finding anything of interest and tore through the rest to see if it got any better (nope). Everyone else can steer clear now.

Image
Mushishi by Yuki Urushibara
Most probably know this one but I've just caught up on Urushibara's famed series of lowkey supernatural meditations, and it's really good. Set in a fantastical world where mystical beings called "mushi" coexist with the human and natural worlds, mostly unseen by people, it's a set of very atmospheric short stories concerning a "mushishi" named Ginko, an expert on the strange beings living at the fringes of human perception. In each story, the effect of mushi on people and the world is explored as Ginko wanders from town to town, identifying problems, illnesses, or inexplicable phenomena related to mushi. The stories vary quite a bit, especially with regard to the balance struck between the human and the unseen worlds: sometimes people and mushi can cohabit the same space peacefully and symbiotically, sometimes Ginko can cure a problem that has arisen, and sometimes he can't. The stories might be light comedy, tragic melodrama, brooding horror, or simply bittersweet and poetic, tinged with complex emotions. Urushibara's moody, textured art is the perfect vehicle for these varied stories, elegantly capturing the sense of fuzzy, foggy images that seem to flicker in and out of focus. Her night scenes, rather than ever being just pure black, seem to vibrate with static and pinpricks of light, and the natural world is always rendered with great beauty. The sense of balance between humanity, nature, and the spiritual forces outside of our understanding, flows all through the series. Lovely, constantly surprising, always inventive in the kinds of new creatures Urushibara introduces and, moreover, the ways in which those creatures impact and change the people with whom they come into contact.

Image
Bio-Luminescence / Filament by Yuki Urushibara
Previously covered by HFC, here's some minor early work by Urushibara, published under a pen name before she became famous for Mushishi. Bio-Luminescence thoroughly feels like unsure amateur efforts, a set of lackluster short stories, many of them just a few pages long; they establish a mood or set a scene and not too much more. Her art here is much more high-contrast than the richer, lusher style of Mushishi, with lots of white space and not nearly as much of the layered grayscale and textures of her later work. The stark, simple style is fine but like the stories it's not very memorable. Filament mostly reprints the same material but adds a few later pieces that are much better and much more assured. "She Got Off the Bus at the Penisula" especially is a melancholy, moody ghost story that's kind of a modern-day take on Mushishi's vibe, beautifully evoking this weirdly sad seaside tourist destination where a certain number of visitors from the crowd are there to commit suicide by hurling themselves from the nearby cliffs. That one story is worth checking out for fans but the rest of this is pretty forgettable.

Image
Waters by Yuki Urushibara
Finally, this was Urushibara's next series after Mushishi, a 2-volume tale of deeply sad magical realism. It's a moving multi-generational saga of a lost village, an old tragedy, and the ways in which grief and loss reverberate throughout a family for decades to come. The wistful tone here reminds me more of Hitoshi Ashinano than Urushibara's other work, with a melancholic and nostalgic vibe drifting throughout the mysterious story, its real source only gradually becoming clear as flashbacks and dreams fill in the details of the past. Urushibara's clean, moody art is well-suited to the emotional narrative, and she economically develops some surprisingly rich characters in a (for manga) relatively compact 400 pages. If this was a longer work the more melodramatic elements would probably get tiresome but at just 2 volumes it never wears out its welcome.
User avatar

sevenarts
 
Posts: 5735
Joined: Fri Dec 17, 2010 4:05 pm
Location: NY

Postby HotFingersClub » Mon Feb 22, 2021 4:47 pm

Great stuff, I really envy your tolerance for going deep on an author and reading all their stuff at once. Seems like you must get more out of it that way.

Waters is my favourite Urushibara, even over Mushishi which never fully grabbed me. I prefer Daisuke Igarashi's version of those tropes in Hanashippanashi - that series does something similar but seems wilder and more mysterious to me

I just read Katsutoro Shiki as well. I'm not going to review it but it struck me as the best possible encapsulation of Kago's powers. Some of the stuff in there is just revolutionary, and some of it is so disgusting as to be basically unreadable. I stumbled across "When All's Said and Done" for the first time when I was about fifteen and it permanently traumatised me. I never connected it to Kago (although I should have guessed) and seeing it pop up in this collection I felt like Bart whenever Sideshow Bob appears
User avatar

HotFingersClub
 
Posts: 2181
Joined: Tue Sep 02, 2014 3:31 am

PreviousNext

Return to Poster's Paradise

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: .polymer, ahalfhourago, Autarch, axelrod gunnarson, Bartatua, Boog Powell, brentwurst, Clive, concerning, cruiserbob, dankwit, danno, Darlene, deebster, Destroid, domesticwhite, Double McDouble, Executive Producer, Eyeball Kid, Ezekiel Cletus, fakename, FourLegsGood, gallits, Geoff, Google [Bot], guidance, Hal Jordan, hansibansix, hard mike, hbb, high bias, honkduh, hoopdog, hyperbole man, iambic, Intervalo, iwillneverpost, jon, kabanos, Longarm, lordofdiapers, mcwop23, Mechanical bird, Melville, Mister Modular, mynameisdan, mynamerocks, No Good Advice, oh! it's max!, paws scaggs, Phil, pink snake, pinkerton, pixel, potentialgetawaydriver, Rainbow Battle Kid, razzle, rex, Robert, Ron, screw, secondskin, shizaam, Skerple, smartphone, southpaw, sunglasses, sushi x, swamp angel, tgk, trampoline, TwoInchesOfTrouble, virile, walt, warmjets, wolfie, xxx-xxx-xxxx and 165 guests