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 sevenarts » Mon Mar 15, 2021 10:02 am

HotFingersClub wrote:Hahaha

GIS best guess for that is "Art" but I'm going to guess it's Kazuo Umezu's Fourteen. Is that where the new av comes from too?


Hahah good guess, and yea I av'd it too. It's uh really something. I'm not sure I even actually like it yet but it's wild.
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Postby HotFingersClub » Mon Mar 15, 2021 10:27 am

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Postby jca » Mon Mar 15, 2021 10:56 am

good posts
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Postby HotFingersClub » Mon Mar 15, 2021 5:51 pm

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Shinkichi Kato - Obrigado!
I’ve been thinking for years now that I should look into more of Shinkichi Kato’s work since enjoying his relationship drama The Idiots & Gogh when I first read it over a decade ago, particularly for Kato’s art, which in that book mixed a precise cartoony expressiveness with actual Van Gogh-lite Expressionism. For someone with such a cool, distinctive style, Kato hasn’t worked a lot and remains pretty unknown. As far as I can tell he hasn’t put out a new book since 2009 and even his Instagram has barely any followers. I’m really not sure what’s keeping such a talented artist down.

This volume is a collection of short stories that came out in 2003, three years after Gogh. Like a lot of these types of collections, it takes a very catholic approach to genre, but Kato’s stories in particular are packed with so much narrative and visual detail that they can be hard to summarise. Highlights include the third story, where two people start a hesitant romance after teaming up to insult a subpar ramen chef, and the fun fantasy story in which men are enslaved by a race of sexually voracious female ogres. Kato’s one of those extremely precise but wildly energetic pencillers who goes overboard to blast you with exciting compositions, and this is some of his most polished work, coming from a similar place to artists like Tradd Moore, Connor Willumsen or Seth Fisher. His stories are perhaps a little less memorable, but they’re still consistently strong across the board. It was nice to feel like my initial impression of him was accurate – a criminally under-read mangaka with unique style and bags of potential.
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Postby HotFingersClub » Mon Mar 15, 2021 5:54 pm

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Reiichi Sugimoto & Shinkichi Kato - National Quiz
Following on from that, I went back to Kato’s 1994 debut, where he provided the art for a script by Sugimoto, who similarly never really went anywhere mangawise. I think he may be a novelist? Not really clear on that one. This is a futuristic satire in which Japan is the world’s only superpower, and Japanese society has come to be dominated by a wildly popular gameshow. Winners get a wish granted, losers are essentially imprisoned to punish them for being greedy, and the gameshow’s almost limitless power takes precedence over national and even foreign policy. At the same time, the gameshow’s supplanting of democracy means that winning the quiz is often the only way to get a viable pension or pay for expensive medical treatment, so cancer patients and exhausted officer workers are forced to compete against Kenji (13, from Tokyo) who wants his mum to knock before she comes into his room. Sections of the series also deal with the implications for foreign policy when, for example, a contestant wishes to ban the sale of non-domestic wines.

It’s a tremendously strong series, genuinely funny, easily the best thing I’ve seen from Kato and I liked his other two books very much. His drawings here are just superb, especially when it comes to reproducing the energy of this super high budget dystopian gameshow. He’s so technically skilled and detailed, but also brings this distorted zany power which suits Sugimoto’s concept perfectly. He’s also a wonderful artist for faces – even single-panel cameo characters are utterly distinct and full of personality. If you’ve ever seen James Callahan’s brilliant work on The Auteur and its sequel Sister Bambi (and you should really check it out if you’re not familiar), this is very much the same vibe.

Most of the first volume is spent establishing the quiz and the book’s protagonist: star presenter K-I K-Ichi. A former loser of the quiz, for the 20 hours of each day when he’s not presenting the show, he’s held prisoner underground, locked in a straitjacket that leaves him unable to move. Throughout this volume, Sugimoto and Kato use adverts during the quiz to showcase fun details about the world, like the orbiting death laser that destroys any home that’s getting free cable. Later volumes start to expand the story beyond its initial premise, bringing in strands including K-Ichi’s estranged family, an anti-quiz resistance group that’s trying to assassinate him, and Japan’s invasion of America.

The dystopian gameshow idea had been done before even in 1994, but never this well, and there’s something very clear and prescient about its vision of a society in which basic human rights are flattened out and given equal primacy to insane flights of fancy. I was especially struck by the way that government policy swings between various petty vendettas according to whoever won the quiz last night. If you like the look of the art I’d highly recommend checking it out. I’m currently halfway through the four volumes, really excited to go back for more.
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Postby HotFingersClub » Mon Mar 15, 2021 5:59 pm

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Mari Yamazaki - Olympic Circles
This series from 2018 is the first Yamazaki comic I’ve checked out since greatly enjoying her 2008 comedy-drama Thermae Romae, in which a Roman architect of public baths travels through time to present-day Japan every time he hits his head underwater, and learns lessons about bathing by observing Japanese customs. But how do you follow the world’s greatest ever premise? Well, this series follows Demetrios, a vase-painter and amateur athlete in Ancient Greece. Challenged to participate in a sporting competition for the honour of his village, the nervous Demetrios crawls into a large urn to do some thinking. The urn is promptly struck by lightning and… Demetrios is transported through time to present-day Japan, where he learns lessons about sport by observing Japanese customs. Not knowing it was coming, I laughed out loud at the audacious repetition of this hyper-specific premise, but amusement was quickly replaced by some form of fatigue as Yamazaki loaded up another round of extremely similar story beats. I don’t necessarily object to an artist ploughing a furrow that speaks to them, and Thermae Romae had many charms, but it wasn’t always the most pacy experience, and sitting through an almost identical story with a new cast is tough to get excited about. Yamazaki even repeats the comical nudity from Thermae Romae. Where Tacitus was always blundering around naked in the baths, Demetrios amuses the Japanese by taking off his toga to compete in the egg and spoon race.
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Postby HotFingersClub » Mon Mar 15, 2021 6:01 pm

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Togame - Secretly I've Been Suffering About Being Sexless
Here’s a book that’s clearly been hammered into the mould of Nagata Kabi’s My Lesbian Experience With Loneliness, including a very similar design for the cover. I always feel bad for the artist when they do that – it seems so disrespectful to the identity of whatever they were trying to do. Togame’s book is another autobiographical confessional piece about physical loneliness. She’s got a high sex drive and her husband doesn’t seem bothered. It’s difficult not to compare it with Kabi’s work when the comparison is being invited so much, but I’ll try to restrain myself other than to say Togame is in every way a more conventional and familiar face for quite similar feelings.

Having said that, I do think the topic of mismatched sex drives or “dead bedrooms” are interesting topics for a confessional comedy, and ones I don’t think I’ve seen addressed before. There’s some significant value in seeing it being discussed openly, especially in a conservative society like Japan. How she deals with the issue is another matter, and it feels at points as though she’s sending out some very unhelpful messages. Instead of honest communication, Togame tries to inuit what her husband wants from her, and her husband essentially strings her along by implying that he’d find her more attractive if she lost weight, even though she’s terrified of going back to disordered eating patterns that she had to fight to get past. Those issues are eventually resolved into a healthier conversation, although the quick turnaround and wrap-up seem pretty unrealistic in the context of real relationships. It’s kind of a [FRAME MISSING] and then everything’s suddenly fine.

It can also be a little hard to follow at times. Togame does this thing for comedic effect where she suddenly contradicts herself, e.g. she might seemingly come to a firm conclusion that her husband’s love is enough for her, then on the next page suddenly revert to a horny chibi character with a nosebleed, with the whiplash moodswings played for laughs. It’s something Kabi does too, but Togame does it so regularly that the book is constantly pinging between repetitive emotional extremes. But I’m making the book sound pretty bad, which was not my intention. Underneath a patina of naivety and bad decisions there are some surprisingly mature thoughts here about monogamy, commitment, and the value of sex in love, and I think Togame does a good job of bringing those out in a relatively light-hearted and comedic way.
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Postby HotFingersClub » Mon Mar 15, 2021 6:02 pm

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Buronson & Tetsuo Hara - Fist of the North Star
I know this is a classic but I don’t have a huge amount to say about the chunk I read. Obviously it’s a massively influential ur-seinen that provided the building blocks of a sizeable swath of Japanese pop culture, and it’s not even aged too badly, it just lacks self-awareness compared to what came later. In this series, a stoic martial artist wanders a Mad Max style wasteland killing bad guys with his special techniques that make people explode when he punches them. It’s fun but kind of braindead even by the standards of fight manga, and Ken does not make a particularly compelling protagonist – a bland tight-lipped hero until he gets to the fights, where he listlessly boasts of his ability to slaughter everyone he comes into contact with. I feel like I need more than just people exploding. Is anyone here a big fan?
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Postby HotFingersClub » Mon Mar 15, 2021 6:04 pm

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Seita Horio - Kokkoku: Moment by Moment
This is a cool if occasionally confusing sci-fi thriller that could double as a spec script for a great b-movie. A man and his young nephew are kidnapped, and their family are given an unreasonably short timeframe in which to pony up the ransom. This forces the grandfather to reveal a secret: a stone that can pause time indefinitely. When the family freeze time and show up at the agreed location, they find the kidnappers have somehow followed them into this frozen moment. Horio struggles a little with depicting his own central conceit, as most of the book is set in a space where time has stopped, but Horio hasn’t found a way to clearly delineate the frozen people from the people who are moving through that space. I’ve seen artists use colour to delineate the two worlds before, but that isn’t an option for Horio and he hasn’t come up with a working substitute. That small confusion aside, there’s plenty to enjoy. It’s a tightly plotted story with fun, unconventional leads, and like any good “intelligent sci-fi” it has a neat system of interlocking rules that Horio can throw together for cool twists. I also enjoyed the shocking sudden appearance of the “Emissary”, a truly gnarly looking monster with a very striking design who occasionally shows up to crush some heads. Initially a bit hard to follow, the story kills off a bunch of 2nd-tier characters throughout the first volume, and the second volume is much tighter and more exciting. I’m finding it hard to track down working links for volumes 4-8 but I’m down to follow this one to its conclusion.
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Postby HotFingersClub » Mon Mar 15, 2021 6:07 pm

NSFW:
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Suehiro Maruo & Kazuichi Hanawa - Bloody Ukiyo-e in 1866 & 1988
So I don’t think I knew this, but ero-guro actually has a long history going back to the late Edo and Meiji periods. Actually I did know about the dream of the fisherman’s wife, but I didn’t know there was fully gory and explicit BDSM stuff being produced at that time as well.

The muzan-e or “bloody prints” were a series of violent woodcut prints. The most famous is Twenty-Eight Famous Murders with Verse, credited to two artists, Yoshitoshi and Yoshiiku, and it’s into those roles that Maruo and Hanawa (whose fantastic Early Work I wrote about on the last page) stepped in 1988 when they created their own set of bloody prints. Where the muzan-e depicted scenes from folklore and recent history, Maruo and Hanawa do an updated version of the same thing, incorporating contemporary figures and events like The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, or the suicide of Adolf Hitler. It’s an homage, but also an attempt to recreate the paradigm for a modern era. Maruo writes in one of his essays here, “this is not a parody. Society is requesting it again.”

The two artists alternate full-page, full-colour drawings, with no dialogue or continuity, but interspersed with short captions in which they discuss each other’s drawings and influences. Most of the time they’re writing about each other rather than their own work, which is a fun little twist. There’s a lot of cool tidbits in there about their approach to ero-guro and their mutual love for Kazuo Umezu among many other things.

As for the drawings, it’s very much undiluted ero-guro intended primarily to shock and repulse. Maruo is working in his usual style – incredibly bright, crisp drawings of high def depravity. It’s a little hard to compete with when his drawings are so eye-popping, but Hanawa contributes some beautiful eerie stuff too. He’s necessarily a little looser and murkier with his line and his colour palette, but there’s also more depth to his images than in Maruo’s brilliant surfaces. I noticed as well that Hanawa is more conservative with his choice of topics. His work is often more interested in the edo period than Maruo, who tends to focus more on 20th century aesthetics, and that remains true here, as Hanawa draws scenes from period pieces and folktales, while Maruo is more likely to draw Marc Bolan hanging off a helicopter and firing a machine gun. The new material is followed by a reprint of the original 1866 Yoshitoshi and Yoshiiku collection, significantly less fucked up but still shocking to see classical art embrace such explicit depravity.
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Postby jca » Mon Mar 15, 2021 9:16 pm

those all sound great. im wondering how you wrap up a story like Kokumin Quiz hah. Thermae Romae is great--didnt know about Olympic Circles. maybe repeating the setup is just a meta-commentary?

there are links to the full run of Kokkoku on nyaa.si and myanonamouse
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Postby sevenarts » Mon Mar 15, 2021 10:38 pm

Yea, good stuff. I have to say though I wasn't necessarily wowed by Baka to Gogh - at least the writing - you've got me excited for Kato all over again there. Those books both look and sound great; I imagine the genre trappings might coalesce with his distinctive art in a much more satisfying way for me, will have to check those out.

Hadn't heard of that Maruo/Hanawa book before but it sounds fascinating. The historical contextualizing definitely seems like an important aspect of what that generation of era-guro artists were up to and it doesn't get explored so directly most of the time.
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Postby HotFingersClub » Tue Mar 16, 2021 4:51 am

jca wrote:those all sound great. im wondering how you wrap up a story like Kokumin Quiz hah. Thermae Romae is great--didnt know about Olympic Circles. maybe repeating the setup is just a meta-commentary?


:o

jca wrote:there are links to the full run of Kokkoku on nyaa.si and myanonamouse


Sick, thanks man. Hadn't even heard of either of these
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Postby HotFingersClub » Tue Mar 16, 2021 4:55 am

sevenarts wrote:Yea, good stuff. I have to say though I wasn't necessarily wowed by Baka to Gogh - at least the writing - you've got me excited for Kato all over again there. Those books both look and sound great; I imagine the genre trappings might coalesce with his distinctive art in a much more satisfying way for me, will have to check those out.

Hadn't heard of that Maruo/Hanawa book before but it sounds fascinating. The historical contextualizing definitely seems like an important aspect of what that generation of era-guro artists were up to and it doesn't get explored so directly most of the time.


It's been so long since I read Gogh I feel like I can't really address the quality of the writing, but especially in Kokumin Quiz I found the writing and art much stronger than what I remembered of Kato. And they're both pretty short time commitments - I'd really recommend taking a look
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Postby sevenarts » Thu Mar 18, 2021 10:13 am

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Fourteen by Kazuo Umezu
This is in many ways the ultimate Umezu experience, the horror master's longest and most infamous series, a totally bizarre and unclassifiable 20-volume trainwreck that I'd hesitate to actually recommend as a whole but is certainly unique and hits on many memorable moments and images along the way. It's an ecological sci-fi epic in which a mutant chicken-headed genius named Dr. Chicken George grows, inexplicably, from a genetically engineered chicken breast and somehow becomes a professor at Cambridge. It's also a continually escalating disaster reel where the Earth seems to be rebelling against its inhabitants, tossing ever more outrageous environmental horrors and freaks of evolution into the mix as the series bolts from one absurd set piece to another. Umezu's plotting here is maybe the most nonsensical it's ever been - which is really saying something - but even at its loopiest the series' environmentalist thrust is crushingly obvious. The message is clear even when what the hell is happening isn't: humanity has spent centuries abusing the Earth, and now the Earth is sick of our shit.

It's pretty impressive how many different ways Umezu finds to communicate that message, though at least for the series' loooong first half, the whiplash effect of his storytelling seems to be happening in slow motion. There's always a deliberate, strangely repetitive quality to Umezu's writing - his scripting is a blunt instrument, almost childishly simple and prone to hammering home the same idea multiple times - but here the plodding quality is especially pronounced. There's more room to stretch out, and he definitely stretches. Thankfully what's actually happening is so unhinged and unpredictable that even at half-speed there's plenty of entertainment. Chicken George himself veers in and out of the spotlight - sometimes he seems like the protagonist, sometimes like a monstrous horror movie villain, sometimes like a fringe character as larger-scale ecological and political plots play out. George plans to take all the Earth's animals and escape into space on a giant spaceship shaped like a tyrannosaurus. He briefly contemplates wiping out all human life with a potent plague, then accidentally releases it anyway. He builds himself a love interest by genetically modifying an actual chicken to talk, giving her earrings, and dubbing her Chicken Lucy. Later, he falls in love with a human and all sorts of tragedies play out.

As memorable as George is, he's only part of the picture. The President of the United States is for some reason a major character, particularly his devotion to his green-haired son, who he names America. There are long sections dedicated to meetings of the President and other world leaders, who seem more like the Justice League assembling to fight their latest villain than heads of state. When all the plants on Earth start dying, the government's plan is - no joke - to have the grandson of the Die Hard director create exciting fake news stories so that people will be distracted and not notice all the dead plants everywhere. In the background lurks the sinister figure of Grand Master Rose, a youth-obsessed manipulator who's pursuing the formula for immortality.

The series is all over the place, but its interminable pacing means that it's only sporadically as much fun as it should be until it really starts picking up steam in the second half. It's only halfway through that Umezu seems to really hone in on what the series is actually about, and the renewed sense of purpose is very apparent in the later volumes as the pace of the absurd events picks up considerably and there's a real forward momentum driving everything on. This is where the plot seems to cohere around the idea of chosen groups of children escaping the dying Earth in rocket ships, a kind of ur-Umezu concept from a creator who's always placed a special significance on the innocence of children in a corrupt world run by adults who always screw everything up. Of course, that increasingly urgent central plot doesn't mean there don't continue to be plenty of baffling diversions on the sidelines. Wrestlers struggle to absorb one another's bodies in a gruesome televised spectacle, until one of them inexplicably turns into a chicken-headed woman and goes down on the other. Aliens invade and try to rape everyone on Earth in an absolutely horrifying extended sequence. Rose transforms into a room and splits into creepy little girl clones. And that tyrannosaurus finally launches itself into space for a whole new series of bonkers adventures.

Ultimately, this is a wild and weird and completely original book but it's really one for the confirmed Umezu-heads. Its uneven pacing and long slack stretches guarantee than most will probably be better served by summaries and some teases of the wildest moments, as seen below. For those who can get on board for the ride, though, it may not be Umezu's best or most consistent work by any means, but for better or worse it's probably the most undiluted expression of his core philosophy and approach to storytelling.

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Postby HotFingersClub » Thu Mar 18, 2021 11:25 am

Wow, truly excellent panel selection there. I still consider myself very much at the beginning of my Umezu journey but very excited to read that book at some point.

Actually, there's a thought - have you now "completed" Umezu? Are you in a position to contemplate rankings?
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Postby sevenarts » Thu Mar 18, 2021 11:40 am

Lol yea Umezu makes the panel selection pretty easy in this one, what a nutty book. I came pretty close to av-ing Bobby the cactus too.

I have some earlier/minor Umezu to loop back to at some point but I think I've covered the major stuff that's been translated. I'd rank it something like this. Fourteen itself is so sprawling and uneven and singular that it's hard to figure out where it fits but this seems about right:

1. The Drifting Classroom

2. Left Hand of God, Right Hand of the Devil
3. Baptism
4. My Name Is Shingo

5. Fourteen

6. Orochi
7. Cat-Eyed Boy
8. Fear
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Postby HotFingersClub » Thu Mar 18, 2021 2:17 pm

Interesting, interesting. Orochi and Cat Eyed Boy are the only ones I'm really familiar with at this stage so looks like the only way is up
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Postby sevenarts » Mon Apr 05, 2021 10:00 am

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Sayonara Nippon / Her Memories by Katsuhiro Otomo
A couple of older short story collections from the creator of Akira and Domu. Sayonara Nippon collects some of Otomo's slice-of-life stories, quite distinct from the hard-hitting sci-fi he's most known for. Despite the creator's fame, I don't think this one is gonna get much attention anytime soon, as the multi-part title story is one of the most cringe-inducingly dated, racist, sexist, just all around casually offensive things I've read in a while. It's about poor Japanese immigrants living in a mostly black neighborhood in NYC. This is one of those obstensibly "socially conscious" stories where the intentions seem to be good, but the handling of the sensitive topics is so ham-fisted that instead of dealing with these issues the story winds up just committing all the offenses its author means to satirizes. Otomo's drawing is top-notch - razor-sharp cartooning with a great feel for caricature and motion - but can't redeem the story's jokey, clumsy handling of race, rape, and homelessness. Just for good measure, it all ends with a stinger about homosexuality that's meant to be commentary but again comes off as a non-sequitur gag. A tale of black jazz musicians visiting Japan skirts similarly sketchy territory but balances it a little better, and the other stories are mostly just forgettable. I did mildly enjoy the short lead tale, a charming sentimental piece about an old bar owner reliving her glory days as a beloved singer.

Her Memories is obviously the far better collection, though it covers an overlapping era of the late '70s and early '80s. It finds Otomo mainly more in his sci-fi comfort zone, and though nothing here is especially complex or original, it's a pleasure to see Otomo's rich, nuanced style applied to this stripped-down genre fare. The highlight is the Kubrickian title story, in which a spaceship crew find a mysterious gravity phenomenon that's sucking ruined ships into the shape of a rose, creating a museum-like crypt for a long-dead woman's memories. I also greatly enjoyed the brief "Flower," a post-apocalyptic Moebius riff that seems to have beaten Decadence Comics to the punch by 30 years. "Farewell to Weapons" is another highlight, a visceral action manga about a group of futuristic soldiers being decimated by a lone robot; here Otomo's precise, detailed linework is augmented by experiments with different types of coloring. "Fireball," an aborted story of psychic brothers fighting against a computer-run fascist state, is mostly interesting as an immediate forerunner to Otomo's most famous work, as he'd drop this to take on these themes better in Domu and Akira. The more comedic/satirical stories don't really work so well, and Otomo's unsubtle political sensibility can be grating. On the whole, though, this is a fantastic summary of a total master putting his all into these very basic genre forms, investing them with so much energy as a result.

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World Apartment Horror by Satoshi Kon
Continuing the Otomo theme in a way, the title story of this collection features Kon adapting an Otomo-directed movie into manga. "World Apartment Horror" is a weird tonal mish-mash, a half-goofy horror story in which a racist, anti-immigrant mob lackey tries to kick a bunch of Asian immigrants out of a rundown tenement so his bosses can build on the site. The polemical element, interestingly, feels quite intact from the Otomo collection reviewed above - good intentions, but handled with such a weird humorous tone that it winds up seeming borderline offensive. In the creepier supernatural moments, especially towards the end as things really start to break down, it's possible to imagine a much more straightforward horror take that lets Kon cut loose with some beautifully dreamlike images of the building twisting into creepy faces and trying to consume the inhabitants. I at least would have enjoyed much more of that. The collection also has 3 shorter pieces of which the best is "Visitors," in which a family moves into a beautiful new house that's haunted by spirits, which the parents stubbornly try to ignore even as their kids get traumatized. Even here the idea is so much stronger than the execution, which is a bit too light to really do justice to the story's themes of parental obliviousness. HFC previously wrote about Kon's Dream Fossil, which I think collects these 3 shorts and much more but not the title story here. I can already see from this small sampling that he's right on track regarding this work being pretty unsatisfying. It's all technically accomplished and well-crafted but pretty light on a personality of its own.

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Hotel Harbour View by Jiro Taniguchi & Natsuo Sekikawa
Very early Taniguchi with the artist firmly in noir mode, drawing 2 brisk Sekikawa tales about a stone-faced hitwoman. There's not much to love about the very formulaic noir stories, the pat dialogue, or the dumb ironic endings, so any pleasure here is just from seeing Taniguchi's square-jawed tough guys and leggy dames sulk through the urban wasteland pointing guns at each other. There's little violence or action, everything is mostly buildup, which suits Taniguchi just fine. The signature virtue here is the way he elongates and fixates on the moment when the guns are, eventually, actually fired: a bullet might take a few pages to inch towards its target, panel after panel, spiraling towards the victim's expectant face and then taking even longer to actually pass through the body once it hits. It's a weird violent refraction of the kind of attention to time that Taniguchi would demonstrate more memorably in his most famous contemplative works.

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Garouden by Jiro Taniguchi & Baku Yumemakura
Another '80s Taniguchi book, this one a fight manga about a bunch of burly dumbasses challenging each other to martial arts brawls for no reason other than proving who's the strongest. Apparently adapted from Yumemakura's novel, which keeps dragging this down - there are lots of narrative captions that read like they're quoting from the source text and are always unnecessary and distracting when paired with Taniguchi's imagery. This should have been near-silent, the better to contemplate Taniguchi's bulging meatheads, their faces blank, most of them nearly identical, seemingly without a thought between them other than bulking themselves up even more, training their muscles to take on the next challenger, and the one after that. The action feels very heavy and awkward, the fights far from graceful, instead balancing between martial arts, wrestling showmanship, and ragged street brawls. Most of the book consists of these extended multi-page confrontations: lumpen bodies twisted together, falling on top of each other and tangling limbs together, contorting into unnatural shapes. Taniguchi completely sells how unpleasant and painful it all must be. The lack of a point seems to be the point, as the book rather abruptly ends with a thought, a doubt, for the first time ever, passing idly through one of these buffoons' empty heads.
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Postby HotFingersClub » Tue Apr 06, 2021 5:21 am

A real probing of the flaws of some of the big dogs there, although I have to say I agree with most of your takes, at least where I'm familiar with the material. Hotel Harbour View is definitely not prime Taniguchi - there's an artist who's made a bunch of surprisingly boring books in an illustrious career. And the more I read of Kon, the more I feel like his manga rests on a foundation of solid draughtsmanship and reputation carried over from his films. It just feels like he has no zest or feel for manga

Never read the racist Otomo stuff, that's disappointing to hear. I was a big fan of "Her Memories" and "Farewell to Weapons" as well. The short film they made from "Memories" called Magnetic Rose is one of my favourite bits of anime, and clearly a big inspiration for Rosemary Valero-O'Connell's mini What is Left.
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Postby HotFingersClub » Tue Apr 06, 2021 8:51 am

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Royousuke Tomoe - Museum
A serial killer in a frog mask is stalking a rain-drenched Tokyo in this thriller from 2013. At a briskly-paced three volumes, this is one of those taut, propulsive experiences that manga sometimes offers up, reusing familiar beats cleanly and effectively. The most prominent reference point here seems to be Seven, both in the smaller details like the constant rain, and the overall trajectory, which involves an older detective and his younger counterpart who puts his job ahead of his family until he discovers the victims have a connection to his estranged wife. It’s hardly original, like I say, but still a fun read. Tomoe raises the tension effectively, draws it cleanly and professionally, and even the dialogue has a snappiness that I don’t usually associate with manga.
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Postby HotFingersClub » Tue Apr 06, 2021 8:53 am

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Eiji Nonaka - The Life and Times of an Idiot Section Chief
This is another sitcom comprised of very brief comic episodes from the creator of Cromartie High School, with the primary difference being that this is set in the world of office work, starring one of Nonaka’s classic stoic idiots, a man who everyone recognises as a complete liability, but who is somehow able to get by with a stern expression. Nonaka loves a character who repeats variations on the same joke, which works brilliantly with the extended cast of Cromartie, but much less well when it’s just one dumbo in an office. Not to say it’s bad – Nonaka is a brilliant writer of comedy, he’s just done much better in his time.
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Postby HotFingersClub » Tue Apr 06, 2021 8:55 am

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Satoshi Kon - Tropic of the Sea
Apropos of sevenart’s Kon post, I ticked off the last major section of his bibliography last week, and remain underwhelmed. This series from 1990 is an eco-fable about a humble Japanese fishing town purportedly protected by a mermaid. All is well until greedy developers start sizing up the town and start disrupting the ecosystem, whereupon nature retaliates with storms and floods, and it’s up to two teens – a boy and a girl – to convince the town that tradition and nature is more important than money. As with most of Kon’s manga (always, the disclaimer that I love his films) it works perfectly fine on a moment-by-moment basis – very solid art, dialogue, story beats – while the book as a whole still feels deeply uninspired and bland. The premise is obvious within the first ten pages, and it runs on rails for the whole book, up to and including the point where the evil industrialist kicks a dog in front of the whole town, thereby exposing his true nature. I also noticed that weird thing that Dream Fossil does, where Kon often uses a big crowd of characters in situations where one or two would make a lot more sense and presumably be easier to draw. My enjoyment of his animation is undiminished, but I have to accept that as a mangaka he has no distinctive voice.
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Postby HotFingersClub » Tue Apr 06, 2021 8:57 am

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Fumiko Takano - The Yellow Book
Fumiko Takano was recommended at the start of this thread and looked amazing to me, but it’s been difficult to track down her work in English. A few pages back I loved her one-shot Entryway, and now I’m finally getting to the only complete volume of hers that I’ve been able to find so far, this collection of shorts called The Yellow Book from 2002. It’s not really like anything I’ve read before, and pinpointing its appeal is very challenging, but I’m in love with her work. If you’re lucky enough to have seen Ramon Zurcher’s wonderful film The Strange Little Cat, this gives me the exact same feeling, otherwise I really have no reference points.

Primarily her stories are domestic, observational and deeply naturalistic, often experimental but in a really unshowy way that always foregrounds the realism rather than the formalism. The longer title story here follows a teenage girl obsessed with The Thibaults, a real-life multi-volume French novel sequence by Roger Martin du Gard. Michiko is in deep with the characters, charmingly talking to them as she reads, showing them her desk lamp and imagining them marvelling at the technology. As she immerses herself in the place and time she’s reading about, real life happens all around her: children playing, parents talking, people watching TV. There’s no peril though, no suggestion that she’s abandoning one reality for another, it’s just a study of small moments, often moments that have no reason to be there, like someone dropping a few grains of rice from their lunch. It expresses itself as this intricate, rewarding ballet of objects, people and occurrences, in the process seemingly getting closer than any other manga to the platonic ideal of “slice of life.” At the same time, the focus always comes back to Michiko and her book. As cheesy as it sounds, watching her read really got me excited about reading prose fiction again. Being with Michiko as she experiences this profound absorption and identification was a deep pleasure.

The other stories here are just as good, and often share a fleeting and ephemeral quality, possibly because of the way she in and out of stories seemingly as an observer rather than a director. Some, like a story that watches women in an office protecting each other from insensitive male colleagues, seem to have a larger message, while others might just spend time with a mother and her young son while they prepare for Christmas. Although I think Entryway is still the best story I’ve seen from her, this whole collection was on a similar level – really terrific stuff that has me wishing hard for more of her work in English. If anyone knows of anything else of hers out in the wild, please let me know. This can’t be the end!
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Postby HotFingersClub » Tue Apr 06, 2021 8:58 am

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Kazuo Umezu - Left Hand of God, Right Hand of the Devil
Sevenarts’ fantastic writeups of Umezu’s stuff got me hyped to see what I was missing, so I read the first volume of this series, “The Rusted Scissors” over the weekend, and can see it’s an immediate step up from the chapters of Orochi I’d been looking at intermittently. From the first page, it’s incredibly gnarly, kicking off with a dream in which rusted scissors explode out of a little girl’s eyes. From there it pretty much escalates continually, pushing hard at the boundaries of what’s been shown in manga with a series of ever more extreme scenarios. It’s easy to see where Ito gets his feeling for nightmares. There’s a bunch of points here where the intensity is just ramping up with hardly any rhyme or reason, like the scene where Sou’s sister is in the process of vomiting up seven entire skeletons and the walls of the building around her just start cracking and falling to pieces, seemingly from the sheer force of Umezu’s imagery. It’s really horror with the brakes off, incorporating whatever seems freakiest at any given moment, and you get the sense that Umezu only barely has time to throw the different elements into the shape of a narrative before the next thing comes along, resulting in a plot that twists wildly in your hands. Really fantastic, balls-out craziness. I’d love to read the rest of the series but mangadex is currently down indefinitely – Sevenarts did you grab cbr copies of this?
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Postby HotFingersClub » Tue Apr 06, 2021 8:59 am

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Ebine Yamaji - Love My Life
Finally, a single volume josei from 2001, this was very popular on release and eventually became a live action film. A young woman, Ichiko, is in her first lesbian relationship. Coming out to her father, she’s shocked to discover that both he and her dead mother were also gay, and only married each other from convenience so they could have a child together, while they both maintained separate romantic relationships. Following this revelation, the rest of the story ponders some pretty deep emotional issues: the nature of Ichiko’s parents’ love for each other, Ichiko’s love for her girlfriend Eri, which she feels transcends gender, and the importance of coming out and being true to yourself in a society where there’s no guarantee you’ll find acceptance for who you are. I don’t know a huge amount about queer representation in noughties Japan, but it seems that, even if there wasn’t much outright hostility, it was very little talked about, with seemingly no real equivalent to the Pride movements in the west that provided a context for celebrating homosexuality rather than simply ignoring it. In that respect, this book does what it needs to do, presenting complex, relatable and fulfilling gay relationships, often with a happy ending, although while it’s a landmark in that respect, I didn’t feel the same depth or personality I got out of something like Gengoroh Tagame’s My Brother’s Husband. Ultimately, it feels a little too conventional, and like there’s not much texture to it. Yamaji’s characters seem to exist only to have these important conversations, and outside those interactions the book doesn’t have a lot of atmosphere or personality. Even Yamaji’s artwork feels a little neutered – she draws thin, elegant women with big eyes in a similar aesthetic to Kyoko Okazaki, but turned towards good rather than evil. As a baseline josei and a cultural shifting point, it has something to offer, but by the standards of this thread it feels a little flat.
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Postby sevenarts » Tue Apr 06, 2021 9:46 am

Great writeups there. I'm glad you wrote about that Takano book, I finally found that recently as well after seeing her namechecked early on in this thread, you're definitely whetting my appetite to read that soon.

I'm especially glad you seem to have responded to "Rusted Scissors" as viscerally as I did. The rest of Left Hand of God, Right Hand of the Devil is good too, but that story especially is something really special, like you say it seems to be driven by just constant escalation and ever-increasing extremity, rarely bound by narrative logic in any real sense. I always like Umezu's storytelling best when he hits that tenor, when the story seems to be flying off the rails and there's just no way to even process what's happening anymore except to submerge oneself in the horror. It's such a pure nightmare approach to horror storytelling.

I'm currently uploading this whole series and a couple of other prime Umezu joints to the place, they'll be up shortly. I hope Mangadex comes back soon but I'm glad I happened to go on a major downloading spree in the month or so before it went down so I'm pretty stocked up on manga reading for a good long while.
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Postby HotFingersClub » Tue Apr 06, 2021 10:11 am

Awesome, thanks man. Perhaps this is a good time to remind readers of this thread that 95% of the stuff I post about, I read in cbr format. If you want a copy of any of it, just ask, I'm happy to upload
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Postby jca » Tue Apr 06, 2021 10:29 am

i love reading yalls thoughts on taniguchi
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Postby jca » Thu Apr 08, 2021 11:12 am

alright this might be a stretch, but while reading The Walking Man last night I couldnt stop comparing it to Yokoyama's New Engineering, especially the reed-carrying sequence. am i completely off the mark or are there some similarities?

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