Derik Badman's Journal

Content Tagged "Manga"

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2020-04-12 09:25

I finished up the fourth of the Berserk deluxe editions yesterday. (I wrote about the last volume back in December [2019-12-12], and it appears I typoed there and said I had read the fourth volume. It must have been the third.) In reading this part of the story a second time, I really noticed how this at least partially, like Vinland Saga, is offering a commentary on the "fight to the top" "follow your dreams" narrative so common in manga. I mentioned that in my previous post, but in this one it becomes more clearly a twist or even a critique. The one main character, Griffith, after suffering imprisonment and torture, is shown to be somehow fated to become some kind of demon thing (the mythology of this manga seems very ad hoc), and he is given a vision. He is trying to reach this castle up in the sky, and he realizes that the road to the castle is basically covered in corpses. He is (in the vision, literally at least) walking over the corpses, but the road doesn't reach the castle yet. To follow his dream, to fight to the top, he has to kill and sacrifice and literally do it over the death of people he knows. In this case, it becomes him sacrificing his band of mercenaries (who compromise the protagonists and most prominent secondary characters in the story). It's a creepy and powerful sequence, that turns a lot of the previous story about his dreams and ambitiions into something horrible.

My previous comments about some of the leering gaze of the manga, continues in this volume in a place or two, though also there is a really effective sex scene in this one between two of the protagonists that is a major narrative turning. It not only provides us with more information about the characters, their pasts, their feelings, but also, going forward, changes their actions and the actions of others as the story continues. Kentaro Miura, who often seems a little off with his character drawings, actually draws the female protagonist, who is one of the strongest fighters in the mercenary band, with a strongly muscled body, that is refreshingly different for fantasy/comics artwork. His style makes it a little over the top with the muscles, but that tracks with how he draws the male protagonist too.

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2020-03-17 08:25

I'm also still reading Yasuo Ohtagaki's Mobile Suit Gundam Thunderbolt now up to volume 13 in translation. I'm starting to lose interest in it, as it's been spending too long on what amounts to one long battle. This volume is most unusual though because it starts with a note about the art changing style in the middle. Ohtagaki is having issues with his drawing hand and thus had to loosen up his style so he could keep drawing. For the rest of the series it's been a very tight, mostly conventional manga style, but then halfway through this volume everything becomes looser, sketcher, more expressive. Some scenes have backgrounds and crowds of character almost abstractly scribbled in. It doesn't stay super loose as it is at first. It starts to tighten up more as it goes on, probably because a lot of readers found the change too drastic. I actually like it more.

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2020-02-26 08:22

Finished rereading the new edition of Taniguchi's Walking Man this week. This time around it's a hardcover edition with 3 extra stories and color pages, all now presented in right to left format. It's a bit of a disappointment. The color pages are lovely, but the three extra stories are odd fits. One doesn't feature the protagonist at all and seems more like something thrown in randomly. The other two are drawn in a different style and do seem to have the same protagonist or at least as best as one can say considering he is anonymous throughout and the stylistic change makes it harder to be sure he is the same character. The second of those is the weirdest one and the most offputting, as it features the character remembering an affair he had, while married, with another woman. The drawing for this one is darker and thicker, giving it more of a noir look (like some of Taniguchi's earlier work, I believe). Imagining this as the same character we see in the rest of the stories, a man who seems happy and gets along with his wife, is jarring at the end. It's like having a little pebble in your shoe when you take a walk. I think I'll choose to think of it as a different character.

More confusingly the new edition has no extratextual material. It doesn't even have the briefest of author biographies (Taniguchi's name appears on cover, spine, title page, and copyright notice, that's it). There is no introduction or afterward, nothing. The previous edition I had at least had a few paragraphs about the author and his work. It all seems like a missed opportunity. Regardless, it is still a comic I quite love.

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2020-01-26 08:06

Found out via a mostly unrelated search that Tokyopop has been putting out an English edition of Kozue Amano's Aria, the Aria: The Masterpiece edition. They are already four volumes out, which gets the manga as far as they published last time they tried to release it. Apparently the popularity of the anime boosted its profile enough. I guess I'm not following the right sources to have missed for so long that they were releasing these. I, of course, ordered all 4 right away. They seem fairly well done. They maintain the color pages (which the older English editions did not), and are packing 2 regular volumes into one, including the volumes from when it was called Aqua. There is no back material or even the little side stories and humorous commentaries from Amano included though which is a bit of a disappointment. No real extra content at all. Just the manga pages, a table of contents, and a copyright page. Pretty no frills, but at a larger size than before. Happy to be reading the series again, as it's always been a favorite, simple, charming, a bit melancholy at times. Hopefully they will actually get through the whole series (7 volumes in this edition) this time. I've only read the later volumes in old scanlations.

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2020-01-23 08:43

Watched the anime Miss Hokusai (2015) in bits and pieces over the past few days on Netflix. It's an episodic story, so it actually wasn't too bothersome to stop it between scenes and come back to the next scene later in the day or the next day. Based on a manga, which I have not read but am curious to see, by Hinako Sigiura, it is a historical fiction about O-Ei, daughter of the famous artist Hokusai, herself an artist. She lives with him and another (male) student in Edo. The movie is a variety of episodes from her perspective as she interacts with different people, makes art, and cares for her younger blind sister. It's a quiet anime, interspersed with nature and simple interactions, but also punctuated by mythological fantasies that all seem to be drawn from work by Hokusai (at least the ones that I recognized). The animation is nice though it is occasionally marred by the use of computer 3d imagery to show movement through the landscape (through the streets, under a bridge) that are just a little too stiff and digital to work with the softer animation used for the characters. It always threw me out of the moment when those scenes occurred. I have no concept about the historical reality of the protagonist (though she did exist) nor how the movie relates to the manga.

I enjoyed it, especially scenes between O-Ei and the younger blind sister, where O-Ei describes their surroundings to her, or they discuss the input of her other senses (the sounds and smells, the feel of snow).

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2019-12-22 07:49

Anyway... just started and finishing reading Kenji Tsuruta's Emanon vol.3 that showed up last night. I'm going to be writing about it and two other manga I just got for a Comics Journal article, so I guess I won't say much now. I started taking notes as I read (finding the voice-to-text good for that), which I am trying to be better at.

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2019-12-12 17:11

I finished up the fourth volume of Kentaro Miura's Berserk deluxe edition this morning. I don't think I've written anything about this manga before. I read a bunch of volumes last year when there was a really cheap sale on the ebook version, and then these deluxe editions started coming out so I never finished the series in the electonic version. These are nice black hardcovers, slightly larger then normal, collecting three of the regular volumes.

Berserk is dark fantasy of a very manga sort. It is not really interested in world building, throughout the volumes I've read I never had any sense of geography or society. There is a lot of generic pseudo-medieval backgrounds, but one never gets a sense of anything specific beyond the few characters that are required. There are undifferentiated kingdoms at war, and various leaders how mostly all seem awful, and generic peasants in the background.

It's also very human centric for fantasy. There's one elf, who is more like a fairy, and there are demons, crazy, weird, awful, creepy demons that seem to grow in variety as the story continues.

There's really no epic quest (to the point I've read), rather, like many manga, it has a lot of focus (at least in the early parts) on characters and their "be the best at a thing" (fighting) and their "dreams". But unlike a general "fight to the top" storyline this one is filled with creepiness and horror and a sense that the dreams of the different characters are in direct conflict.

The first section of the manga, also like many manga, is a little different, generic, kind of confusing. But then it jumps back in time (narratively, the characters don't time travel), and the story really picks up. At the point I've read the story hasn't returned to that first point in time. I kind of wonder if it ever does, or if that first section is written off as a kind of trial run, first draft. One thing I've learned in reading manga, is often the first volume and the second volume are dramatically different in one way or another as the creators and editors seemingly react to serialization and make changes to the concept. It can make it hard to make any judgemenets based on one volume (great for sales I guess), as I've read a few manga where the first volume was lackluster but I ended up really enjoying the rest of the series. Berserk is one of those cases.

One thing that bothers me about the manga is it's occasionally leering gaze. This volume of the deluxe edition, for instance, has a creepy scene where the decrepid king (who the protagonists are currently working for) basically molests his daughter (she's an older teen I guess). It's awful and the king is not drawn with any sympathy for his actions, yet, the daughter is also drawn in such a way that she is sexualized and perhaps shown a little too much from the view of the king, in a way that is uncomfortable on a meta level.

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2019-10-25 08:04

I reread the first volume of Akira over the past week or so. For some reason it got stuck in my head to read it again, so I picked up a copy of the first volume. Long ago I had all the old Epic color issues. I discovered that series when it was still coming out regularly, but only shortly before it started appearing increasingly less frequent. I'm not sure what was going on behind the scenes, but sometimes it was like half a year before the next issue would appear. At some point a number of years back I sold the whole set on ebay for a chunk of money.

There is a certain allure to these sci-fi action manga, and I'm sure some of it is an element of nostalgia for me. At the time it felt so different than everything else (back then, manga was still pretty new to the American comics scene), but now it feels a little empty. Otomo's (and his assistants one assumes) art is dynamic and detailed but the story is primarily (in the first volume at least) a bunch of extended action scenes. Almost all the characters are rather one dimensional and there is a total of one female character who appears in more than one scene (and she mostly remains opaque as far as who she is or what she is up to). I can't help but compare it to Shirow's Appleseed another sci-fi manga I first read about the same time and find it lacking in comparison. The latter is a very similar genre (near future sci-fi action), but is a lot more character driven, though, again, I only read the first volume of Akira so maybe it changes as it goes on, I only remember the broader outlines of the story. But I'm not convinced I'll keep rereading. If I want to reread manga I've certainly got a number of other options laying around already (like Lone Wolf & Cub).

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2019-09-23 08:13

Reread That Miyoko Asagayo Feeling last night. It's a new collection of Shinichi Abe manga from Blackhook Press. The manga all date from the early to mid 70's. I have a French edition of Abe's work Un Gentil Garcon and all but one of these stories are in that translation. Like many of the manga marketed as "gekiga" in English translation, Abe published in the magazine Garo, and like many of those artists his work is autobiographical or semi-autobiographical.

Stylistically, many of these stories rely on photo reference (per tha back matter), which gives them a really interesting look. Dense panels with a lot of lines, texture, and blacks, especially in the earliest stories. In some of the other stories we see him drawing with less reference in a looser cartoony style. I find I like the photo referenced style a lot more, and it's what really draws me to these comics. It can be stiff, but it also feels like it fits the content better and makes the stories stand out from a lot of other similar manga. Photo referencing is often done really bad, but I feel like Abe somehow goes beyond the norm.

One tactic Abe takes in a few of the stories is to write from his girlfriend/wife's perspective. In some of the stories she is the narrator, and in others there is a least a shift to her perspective at different points. I can't help but wonder about what she thought of this (they did stay together for a very long time), and how much the stories are him projecting thoughts and feelings onto her and how much they are him... not so much transcribing, but... bringing her actual feelings to the story. The profusion of images of her naked and images of their sex life (explicit for a comic of this sort, but not exactly porn-y) add to my questions, clearly she participated in the taking of the photos for reference, but one can't help but wonder about her thoughts about it all.

The longest story in the collection, "Love", is one of those in the looser cartoony style, but it has a lot of dynamic brush work, lines going everywhere. It partially takes place in the lead up and during a typhoon, and the line work is like the wind and rain rushing about in all directions, in a way that is really effective.

In the end, I find Abe's work a lot more visually dynamic and narratively interesting than some of his contemporaries, like Tatsumi. One wonders why, amongst all the other manga translated, we hadn't yet seen work by Abe in English.

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2019-08-29 08:14

Yesterday also saw the arrival of Emanon vol 2. a manga adaptation by Kenji Tsuruta of a sci-fi novel by Shinji Kajio. I read this (and its predecessor) in scanlation years ago, and now Dark Horse is finally publishing the series. The protagonist is a woman who has all the memories of her ancestors all the way back to the beginning of life on Earth. It's an interesting concept, that is here downplayed as a slow introspective manga. Tsuruta's drawing is lovely. He's primarily an illustrator who has done a handful of manga, but unlike many illustrators he can make a readable comic with sequences and layouts. He does have this tick where all his manga (that I've seen) have a young female protagonist who basically looks exactly the same. Emanon, the woman in this manga, looks almost identical to the protagonist of his Wandering Island and some other manga I read of his in scanlation. It's like he really just loves to draw this one woman (and he seems to like to draw her naked a lot too, though always in non-sexual situations). This second volume of the manga, in contrast to the first, takes on Emanon's point of view and opens it up to a little more knowledge about her origin and feelings. It's more effective than the first volume which was narrated by a young man who met her, thus leaving her a lot more opaque and seeming like some idealized fantasy than an person with an unusual history. This volume also has a long color section in the beginning (70+ pages) that shows off Tsuruta's watercolor skills in coloring his drawings. Curious to see where vol. 3 goes as my scanlations only covered the first two volumes.

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2019-08-21 08:16

A few comics showed up in the mail yesterday, and I already read two of them. Since it was date night, I had time in between work and dinner to read Go with the Clouds North-by-Northwest v.2 by Aki Irie. I'm still fascinated and a bit confused by this manga. The second volume starts off with a very brief mention of what seems like an important event that happened between volumes. Then it's never mentioned again for the rest of the book. The whole storyline about the protagonist being some kind of detective (or at least finder of lost things) also completely disappears as pretty much the whole volume is spend on him having a friend visit from Japan and them going around Iceland doing touristy activities. The author works in a bunch of pedantic moments with diagrams and a lot of wonderful scenery drawings. It's almost like a whole volume that is an aside to the main narrative, except, with only two volumes to compare, it could also just be a total 180 in what the main narrative of this series is. I'm excited to see where volume 3 goes. I'm also considering writing up a longer review of the two volumes to see if The Comics Journal would be interested, since I've not made any progress on the article I did pitch to them.

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2019-08-15 08:10

Finished one of my other recent manga purchases yesterday, Ryuko vol.1 by Eldo Yoshimizu. This bills itself as a kind of sexy crime thriller and has an evocative cover (with some beautiful blue watercolor that is both a woman's long flowing hair and the lengthened shadow of her and her motorcycle), but inside it is confusing yet simplistic mess. Yoshimizu is an artist (illustration and sculpture mostly it seems) coming to manga for the first time, and that really shows. While there are a number of large illustration-like images in the book that are attractive and skillfully done, the actual pages and panels and action scenes are a mess. The art frequently has a scribbly, hatching, loose style that could be really interesting if it weren't constantly falling into murkiness (often from an overuse of dark tone), lack of clarity, and what looks like generally laziness. A number of the action scenes and settings were completely incomprehensible with a general overuse of speed lines. Characters were not always easy to differentiate or identify, and the story in general is repetitive and banal (lots of girls with father issues). This also has that ridiculous thing where while there are secondary characters prancing around in bikinis (one in a cowboy hat and boots) and clearly the book is to some extent selling itself with sexy women, when there is a completely unnecessary (to the plot) scene of the protagonist in the bath, her hair strategically covers her nudity.

A lot of hallmarks artistically of an illustrator doing a comic. I'll be skipping volume 2.

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2019-08-12 08:09

My other ready yesterday was Go with the Clouds North-by-Northwest vol.1, a manga by Aki Irie. The genre falls squarely into a mix of manga tropes: teens, detectives, mysterious powers, mysterious girl. The protagonist is an older teen who can talk to inanimate objects (smartly, the author doesn't show us what the objects say). He's Japanese but living in Iceland, which gives the author the chance to show some Icelandic landscapes, though so far not much else feels particularly specific to the settings. I'm intrigued enough so far, because many of the tropes are used in a restrained way (like that mysterious power), and I quite like the art, the landscapes, the use of hashing, and admittedly the bit of fanservice is nice too.

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2019-08-11 11:25

Finished up vol. 11 of Mobile Suit Gundam: Thunderbolt this morning, I continue to enjoy the series as entertainment, though it is not particularly deep. I appreciate that despite the mecha heavy book dressing (I don't think the covers ever show any of the characters) the plot is more about the characters than the fighting robots. I don't think I have much more to say about it than I have already in the past.

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