My Week in Manga: March 14-March 20, 2016

My News and Reviews

I managed to post two in-depth manga reviews at Experiments in Manga last week, though it looks like I’ll only be posting one this coming week since taiko will be keeping me pretty busy with a number of different performances and related events. Inio Asano’s A Girl on the Shore was the first manga that I reviewed last week. Like the rest of Asano’s work that I’ve read, it can be emotionally intense and hard-hitting at times, but it’s very well done. As part of my monthly horror manga review project, last week I also took a look Mushishi, Volumes 8, 9, and 10, the final installment in the English-language release of Yuki Urushibara’s award-winning debut. Although I’ve reached the end of the series proper, I’m planning on at least more Mushishi-related post before I’m through.

Elsewhere online: The BBC has an interesting piece on Keiko Takemiya—The godmother of manga sex in Japan. Rokudenashiko was interviewed by the Anne Ishii of MASSIVE about controversial art and free speech. Otaku USA posted an interview with translator and scholar Frederik L. Schodt about his work and Osamu Tezuka. An interview with Steve Oliff, the colorist who worked on Marvel’s release of Katsuhiro Otomo’s Akira, was posted at Anime News Network. In licensing news, Dark Horse has picked up the Psycho-Pass: Inspector Shinya Kogami manga written by Midori Goto and illustrated by Natsuo Sai. Finally, the Skip Beat! crowdfunding effort that I mentioned a couple weeks ago has moved from Indiegogo to Kickstarter.

Quick Takes

Dream Fossil: The Complete Stories of Satoshi KonDream Fossil: The Complete Stories of Satoshi Kon by Satoshi Kon. Compiling fifteen of Kon’s short manga from between 1984 and 1989, as well as an essay by Susumu Hirasawa (which was a pleasant surprise), Dream Fossil is a somewhat peculiar volume which will probably be of most interest to Kon enthusiasts although other readers may find parts of it appealing as well. As is the case with so many collections, some stories are much stronger than others. Some of the unevenness can likely be attributed to the fact that Dream Fossil consists of Kon’s early works in which his narrative techniques were still being refined and developed. I actually found myself frustrated with some of the stories because they read less like manga and more like a storyboard or broad outline for a more involved work; some of the stories and ideas seem like they would have been better conveyed through animation rather than sequential art. Even so, as a whole I did enjoy Dream Fossil. While the storytelling itself was sometimes weak, the underlying concepts and imagery were great.

Master Keaton, Volume 2Master Keaton, Volumes 2-4 written by Hokusei Katsushika and Takashi Nagasaki and illustrated by Naoki Urasawa. It’s been some time since I read the first volume of Master Keaton, but being a fairly episodic series without much of an overarching story it wasn’t at all difficult to fall right back into the manga. I first picked up Master Keaton because of Urasawa’s involvement with the manga. This is still a major draw for me, but I continue to read the series because I genuinely enjoy the stories and characters. Keaton is sent all over the world to investigate a wide range of cases, so there’s plenty of variety in the manga’s stories as well. Although the series’ drama, action and adventure is certainly engaging, I especially like the chapters that take advantage of Keaton’s archaeological and academic interests.  Master Keaton, while fictionalized, makes use of actual people, places, and events, which I like. (I’ve even learned a few factual tidbits from the manga.) Occasionally the series does get bogged down in historical details that don’t necessarily further the story, though.

The Tipping PointThe Tipping Point edited by Alex Donoghue and Tim Pilcher. Published as part of the fortieth anniversary celebrations of the comics publisher Humanoids, The Tipping Point collects thirteen short works from creators influenced by Japanese, Franco-Belgian, and American comics traditions. The anthology specifically caught my attention due to the mangaka involved—Taiyo Matsumoto, Atsushi Kaneko, Naoki Urasawa, Keiichi Koike, and Katsuya Terada—although the European and American creators are notable in their own right. (Sadly, though the collection touts its own innovation and diversity, only male creators are represented, something that is quickly glossed over in the introduction.) I greatly enjoyed the individual comics which range in subject, genre, and tone, but as a collection The Tipping Point seems to be missing a sense of cohesiveness and context. In the end, I was left wondering why these particular creators and why these particular works were selected to be brought together. Perhaps the theme of a “tipping point” was simply too vague or broad.

Tropic of the Sea

Tropic of the SeaCreator: Satoshi Kon
U.S. publisher: Vertical
ISBN: 9781939130068
Released: September 2013
Original release: 1990

Satoshi Kon is probably best known as a phenomenal writer and director of anime, especially in the West, but he started his career working in manga. Tropic of the Sea, serialized in Young Magazine in 1990, was Kon’s first long-form manga. Vertical’s release of the English-language edition of Tropic of the Sea in 2013 marks the first, and hopefully not the last, of Kon’s manga to be translated into the language. The volume also includes an afterword by Kon excerpted from the ninth anniversary edition of Tropic of the Sea published in Japan in 1999. Vertical’s edition of Tropic of the Sea is actually based on an even later Japanese release of the manga from 2011. Already a fan of Kon’s work in anime, I was thrilled when Tropic of the Sea was licensed. I was even more excited for the manga’s release when I saw the absolutely gorgeous and captivating cover. Added to that the manga’s focus on legends and the sea and I was sold.

For generations, the small fishing village of Ade has been blessed by calm seas and bountiful catches. This good fortune has been attributed to a promise made between a mermaid and a priest—the village receives protection and in return he will worship the sea and care for the mermaid’s egg for sixty years before returning it to begin the cycle anew. But times are changing and very few people believe the old legend to actually be true. Yosuke Yashiro’s family is responsible for guarding the egg and its shrine, but his father does the unthinkable and reveals the secret of its existence to the world. The sacred relic has now become a draw for tourists, only the most recent example of the increased commercialization of Ade. Although there have been some good things to come from the village’s development, many people are upset with the extent of the changes that have been made and what they may be losing in exchange.

At first the pacing of Tropic of the Sea is fairly leisurely, appropriate for a story that takes place in a quiet seaside village, but as the manga progresses the pace steadily quickens. The role that Ozaki, Ade’s most prominent commercial developer, plays as the manga’s villain is somewhat predictable—desiring the mermaid’s egg for his own purposes while claiming to be interested in the good of humanity—but he does have slightly more to him than first appears. One of the greatest things about Tropic of the Sea from beginning to end is Kon’s artwork. A tremendous amount of attention has been give to the backgrounds and landscapes, granting the manga a very real sense of place which is crucial for the story. The illustrations also convey a feeling of mystery and wonder, awe and foreboding, surrounding the mermaids and the sea. Some of the scenes involving water are simply stunning, the realism strikingly rendered. The artwork in Tropic of the Sea is wonderful.

What impressed me the most about Tropic of the Sea, though, is how subtly complex and deceptively simple the narrative is for such a short work. Thematically, Tropic of the Sea has many overlapping layers and the story can be viewed through a number of different lenses. Tropic of the Sea explores generational dissonance, familial disputes, the values of modernity and tradition, the tension between science and religion and skepticism and belief, the human struggle both with and against nature, the power of legends and their impact on reality. (And that’s just to name a few of the many elements in play.) Any of these aspects of Tropic of the Sea can be focused on individually but they are all interconnected and influence one another to form an engaging story with a surprising amount of depth. Out of the various conflicts portrayed, no one side is ever entirely in the right. I enjoyed Tropic of the Sea a great deal. It may be an earlier work, but Kon’s talent was already evident.

As Seen Online

As most people have probably heard by now, phenomenal director, writer, and animator Satoshi Kon passed away on August 24, 2010 from pancreatic cancer. I’ve only seen two of his films—Millennium Actress and his directorial debut Perfect Blue—both of which were frickin’ fantastic and I really need to see more of his work. He will be greatly missed. (Post from Anime News Network)

There are two posts from Deb Aoki over at Manga that I want to point out. First is the 2010 Comic-Con Best and Worst Manga Panel. It lists the manga mentioned during the panel and includes commentary and links. Fairly short, but definitely entertaining, you’ll find the best and worst manga from 2009-2010, the most anticipated releases, and manga that the panelists would like to see licensed in English. I recognized quite a few of the titles and learned about more. The second post is the transcript of her interview with Felipe Smith. Smith is the creator of Peepo Choo, perhaps one of the most contentious manga that I’ve seen released recently. People seem to either love it or hate it, but either way the interview is great.

Dave Walsh is running a cool series at The Manga Curmudgeon and is making his way through The Seinen Alphabet, commenting on magazines and individual seinen titles. He’s made it up to F so far.

Over at Manga Bookshelf, Melinda Beasi and Michelle Smithtake a quick look at some boys’ love/yaoi titles recently released by Blu and Digital Manga with BL Bookrack: August Mix, including the first volume of Mika Sadahiro’s Under Grand Hotel (which should be arriving in my mailbox soon).

I have been trying for quite some time now to get my hands on a copy of the first volume of AX: Alternative Manga, but it seems to be on backorder everywhere I look. In the meantime, TFWA has an interview with Sean Michael Wilson, the editor of the book: Sean Michael Wilson Introduces Us to AX Alternative Manga.