Previews review June 2011

All right, now that the polling is underway, let’s take a look at the sure bets in the current edition of Diamond’s Previews catalog. Will start with the exciting and/or noteworthy debuts:

Velveteen & Mandala, written and illustrated by Jiro (Freesia) Matsumoto, Vertical, item code JUN11 1294: A Vertical debut is always worth noting, and this one looks intriguingly odd. It portrays a pair of teen-age girls struggling against the zombie apocalypse when they aren’t fending off the totally worse thread of boredom. The single-volume series originally ran in Ohta Shuppan’s Manga Erotics F, an unpredictable but always promising source. I believe this is Matsumoto’s English-language debut.

Habibi, written and illustrated by Craig Thompson, Pantheon, item code JUN11 1212: Have I mentioned lately that I’ve never mustered the energy to finish Thompson’s Blankets? I found what I’ve read of it to be hopelessly mopey and overwritten, though undeniably easy on the eyes. But it’s always worth noting when Thompson releases a new brick, because it happens so rarely. This time, he “explores and celebrates the beauty and cruelty, the complexity and depths of the Islamic world.” Set your phasers on “Gush.”

Animal Land vol. 1, written and illustrated by Makoto (Zatch Bell) Raiku, Kodansha Comics, item code JUN11 1169: I’m succumbing to the adorability of the cover and the premise. An orphaned raccoon dog finds an abandoned human child and decides to raise it in a world occupied only by animals. Zatch Bell had some deeply hideous and unsettling character designs and a cripplingly annoying anime adaptation, so those are points of concern, but I’m game for a volume or two. The series originally ran in Kodansha’s Bessatsu Shônen.

Moving on to the “offered again” category:

  • Korea as Viewed by 17 Creators, by various, Fanfare/Ponent Mon, item code JUN11 1123: Curious about this Eisner-nominated anthology? This is probably one of your better shots at scoring a copy.
  • Gon vol. 1, written and illustrated by Masashi Tanaka, Kodansha Comics, item code JUN11 1172: In case you missed these insanely kinetic, wordless comics about a baby dinosaur the first couple of times they were released.
  • Carnet de Voyage, written and illustrated by Craig Thompson, Top Shelf, item code JUN11 1246: This collection of travel stories is the Thompson comic I’d enthusiastically recommend.

And, lastly, new volumes of ongoing series that particularly catch my eye:

  • Sayonara, Zetsubou-Sensei vol. 10, written and illustrated by Koji Kumeta, Kodansha Comics, item code JUN11 1176: So glad Kodansha is picking up this hilarious, unsparing satire.
  • Amelia Rules! Vol. 7, The Meaning of Life… and Other Stuff, written and illustrated by Jimmy Gownley, Simon & Schuster, item code JUN11 1239: Wonderfully observant comics about a spunky, imaginative middle-schooler and her friends.
  • Butterflies, Flowers vol. 8, written and illustrated by Yuki Yoshihara, Viz Media, item code JUN11 1275: Probably a guilty pleasure, and one I’m a bit behind on, but I always get some quality cringing chuckles out of this series.
  • Kimi ni Todoke: From Me to You vol. 10, written and illustrated by Karuho Shiina, Viz Media, item code JUN11 1278: A joyous deconstruction, subversion and celebration of shôjo tropes.
  • House of Five Leaves vol. 4, written and illustrated by Natsue Ono, Viz Media, item code JUN11 1291: The best of Ono’s works to be published in English so far, which is saying something.

What’s on your wish list?


Random Sunday question: alternatives

There’s been some lively discussion of reactions to the Ax anthology from Top Shelf (and here’s the solicitation for the second volume), which inspired this weekend’s query. What I’m  basically wondering is what three titles in the pile of manga you’ve read do you consider alternative? I ask this with the understanding that everyone’s tastes in comics are different and that “alternative” is an entirely relative term as a result.

Since I’m using Ax as a baseline, I’ll leave it off of my list, which consists of:

What are your choices?

For your 2011 Eisner consideration

Submissions are being accepted for the 2011 Eisner Awards! I enjoyed cobbling a list of suggested manga nominations last year, so I thought I’d try again.

There could be a number of Japanese works that make it into the Best Short Story category, as both Fantagraphics and Top Shelf published highly regarded collections of short manga. If forced to pick just one story from Moto Hagio’s A Drunken Dream and Other Stories, I think it would have to be “Hanshin/Half-God.” There’s a lot of terrific work in Top Shelf’s AX anthology, but the one that keeps coming to mind would have to be Akino Kondo’s “The Rainy Day Blouse & the First Umbrella.”

Whether or not any Japanese titles show up in the Best Continuing Comic Book Series category is always kind of a crap shoot. If one shows up, there’s a good chance it’s probably by Naoki Urasawa, so I wouldn’t be surprised or at all displeased if we saw 20th Century Boys or Pluto (Viz) in this roster. I would be surprised and delighted if we saw that stalwart, The Kurosagi Corpse Delivery Service (Dark Horse), written by Eiji Otsuka and illustrated by Housui Yamazaki, take a slot. The same goes for Eiichiro Oda’s One Piece (Viz), which experienced a big push this year and put Oda’s multifaceted gifts on flattering display.

The Best New Series category is tricky for similar reasons. You never know how they’ll define the category, and, hey, it’s not like the rest of the comics industry is hurting for good new titles. But if they want to mix it up with some newly launched (here, at least) manga series, here are four they might consider:

  • Twin Spica (Vertical), Kou Yaginuma’s heartfelt examination of a school for astronauts
  • Bunny Drop (Yen Press), Yumi Unita’s observant take on single fatherhood
  • House of Five Leaves (Viz), Natsume Ono’s alluring tale of an unemployed samurai who falls in with the right/wrong crowd
  • Cross Game (Viz), Mitsuru Adachi’s coming-of-age baseball drama.
  • Technically speaking, neither of the following titles was originally conceived of for kids, but I have no problem putting them forward as likely candidates for the Best Publication for Kids category. Konami Kanata’s Chi’s Sweet Home (Vertical) is charming and funny, and it offers a point-by-point run-through of the responsibilities of pet ownership, which is a great thing to hand a kid. Very few people don’t like Kiyohiko Azuma’s Yotsuba&! (Yen Press) for the simple reasons that it’s hysterically funny and wide open to just about anyone who cares to read it. It’s the kind of book that I think people want to read with the kids in their lives, which is certainly an enticement for voters.

    If there’s a category that’s hard to pin down, it would probably be Best Publication for Teens, partly because I don’t think teens really like being told “We know you’ll like this.” So I’ll go with two that are rated “Teen,” because I’m lazy like that. Cross Game has pretty much everything you could ask for from a coming-of-age novel: joy, sorry, confusion, comedy, great characters, and completely recognizable slices of life. Yuki Midorikawa slices up a more supernatural life with Natsume’s Book of Friends (Viz), but it has hearts and smarts in common with Adachi’s baseball comic.

    Not much has changed as far as my Best Humor Publication recommendations go, at least in relation to Koji Kumeta’s Sayonara Zetsubou-Sensei (Del Rey). The aforementioned Yotsuba&! is routinely one of the funniest comics I read, and Kiminori Wakasugi’s Detroit Metal City (Viz) has a lot of vulgar high points.

    Unless there’s some utterly arcane bit of rules of which I’m unaware, there’s no reason on Earth for AX not to snag a Best Anthology nomination. It’s everything an anthology or collection is supposed to be, isn’t it? Purposeful, varied, significant, with bonus points for being frequently entertaining and nicely produced.

    Nominees in the Best Archival Collection apparently need to focus on work that’s at least 20 years old, so I suspect that might disqualify A Drunken Dream and Other Stories, but there’s plenty of material to choose from. Osamu Tezuka’s Ayako (Vertical) is perhaps not my favorite of his works, but there’s always Black Jack from the same publisher. There’s also Yoshihiro Tatsumi’s Black Blizzard (Drawn & Quarterly), which offers a worthwhile glimpse into his earlier, long-form works.

    Best U.S. Edition of Foreign Material — Asia opens its own can of worms for me in terms of recommendation, because what I’d suggest would depend on what’s nominated elsewhere. I’m always for spreading the wealth, if possible. Assuming there’s an absence of comics from Japan in the other categories, I’d say these five are essential, though: A Drunken Dream an Other Stories (Fantgraphics), AX (Top Shelf), Bunny Drop (Yen Press), Twin Spica (Vertical), and Cross Game (Viz).

    It’s unfortunate that the Best Writer/Artist categories are divided into Humor and Drama, because the greats balance both. I would love to see Fumi Yoshinaga nominated, possibly in the humor side of the equation. Still, her year included All My Darling Daughters (Viz), new volumes of Ôoku: The Inner Chambers (Viz), and Not Love But Delicious Foods Make Me So Happy (Yen Press), which seems like a perfectly reasonable excuse to nominate her for an award she’s deserved for years. I’d feel fairly secure in placing Moto Hagio in the Drama category, since that is the essential nature of the short stories collected in A Drunken Dream and Other Stories. They aren’t entirely void of humor, but…

    Chi’s Sweet Home’s qualifications for Best Publication Design may not be immediately obvious, but the care with which its reading orientation was flipped and color was added to each page are worth noting, especially in the ways that they opened the book up to a larger audience. There seem to be a lot of gorgeous, immense package jobs this year, slip-cased volumes that you could use as an ottoman, and there’s some snazzy design for books that doesn’t really enhance the actual comic in question, but the design for Chi’s Sweet Home served the product and was subtly beautiful at the same time. [Update: I’m reliably informed that the book was in color before it was flipped and translated.] The cover designs for 7 Billion Needles were perhaps less cumulative work, but their style and texture are real winners.

    What did I miss? What books and creators would you recommend for Eisner consideration?


    To celebrate Thanksgiving in the laziest way possible, I thought I would mention some ongoing comics that debuted (if only in print and in English) in 2010 so far for which I am grateful. And there’s still more than a month left.

    And here are some stand-alone works that made the year sparkle.

    The manga industry may be correcting itself, but we’re still getting great books, don’t you think? The images above are all linked to commentary of varying lengths. And added thanks to everyone who makes the comics blogosphere and twitterverse such a delightful place to visit.

    Upcoming 11/10/2010

    It’s one of those neat ComicList weeks where all kinds of interesting comics from throughout the space-time continuum are due to land.

    Sean (A Case Suitable for Treatment) Gaffney tweeted about this book, and it has a definite allure for me as a person who read a lot of Archie comics in the back seat of the station wagon on long drives to various vacation destinations during his childhood. It’s Dark Horse’s Archie Firsts collection, which promises “first issues, first appearances, and other milestones, collected for the first time in one hardcover volume!”

    I was a huge fan of Scott Chantler’s Northwest Passage (Oni Press), so it would stand to reason that I should pick up a copy of his Two Generals (McClelland and Stewart), which promises “poignant graphic memoir that tells the story of World War II from an Everyman’s perspective.” I’m not a history buff, per se, but Chantler is phenomenally talented.

    The first volume of Lars Martinson’s Tōnoharu (Top Shelf) was very intriguing, so I’m looking forward to Martinson’s second look at a fish out of water teaching English in rural Japan.

    Erica (Okazu) Friedman is crazy about Hayate X Blade (Seven Seas), written and illustrated by Shizuru Hayashiya, and that’s reason enough to seriously consider the purchase of the first omnibus collection of the series.

    And I am crazy about Kou Yaginuma’s Twin Spica (Vertical), and I would never consider delaying in the purchase of the fourth volume. This is easily one of the great series debuts of 2010.

    What looks good to you?

    AXed transcript, part two

    Here’s the second part of a transcript of a Twitter discussion on Top Shelf’s AX anthology of alternative manga held Friday, Sept. 24 and tracked by the hashtag #AXed.

    Participants are:

  • MangaCur: Me
  • Debaoki: Deb (About.Com) Aoki
  • Snubpollard: Jog (Jog – the Blog) Mack
  • aicnanime: Scott (Ain’t it Cool News Anime) Green
  • remoteryan: Ryan (Same Hat!) Sands
  • And some pop-ins along the way. Thanks to Deb for assembling this transcript and for rounding up some AX-related links.

    I’m going to put this after the jump, because it’s really long and there are many spoilers along the way. So be warned! Also, be warned that I didn’t clean this transcript up, because it’s a Twitter conversation and I’m too lazy. I think it reads just fine as is. I did add some images, as I think it gives you a sense of the book’s scale and range.

    debaoki fair warning peeps: i’ll be tweeting w/ the #AXed hashtag soon, as part of a discussion ’bout AX: Alternative Manga v. 1 fr. @topshelfcomix, if you’d like to follow along w/ the #AXed discussion, this is the book we’ll be talking about

    MangaCur So who’s all up for some additional #AXed conversation?

    snubpollard @MangaCur I just really hope nobody craps on anyone’s head in these comics. That would be really psychologically damaging to me.

    MangaCur @snubpollard We all have our “clutch the pearls” threshold, which, I’m guessing, was not crossed by “Haiku Manga: Robo and Pyuta,” by Shinbo Minami.

    debaoki @snubpollard @Mangacur I think we already passed my gag reflex barrier with the p*nis-headed sushi chef a few stories back.

    “Haiku Manga – Robo & Pyuta” by Shinbo Minami

    debaoki “Robo & Pyuta” is actually kind of light and sweet — the child asks the kind of questions kids ask about God. Robo & Pyuta is a nice continuation of the zen theme of the story that immediately preceded it — but was more approachable.

    MangaCur Regarding “Robo and Pyuta,” I think every indie anthology needs a story or two like this… minimalist, gentle…

    snubpollard “Haiku Manga” – Hm, already I’m at risk of maybe overthinking, but I wonder if there’s some linguistic technique at work here? Like, perhaps some formal connection between the pages/images and the composition of haiku, which likely won’t register translated?

    MangaCur @snubpollard How so? If so, I’m glad they didn’t try to favor syllable structure rather than content of whatever was in haiku form.

    aicnanime his work came in at the tail of coverage, but did Minami Shinbo get any coverage in the “Garo Manga: First Decade” exhibition?

    snubpollard @MangaCur It’s just something I wonder about when poetry is displayed on the page, with the comic itself deemed poetry, as here.

    debaoki it’s hard to translate haiku, especially one as simple as the ones in this story, so I think they didn’t try to match 5-7-5 syllables. However, i think the tone and mood comes through, and that was probably the better choice in this circumstance.

    snubpollard @debaoki There is one 5-7-5 haiku (translated) per story; I imagine the comic is built up from that poem, with added text elsewhere.

    “Mushroom Garden” by Shinya Komatsu

    MangaCur Moving on to “Mushroom Garden,” by Shinya Komatsu, or as I like to think of it, the origin of the Smurf Village.

    debaoki “Mushroom Garden” has a whimsical Little Nemo-like feel to me. Very charming art, even as mushrooms are taking over this boy’s world. Given how the prior stories in AX has conditioned us to expect some dark, demented twist at the end, this was quite gentle. “Mushroom Garden” could’ve ended with the mushroom possessing the boy & leading to mass mayhem. The matter-of-fact ending was a surprise.

    snubpollard “Mushroom Garden” – This is pretty great; I love how even the ‘cute’ stories have this itchy, gnarled texture. It’s a little Brian Ralph, in that it’s very slick, very ‘good’-looking, but sorta unkempt where it counts. Also, I think the kid’s friend is totally gonna turn him over to the zoning board once he puzzles this mystery out.

    MangaCur I almost wish “Mushroom Garden” had gone a little darker. It was just slightly off, and I wanted it to really derail. But the character designs in “Mushroom Garden” are so durable. You can see them used for ten years of comics.

    snubpollard Oh, of course it’s about obsessions, creative compulsions, earworms, desires… rather healthy outlook, compared to some entries.

    aicnanime for those who want to see a bit of Shinya Komatsu’s work:

    after a while away from Ax, I got Shinya Komatsu and Hideyasu Moto conflated in my head. thought it was SK who wrote for Ikki

    MangaCur @aicnanime If Komatsu has any full-length works out there, someone should license them soon. They have a very salable look to me.

    snubpollard @MangaCur This is probably the one AX artist (here) I can totally see popping up in MOME one season.

    aicnanime “Mushroom Garden” is more than superficially tied to Miyazaki’s Nausicaa. Peppered with specific nods

    debaoki @aicnanime yah — the details in “Mushroom Garden” did remind me a bit of the natural world gone haywire of Nausicaa.

    “Home Drama: The Sugawaras” by Einosuke

    MangaCur Moving on to “Home Drama: The Sugawara Family,” by Einosuke.

    snubpollard “Home Drama” – Ha ha ha, I loved this, but I’m a sucker for extremely mundane subjects drawn with WAY over-the-top visual drama. Like, in a way it’s not too far off from what Yuichi Yokoyama does, but vastly more direct, less ‘sophisticated’ in concept.

    debaoki Ha – “The Sugawaras” was pretty good. The obsessive detail of flying noodles being slurped up is great.

    MangaCur The execution of “Home Drama” was its saving grace for me. Mundane point (conventional society is soul-crushing) lifted up.

    snubpollard This is just supper as horror manga; it’s sheer visceral impact.

    MangaCur @snubpollard And it works on that level. And it’s the right length. Gross, but not grinding.

    snubpollard The start-stop effect of BOOMING sfx and WHOOSHING noodles mixing with close-ups of the protagonist’s face: really beautiful. It’s like a Zach Snyder fast-fast-slooooow-fast-fast rhythm, except the sloooow is freezing on the father’s efforts to enjoy himself.

    aicnanime if “Home Drama” were animated 15 years ago, it’d be liable to be seen on (MTV’s) Liquid Television. Today, it might end up in Anime Hell.

    MangaCur @aicnanime But Liquid Television would have beaten it into the ground.

    “A Well-Dressed Corpse” by Yuichi Kiriyama

    MangaCur Okay, time for “A Well-Dressed Corpse,” by Yuichi Kiriyama.

    debaoki “A Well-Dressed Corpse” – grim and interesting as it is, this one could’ve used some translation notes. I know a decent amount of Japanese, but what is “Gurisu?” and what is a “Jaguar Sigma sneakers fan” ? I skimmed over these things because this is a very impressionistic rather than straight narrative, but it would’ve been helpful to have some context here.

    snubpollard “A Well-Dressed Corpse” – Elliptical slice-of-vivified-dirty life. Kinda old-time gekiga, ‘fuck hope, fuck society, fuck progress.’ Maybe a teeny bit like a Koji Wakamatsu movie too? Feels ‘old,’ like Kiriyama is a participant in a genre tradition. Not that the Garo artists weren’t cognizant of aesthetic/literary tradition, but this feels ‘gekiga’ like ‘sci-fi,’ y’know?

    MangaCur It’s strange, but most of the thug stories I’ve read in manga are either satire or comedy, so this doesn’t seem very alternative.

    aicnanime @MangaCur Kind of like magic girls — the genre has preserved past its expiration date in the form of satire. In a way, “Well Dressed Corpse” reminds me of the sukeban section in Japanese Schoolgirl Inferno. attention to threat tied to aesthetic

    MangaCur @aicnanime Very much so. I liked the rigid page compositions a lot, though. Like I was watching a slide show on thugs.

    debaoki @mangacur — hm. slideshow? maybe it was meant to be a modern kamishibai story? (paper theater)

    MangaCur @debaoki Could be! I’m just remembering the comportment/demeanor slide shows from my childhood.

    “Arizona Sizzler” by Saito Yunosuke

    MangaCur Okay, time for “Arizona Sizzler,” by Saito Yunosuke.

    snubpollard “Arizona Sizzler” – Excellent title’s the best thing about it. Not bad or anything, but not as good as other visual exercises.

    MangaCur Aside from wondering how the artist got past the prohibition on drawing genitalia, it didn’t make much of an impression on me. I think I recognize that mountain. It’s northeast of Flagstaff. Beautiful country. (I’ve got nothing. Sorry.)

    snubpollard The twinkling undercarriage splash was well-done, though.

    debaoki “Arizona Sizzler”… makes one realize — if the Jolly Green Giant was nekkid, would he seem as jolly? yikes. The thing is, the giant guy, he could care less about the girl! he seems completely unaware of how he’s grossing her out.

    MangaCur @debaoki That’s because a supreme being is an inherently phallocentric construct. Or something.

    debaoki there aren’t *that* many penis-centric stories in AX — but there were enough that by the time i got to this story, I thot “Enough already.”

    “The Rainy Day Blouse” and “The First Umbrella” by Akino Kondoh

    MangaCur I can wait no longer. It’s time for “The Rainy Day Blouse & the First Umbrella,” by Akino Kondo.

    snubpollard “[Two by Akino Kondo]” – Nice art, very low-key. Wistful. Great facial expressions.

    debaoki so yes, after the giant penis in “Arizona Sizzler,” it was a relief to have a female creator’s touch in the next story, “The Rainy Day Blouse” by Akino Kondo.

    snubpollard I think the facing pages at 268 & 269 form an effective transition, eh? The stories after are a bit more… sensitive?

    MangaCur @snubpollard Maybe so! I will note that the remaining stretch of my stories are among my favorites. But I love the observational nature of this and the internal logic of the narrator. It’s true slice of life.

    debaoki Kondoh has a delicate touch with strong blacks/white compositions — similar to Jaime Hernandez. (albeit different mood/style).

    Akino Kondoh is more of a fine artist than a comix artist nowadays & perhaps rightly so.

    Check out this lovely animation by Akino Kondoh: Ladybird’s Requiem.

    btw – @vcinemashow sent a reminder that Akino Kondoh is on Twitter: @AkinoKondoh – she’ll also be a guest @MangaNEXT.

    snubpollard Yeah, I liked these. It’s hard to pull off something this delicate in tone, as I think the next entry demonstrates.

    “Stand by Me” by Tomohiro Koizumi

    MangaCur @snubpollard Which brings us to “Stand By Me,” by Tomohiro Koizumi. While I didn’t think “Stand By Me” was successful, I would be interested to see some of Koizumi’s more current works.

    snubpollard “Stand By Me” – This is awful. From the blunt title to the overstated message to the stilted, digital-toned art. And if I never see another anime/manga scenario about horny losers peeping at classmates, it’ll be too soon.

    debaoki i’d have to agree. “Stand by Me” didn’t do much for me either. art is awkward, story is mundane.

    aicnanime Tomohiro Koizumi’s “Life is Dead”, from Young Champion, about a zombie causing STD, seems like it would work in North America. Then again, zombies and manga haven’t sold like vampires and manga (see Reiko the Zombie Shop) (published in the US by Dark Horse:

    Tomohiro Koizumi at Mangaka Band Wars via Tokyo Scum Brigade

    “My Old Man” and “Me” by Shin’ichi Abe

    MangaCur We could all use little “My Old Man & Me,” by Shin’ichi Abe, at this point.

    debaoki “My Old Man and Me” and “Me” offered a counterpoint to the “being a manga artist is awesome!” idealism of Bakuman. It’s a matter-of-fact reminder that a lot of manga artists just get by – they aren’t rich, super-successful, hugely-respected artistes.

    snubpollard “[Two by Shin’ichi Abe]” – I’ll defer to Ryan Holmberg’s Garo exhibition catalog that Abe’s primary traits are: (1) A rather self-aggrandizing presentation of bohemian romanticism and (2) a fairly hands-off portrayal of often brutal sexism. Given that, this diptych is kind of a curatorial response – er, maybe not intended as such!

    MangaCur @snubpollard The bohemian romanticism really worked for me. Sexist, yes, but those were really jazzy little shorts.

    snubpollard The rocker narrator of story #1 is eager to try and understand his father, while the mother of story #2 is sensitively characterized. Particularly if you read her as the mother in story #1, which contrasts her personal sacrifices with her ‘family’ face to her son.

    MangaCur @snubpollard That’s how I read her.

    snubpollard @MangaCur Oh no, I think it’s actually not sexist here! The woman gets two perspectives, an omniscient nod toward her struggle. Particularly given that the rocker son clearly has only a partial insight into her life. Anyway, I really liked these/this – one of my favorites.

    MangaCur @snubpollard Ah, okay. I misunderstood. I am relieved! I liked them a lot.

    “Up and Over” by Seiko Erisawa

    snubpollard “Up & Over” – The lighter side of scatology. It’s cute. [FIN]

    MangaCur And I liked “Up and Over,” which shouldn’t surprise anyone who knows my tastes. Sweetly observed nostalgia. Not sugary, but nice.

    debaoki “Up and Over” – it’s the kind of story someone would really tell, and the girl’s response at the end of the story? Hilarious!

    MangaCur @debaoki It was a particularly terrific ending.

    debaoki I totally love that panel on the top right of p. 296 where the mom is holding her son upside down while yakking to the doctor!

    MangaCur @debaoki Another creator whose sensibility I’d like to see applied to a longer story. Reminded me of Raina Telgemeier.

    aicnanime Seiko Erisawa is ok at – I did the look of her stuff. covers are adorable

    “The Song of Mr. H” by Shigeyuki Fukumitsu

    snubpollard “The Song of Mr. H” – I liked this a bunch, even if it’s a big ol’ Christmas sack of cliches. Perfect execution counts for something.

    MangaCur “The Song of Mr. H.,” by Shigeyuki Fukumitsu. The first rule of Fight Club is that it would have been better with an old guy.

    snubpollard For all the talk of Ax as experimental and avant-garde, this is totally something a depressed salaryman would read on the train home.

    MangaCur @snubpollard Oh, it counts for a ton, and it’s a relief to see this in play in an alternative magazine.

    debaoki I rather preferred this “salaryman in despair” story to the prior one, “Rooftop Elegy.” maybe because the ending was more satisfying?

    MangaCur @debaoki I think it just conceived better. It had a fresher idea, or at least a more grounded rendering of it.

    remoteryan @debaoki super late to the party but oh well, gonna jump in! I didn’t love “Song of Mr. H” but i’m a fan of Fukumitsu generally.

    debaoki @remoteryan what is Fukumitsu’s other work like? i haven’t seen his work before…

    remoteryan @debaoki he uses weird stand-in wimpy male characters & fierce big-boobed girls but peppers in enough suburban violence 2 make it work

    aicnanime Shigeyuki Fukumitsu – The Most Emo Man in Japan

    MangaCur @aicnanime More emo than Inio Asano? You LIE, sir.

    aicnanime @MangaCur take the superlative enough with Mr. Manga: The Complete Guide (Jason Thompson)

    aicnanime “at least once in every man’s life, he wonders if he could be the strongest” – Grappler Baki As much as “The Song of Mr. H.” is fight club, strikes me as a bit Densha Otoko in that it’s driven by happenstance.

    I do a bit of fight sport activity and found The Song of Mr. H. to be a relatable, slightly amusing fantasy.

    remoteryan I have Fukumitsu’s book “A LIFE” and it’s about street urchins and a wimp dude fighting back a la KICK ASS. also an old man & hot girl

    MangaCur @remoteryan Again, I’d love to see more of his work in English. I really like the look of it and the tone.

    And now, a moment to recognize Ian Sharman, the letterer of AX Vol. 1

    davidwynne Hey #AXed readers, you should totally follow @idsharman, the poor bastard who had to letter that breeze block of a book

    debaoki @davidwynne man! how long did it take @idsharman to letter AX? this is one brick of a book.

    idsharman @debaoki I was working on it, on and off, for just over a year.

    davidwynne @debaoki really amazing thing is he managed to write a GN & 3 issues of another book, & edit a whole line of Indy comics at the same time.

    MangaCur @idsharman Very much enjoyed it! Amazed by all your hard work!

    idsharman @MangaCur Glad you’re enjoying it. Was a lot of work but fascinating to work on as manga’s not really my thing.

    idsharman Hey, #AXed people, just so you know, we’re currently working on a follow up project. 😀

    Kataoka Toyo Pathos Theater – “The Ballad of Non-Stop Farting” and “I Can’t Stand Pain” by Kataoka Toyo

    MangaCur Are we ready for “Kataoka Toyo Pathos Theater,” by Kataoka Toyo?

    snubpollard “Kataoka Tokyo Pathos Theater” – First part was pretty funny. The second was a bit talkative for my taste.

    MangaCur Having been to SPX (Small Press Expo) a couple of times, “Kataoka Toyo Pathos Theater” feels very familiar to me.

    remoteryan @MangaCur This one is typical Kataoka- very wordy & dense, focusing on blue-collar Tokyoites & their physical/base/ironic daily lives.

    MangaCur @remoteryan It’s also kind of cheeky and funny. It gives off the same kind of vibe as a bunch of mini-comics I’ve enjoyed.

    snubpollard Nice looking art, but the blocking on the second story made it kinda tough to discern who’s talking. Or exactly what the end was. Still, I’m never not up for a serene double-page farting splash.

    debaoki I don’t know why, but Kataoka Toyo’s art reminds me of Peter Bagge’s style. maybe his obsessive line-work, the rubbery facial expressions? Also reminded me of Kazmir Strzepek (the Mourning Star)

    remoteryan @debaoki @MangaCur definitely! the comparison to strzepek’s lines is really apt! when talking about the down & out, humor is the only weapon

    “Kosuke Okada and His 50 Sons” by Hideyasu Moto

    MangaCur Time to move on to “Kosuke Okada and his 50 Sons,” by Hideyasu Moto? There was absolutely nothing about “Kosuke Okada and his 50 Sons” that I did not love. Maybe my favorite thing in “AX.”

    snubpollard “Kosuke Okada & His 50 Sons” – Those were the least necessary last three pages in the history of comics in excess of three pages.

    MangaCur @snubpollard But all the ones that came before them!

    snubpollard @MangaCur Eh, can’t separate them. Didn’t help that final gotcha image JUST appeared in A Drunken Dream!

    MangaCur @snubpollard Well, if you’re going to rip someone off, it might as well be Hagio.

    snubpollard Actually, Moto and Hagio (hey!) share a similar tendency to explicate their images in-story, which I find redundant.

    MangaCur Still, I was so happy to see something genuinely sad and sentimental in the mix.

    debaoki “Kosuke Okada and his 50 Sons” reminded me a bit of Hanakuma’s “Puppy Love” — albeit a more bittersweet story.

    Les Raskolinikov by Keizo Miyanishi

    MangaCur Moving on to “Les Raskolnikov,” by Keizo Miyanishi.

    snubpollard “Les Raskolnikov” – Amusingly, Miyanishi’s lone prior appearance in English was in the early ’80s anthology “Manga” – just Manga. One imagines he was selected for his rather detailed style, which (in the Manga book) tilted toward a very ‘classical’ aesthetic. It was a kind of Japanese comics look that would ease an unacclimated reader into a foreign work. This, of course, was a skewed view.

    MangaCur @snubpollard I thought you might be talking about the Taschen reference book, a mix of legends and “who the hell is that?”

    snubpollard @MangaCur No, I mean this:

    debaoki “Les Raskolnikov” reminded me of the Takato Yamamoto story earlier in the book – lots of style, but not much story.

    The stories in AX that I most liked found that sweet spot between having a distinctive visual style & a story worth caring about.

    MangaCur @debaoki The best ones for me had that happy slight dissonance between content and tone and visual style. Love that.

    remoteryan @debaoki not a fan of “Les Raskolnikov”. At least the T Yamamoto story’s art carries the flimsy premise. But this one bores me

    MangaCur “Les Raskolnikov” actually made me think more highly of “Into Darkness,” which is about all I can say for it.

    snubpollard Not much of a story, but that last splash is a heck of an album cover.

    Alraune Fatale by Hiroji Tani

    MangaCur Okay, ready for “Alraune Fatale,” by Hiroji Tani? “Alraune Fatale” definitely would have benefited from more daylight between it and “Six Paths of Wealth.” Very similar in approach and tone, but very different degrees of artistic success, I thought. And “Fatale” wasn’t a bad story.

    remoteryan @MangaCur I liked the art style in Fatale a lot, but it was a bit of a mix of Junji Ito’s Tomie & the movie Pretty Woman. This sort of “fear of woman” story isn’t necessarily misogynistic but it’s fairly common in indie comics (America & Japan).

    MangaCur @remoteryan That would explain my ambivalence. Loved “Tomie,” hated “Pretty Woman.”

    snubpollard “Alraune Fatale” – This also bears comparison to “Into Darkness,” I think. Very external in comparison. I love this guy’s art.

    debaoki “Alraune Fatale” — this, to me, was like the kind of stories I used to read in “Heavy Metal” in the 1980’s. But overall, i liked Alaraune Fatale — a very satisfying short story about a true sexual succubus. just the right length. But I don’t know if it was totally necessary for the man to reveal that he had nothing left to live for anyway.

    snubpollard @debaoki Even further back! It’s totally a Creepy short! Right down to the idealization/terror of women.

    MangaCur @snubpollard @debaoki Again, I have to say that I wish there were original publication dates listed here somewhere. It really tracks with both Deb’s “Heavy Metal” and Jog’s “Creepy” comparisons.

    remoteryan @snubpollard ah, you’re right! before “indie comix”,, this is straight out of EC Tales of terror shtuff

    debaoki @MangaCur yes, some of the art definitely has a “dated” / art movement of the month feel, so dates would be helpful to put in context.

    snubpollard @MangaCur @debaoki The last panel’s dated “’01” though, so that’d be the date of completion, I’d think.

    remoteryan @MangaCur the “AX RESEARCH PROJECT” might be helpful for original publication dates (artists/stories in JP/Kanji)

    That last story (Fatale) was in AX 22, from August 31, 2001

    “Sacred Light” by Otoya Mitsuhashi

    MangaCur Just two more: “Sacred Light,” by Otoya Mitsuhashi.

    snubpollard “Sacred Light” – Greatly enjoyed this as a buffer between Tani’s old-tyme chills and Hanawa trying to tear the roof off the place. Especially in that it’s a (male-centered, yes) celebration of sex and music as transporting, if maybe not to a cozy place. Like, there’s a tension between ecstasy and realizing you’re not an ecstatic young person anymore, which I liked a lot.

    I also enjoyed translator Spencer Fancutt’s occasional deployment of British tidbits throughout the book. “Oi!”

    remoteryan @snubpollard totally agree— the main thread through MUCH indie manga is 1970 & the ampo joyaku protest movement (& nostalgia for it). For that same thread in indie manga, see: Haruki Murakami’s novels, most leftist art from late 60s/early 70s creators

    snubpollard @remoteryan Yeah, and the early Garo guys were always a bit nostalgic too, to agrarian settings, pre-war times. You could argue a lot of ‘alternative’ Japanese comics opposed the forward, West-informed mainline trajectory of Tezuka.

    debaoki “A Broken Soul” and “Les Raskolinikov” has a real late 80’s / early 90’s art school feel to it, as does “Sacred Light.” The one thing I did like about “Sacred Light” is the non-traditional use of calligraphic brush strokes. It has a kind of beat poetry vibe to it — the words are presented in an almost percussive style.

    MangaCur I loved the scratchy angularity in “Sacred Light.” Feels like a trained artist deciding what not to do, you know?

    “Six Paths of Wealth” by Kazuichi Hanazawa

    MangaCur Are we ready to bring it home with “Six Paths of Wealth,” by Kazuichi Hanawa?

    snubpollard “Six Paths of Wealth” – An old fashioned showstopper. The ultimate showdown between devious femininity and grotesque devotion!

    MangaCur There’s a fabulous Heavy Metal comic retelling of the story of the Borgias, and “Six Paths” reminds me of it so much.

    debaoki I had previously only read “Doing Time,” Kazuichi Hanakawa’s obsessive prison diary (published by Fanfare – Ponent Mon – – so “Six Paths of Wealth” was a revelation.

    remoteryan @debaoki I know Hanawa more for his buddhist horror tales & bloody ukiyo-e art w/ Maruo than Doing Time;So this was just what i wanted.

    remoteryan: This is the Hanawa I know (& love): Ornate, historical and Bloody

    debaoki @remoteryan wow, that’s amazing stuff. it’s too bad that we haven’t seen more of his stuff in English yet.

    remoteryan @debaoki @aicnanime definitely agree 🙂 worth noting those pics are from a collection of “THE EARLY WORKS OF KAZUICHI HANAWA”

    remoteryan @debaoki @aicnanime Also, worth noting:

    debaoki Six Paths of Wealth is great stuff — excellent artwork, suitably creepy horror with a sci-fi/japanese vibe. We should all thank @johnjakala for coining the term “come-uppance theater” because “Six Paths of Wealth” certainly fits the bill.

    snubpollard And Hanawa even throws in a nebbish husband figure that can only destroy the cruel women by accident, after their sexin’ ruins ’em. Yet it’s hard to argue with the sheer rip-down-the-sky abandon of pg. 387. This man OWNS his subject matter. (easy for a guy to say.)

    MangaCur @snubpollard “Six Paths” just felt so particularly of a moment and a style but was so energetic about it. Perfect finale.

    A Few Final Words About AX: Alternative Manga Vol. 1

    debaoki I will say this for Mitsuhiro Asakawa (the editor of AX) — he made the effort to show a wide range of styles & stories here. The AX collection does skew “male” to me, which surprised me because I’ve always seen Japanese manga as more inclusive of female creators.

    MangaCur @debaoki That’s interesting, because some of the stories that made the strongest impression with me were by women. Especially in terms of creators I want to know more about and see more examples of their work.

    remoteryan @debaoki I agree re: male-ness of the collection. my faves from the scene are Yuka Goto, Carol Shimoda, Yamada Hanako though 🙂

    debaoki @MangaCur I didn’t do a check until today, but many of the stories we praised for their light, sensitive touch were by females.

    snubpollard @debaoki According to Holmberg (again!), the Garo strain of alt manga was VERY male-dominated in tradition.

    Er, I should clarify that Hanawa BELONGS to that early Garo tradition, so he’s old guard here.

    debaoki Usually, i don’t glom onto the “female/male” creator thing — the art can/should speak for itself. Maybe I just got penised-out.

    MangaCur @debaoki But I can definitely see all of the sad salarymen and variations on masculinity getting tired.

    remoteryan @snubpollard @debaoki Much Japanese indie manga suffers from the same problems as US Indie Comix- men & their masturbatory fears 🙁

    debaoki AX is both a fun and frustrating read — there are some creators I wish I could see more of their work (in English), but know I probably won’t.

    snubpollard To me, Ax was an oddly cozy experience. In its passion for diversity, it basically registered as one of the old Top Shelf anthologies. Except, y’know, with an all-Japanese crew. Even given the specific Japanese subject matter, it felt very spread out, inclusive.

    MangaCur @snubpollard Exactly. It was right in keeping with what I think of as the range of Top Shelf’s publishing catalog. Maybe minus Owly.

    snubpollard I liked having so much stuff, but having finished it I’d have gone for a bit more focus. There’s too many ‘eh, nice’ stories. Like, it presented diversity, ok! Now let’s see an argument for VALUE. For the vitality of aesthetic!

    MangaCur I won’t lie. I was worried that there would be a high percentage of sketchy, incomprehensible crap.

    snubpollard But maybe an overview is necessary for now? I’d like to see more of a specialized curatorial bent in later editions.

    debaoki I appreciate that AX is very much an expression of Asakawa-san’s vision for manga that pushes past predictable tropes/styles. And with this kind of risk-taking/experimentation there was bound to be some hits, some misses & some “so what?” stories.

    MangaCur @debaoki Yup. Every anthology will have its good, bad, and meh spectrum, but this one calculated well for me.

    debaoki I find IKKI to have a much more consistently artistic vision / editorial standard than AX — AX is exuberantly messy & irregular. AX to me seems more avant-garde, more willing to go out on a limb than IKKI — but I’ve only had limited exposure to both.

    snubpollard @debaoki Ah, true. It could just be a reflection of Ax’s own editorial posture.

    aicnanime @debaoki aren’t the circulations of Ax and Ikki on very different strata? Three Steps Over Japan says never see an issue of Ax – collections of Ikki material are plentiful on

    remoteryan @debaoki @aicnanime I think of Seirinkogeisha very much like Fantagraphics + Picturebox, or like REPRODUKT in Germany. Small staff, etc.

    remoteryan @snubpollard @debaoki @MangaCur If you guys are interested, I’m doing a post tonight on new manga from Seirinkogeisha (w/previews). lots of online preview via their site, including tons of AX artists + even better folks I <3

    MangaCur @remoteryan Looking forward to reading it! I’ve looked up stuff on their site before with limited success!

    debaoki also, @topshelfcomix — is there an AX: Alternative Manga Vol. 2 in the works?

    hermanos “I spoke to (AX editor) Sean Wilson at SDCC and he said that if AX is a hit/sells, v2 is almost assured.”

    Postscript: Ryan Sands found this little gem: the cover for AX: Alternative Manga Vol. 2 in the works?

    AXed, round two

    Our Twitter discussion of Top Shelf’s AX anthology continues tonight (Sunday, Sept. 26) at 8 p.m. I’m not sure who’ll be participating this evening, but I’m sure it will be lively. We’ll be looking at the second half of the book, which has some of my favorite stories. Here’s a transcript of the first round of conversation.

    AXed transcript, part one

    Here’s the first part of a transcript of a Twitter discussion on Top Shelf’s AX anthology of alternative manga held Friday, Sept. 24 and tracked by the hashtag #AXed.

    Participants are:

  • MangaCur: Me
  • Debaoki: Deb (About.Com) Aoki
  • Toukochan: Sean (A Case Suitable for Treatment) Gaffney
  • Factualopinion: Tucker (The Factual Opinion) Stone
  • Hermanos: David (4thLetter) Brothers
  • Snubpollard: Jog (Jog – the Blog) Mack
  • And some pop-ins along the way.

    I’m going to put this after the jump, because it’s really long and there are many spoilers along the way. So be warned! Also, be warned that I didn’t clean this transcript up, because it’s a Twitter conversation and I’m too lazy. I think it reads just fine as is. I did add some images, as I think it gives you a sense of the book’s scale and range.

    MangaCur Counting down to #AXed, rapid-fire conversation about “AX,” the alternative manga anthology from @topshelfcomix.

    Anyone want to start off with some overall thoughts? I thought the book was assembled really well in terms of range. #AXed

    debaoki AX really does run the gamut of art styles and tone – from refined and elegant to outrageously crude and rude. Although I can’t really say there’s “something for everyone” here — you have to have a fairly open mind about comix/manga to “get” AX

    Toukochan I felt AX started off slowly for me – the first two stories really did nothing for me – but it’s gradually started to win me over. I’m pleased that there’s the occasional sweet story in amongst the weirdness.

    MangaCur Let’s start with the stories, in order: “The Watcher,” by Osamu Kanno.

    That piece felt very much like a “Chef may use peanuts in some recipes” kind of warning, if that makes sense. Not that every story is going to have kind of ugly art, dogs peeing into skull wounds, and creepy nudity, but some do, so… Or if not precisely set the tone, at least made sure nobody would be surprised that the collection would go weird places.

    debaoki Yes, that’s true – like the first song in an soundtrack or concept album, “The Watcher” set a certain tone as the first story in AX. I didn’t really get what Osamu Kanno was going for with The Watcher, other than to make fun of selfish suburbanites

    Toukochan Bleah. It seems Japan also has what I dislike about indie comics in its own manga. The art in The Watcher reminded me of Leo and Diane Dillon’s work for Dangerous Visions, for some reason.

    factualopinion “The Watcher”: probably one of the best last panels of all the stories available. Little too long, i’d say.

    MangaCur Okay, moving on to “Love’s Bride,” by Yoshihiro Tatsumi? #AXed Vintage Tatsumi, I think.

    debaoki The Tatsumi story i read in the preview that @TopShelfComix gave out at APE ’08 didn’t impress me much. I stand behind my contention that Love’s Bride is a fairly weak story for Tatsumi. A working class stiff get cuckolded by his not-quite-serious girlfriend & finds comfort in the company of a monkey? dark & strange. so there’s some familiar Tatsumi themes here – women are unfaithful, money-grubbing, manipulative, lying ball-busters. so yeah, not my favorite Tatsumi story. it kind of creeped me out. But maybe that was the point.

    Toukochan “Love’s Bride,” by Yoshihiro Tatsumi. Not sure if I should identify with the guy or be amused by him. The story didn’t work for me, but I’m not sure why. Perhaps I knew how it would end too far ahead?

    MangaCur I think identification and pity/contempt are always kind of side by side in Tatsumi.

    factualopinion I felt like I’d already read this Tatsumi story before, and it was better when it involved a dog with no teeth

    MangaCur @factualopinion Thank you. I was wondering why I felt deja vu while reading it

    factualopinion Still loved the art though. (excluding some of the girlfriend’s facial expressions, those seemed more sterile than usual.)

    MangaCur @factualopinion There are some great little reaction shots among sort of pop-in characters, like the salesgirls at the end.

    factualopinion let’s be honest: nobody spanks it to framed pictures of their sort of girlfriend in a v-neck sweater

    MangaCur Okay, time for “Conch of the Sky,” by Imiri Sakabashira.

    Toukochan “Conch of the Sky,” by Imiri Sakabashira. Very much conveyed the image of a fever dream. The imagery was quite vivid. That said, I wish that some of the random ideas thrown in and then abandoned could have been developed. But that’s not their medium.

    Also, the squid needed more broccoli, clearly.

    MangaCur I thought the nightmare imagery and pacing and logic were really conveyed well.

    I thought “Box Man” was better drawn, but I felt like I got further into “Conch in the Sky.”

    debaoki i didn’t notice this when i reviewed the PDF version fr @topshelfcomix, but the artwork in Conch of the Sky has a poor clean-up job. It’s just filled with tiny black dots that make me think that the prep work for this book was hastily done. Which is really too bad, because Imiri Sakabashira has some great images here.

    factualopinion @debaoki yeah, there’s some problems with the finish work on the book in lots of places. distracting

    MangaCur @debaoki That reminds me that it would have been nice to have a timeline of the various stories, what was published when.

    factualopinion page 51, top panel: an unforgettable panel right there, really opens up the claustrophobic blanket/train stuff, gives it scale

    MangaCur @factualopinion That’s a really great example. That looks like what a fever feels like

    debaoki While it’s a shorter, slightly less cohesive story than Box Man, Conch of the Sky is full of Freudian goodness. squids, trains coming out of tunnels, larger than life germs, people getting run over by large black sedans… its like Sakabashira closed his eyes, pointed his finger in a dream dictionary and drew whatever came up. oddly mesmerizing.

    factualopinion oh MAN do i love that guy getting yanked under the wheels. such a relaxed attitude about vehicular homicide

    MangaCur (Tell me if I’m going too fast.) “Rooftop Elegy,” by Takao Kawasaki, which I just loved looking at.

    Toukochan “Rooftop Elegy,” by Takao Kawasaki. Golgo 13, the salaryman. Quite amusing, with a nice combination of weirdness and normality. It’s the first funny story in the collection (monkey love aside), and contrasts this nicely with a rather odd ending.

    MangaCur @Toukochan I kept thinking it was kind of like something that the editors of “Business Jump” loved but had to reject.

    Toukochan @MangaCur The author apparently specializes in ‘hard-boiled’ parodies, according to the bios at the end.

    factualopinion didn’t like “Rooftop Elegy” that much. felt like a unimaginative commentary on Golgo, predictable cliches. nah.

    top panel on pg. 66: how many movies/comics are going to use that? it’s a t-shirt at this point.

    debaoki Rooftop Elegy: you could get carsick from the switchbacks / rapid-fire twists – “no, *I’m* the hitman” “No *I* am! you’re gonna die!”

    Toukochan @debaoki Sadly, in the end both of them turned out to be Aizen. (SLAP!) Ow, OK, no more Bleach jokes…

    MangaCur @factualopinion And there’s a later story in the book that deals with some of the same topics much more successfully.

    debaoki There’s a lot of “salaryman in despair” in the pages of AX — is it because the readers are or don’t want to be salarymen?

    Toukochan @debaoki Could also simply be that the artists are a lot of ex-salarymen themselves.

    debaoki Rooftop Elegy is a whole lot of “talking heads” — so it’s hard to really get into what’s happening.

    MangaCur Okay, we need a change of pace: “Inside the Gourd,” by Ayuko Akiyama. Is that based on actual folklore?

    Toukochan @MangaCur Exactly. These stories are needed in an anthology like this to balance out the high weirdness.

    debaoki Inside the Gourd does seem like a Japanese fairy tale, doesn’t it? Tho I don’t think it’s from an actual folktale.

    Toukochan “Inside the Gourd,” by Ayuko Akiyama. Loved this. Adorable and sweet, and just the right length.

    factualopinion “Inside The Gourd”—first one that felt just straight up “sweet”. grandma crying “you’ll be late”, the little girl’s face. very awwww

    MangaCur @factualopinion I loved crying grandma a lot. It was just one of those effective little touches.

    debaoki Yes, I agree. Inside the Gourd offered a slightly wistful respite from all the artsy anger and urban angst of the prior stories. Inside the Gourd is really an otaku fairy tale — replace the girl in the gourd with any “moe” anime girl, and it’s not as cute

    factualopinion would’ve liked a Taniguchi level of drawing skill for that flower garden though. Akiyama shot for pretty, came up a bit short.

    factualopinion @MangaCur it’s set up for you at the beginning, but when it happens, it still hits home. good story.

    MangaCur @factualopinion It did seem like Akiyama was emulating Taniguchi a little bit, which is a nice thing to shoot for.

    debaoki this guy is an insect otaku who doesn’t know how to have a relationship with “normal” woman, but finds his “dream girl” in an odd way. But the art is simple and charming… and the ending offers just the right slightly open-ended touch.

    factualopinion @debaoki the line “he would find something to say” could pretty much redeem anything, but I see your point.

    hermanos Inside the Gourd’s tone was very sweet in a way I wasn’t expecting. I kept waiting for the turn toward meanness, but got a nice end.

    MangaCur The little breaks of sweetness and aimlessness really helped me enjoy the whole anthology. Palate-cleansers.

    factualopinion @MangaCur huh—”palate cleanser” feels kind of dismissive?

    MangaCur @factualopinion True… maybe “balance of flavor” would be more appropriate.

    MangaCur Before we get back to people throwing up semen in a love hotel, which brings us to “Me,” by Shigehiro Okada.

    snubpollard “Me” – Boy, I sure hope that was supposed to be funny. Page 78 was hilarious!

    MangaCur @snubpollard I did think “Me” was supposed to be funny. If I’d bought it as a mini-comic at SPX, I’d have been very happy.

    debaoki oh man. “Me” — i knew guys who’d spout this kind of self-centered nonsense in art school. so glad i never went out with any of ’em.

    Toukochan “Me,” by Shigehiro Okada. Wow, what a pair of hideously unlikeable people. This was very funny.

    MangaCur @Toukochan You have to wonder if he really gave being a shut-in a fair shot.

    factualopinion As a comedy, “Me” works fine.

    debaoki I loved how the guy totally scores with the chick just by nodding & agreeing with her inane blathering until he’s dumb enough to talk.

    hermanos Following “Inside the Gourd” with “Me” is like whiplash. “Feeling good about the last one? Well here’s the Bizarro version of it!”

    debaoki So true. This did have a similar vibe to the over-sharing auto-bio comix by ppl like Joe Matt or Chester Brown.

    MangaCur @debaoki For me, the difference is the appealing certainty that the guy is a horrible loser and you don’t need to pity him.

    factualopinion @MangaCur don’t forget that he’s a terrorist!

    hermanos I thought it was hilarious, but the moral of “Me” is “Even if you find yourself, you probably still suck as a person.”

    debaoki ha! @hermanos — that’s a pretty good sum-up of the message of “Me.”

    factualopinion I kind of took this one as an much-needed insult to people who take one-night stands too seriously.

    Hermanos @factualopinion This and “Inside the Gourd” work well as opposites. One guy becomes open to love and the other is a creep/clingy

    factualopinion @hermanos because he’s a wimp. Gourd-guy is just reserved.

    hermanos The panel where you see exactly the exact make-up of the girl’s vomit is great, but could’ve used some retouching. It’s artifact-y.

    debaoki When you really think about it, both characters in “Me” are too self-absorbed to listen to the other at all, and never do. and man, throwing up a guy’s semen after you’ve given him a blow job? how’s that for a “f**k you?”

    factualopinion @debaoki neither of them have anything to say though, so not-listening is probably the best tactic.

    Toukochan Takes the shallowness if “This is all your fault” romances and shoves it back in the protagonist’s face.

    MangaCur When we’re all ready, “Push Pin Woman,” by Katsuo Kawai. I thought this had a great, unnerving metaphor working for it.

    Toukochan “Push Pin Woman,” by Katsuo Kawai. This worked really well for me. Great shot of the back full of pins, and a terrific ending.

    snubpollard “Push Pin Woman” – Putting the self-pity back into ritualized mutilation. Bet you feel bad now, lady!

    Toukochan The art was very simple, but that’s what this needed. Anyone get a Jules Feiffer feel?

    factualopinion @Toukochan i was thinking more Crockett Johnson than Feiffer.

    hermanos “Push Pin Woman” was one of my two favorites in this book. As a story about letting go, it works on every level. Strong metaphor. I like how “PPW” works from both sides. The dumped gets to work out her issues, and the guy finds solace with his new girl. The use of pain as a separator clicks with me . If she wants him back, she has to go through all that pain again. Not worth it.

    debaoki I know some people didn’t like Push Pin Woman, but I thought it was an effective metaphor for a break-up.

    factualopinion Man, I loved “Push-Pin Woman”. That last line has physical pain trumping emotional suffering. UNEXPECTED.

    MangaCur Minimalist though the art was, I loved things like the look on the new girlfriend’s face on the top of page 99.

    snubpollard Nice, neat rows of pins, great obsessive texture to the image. Metaphor’s a little on-the-nose for me, though.

    factualopinion @snubpollard But she totally admits that walking on the push-pins would hurt MORE. that throws the metaphor under the bus for me.

    snubpollard @factualopinion Yeah, but the pins are just fetishes of emotional hurt, you know? So she can’t reconnect now without facing her shit.

    snubpollard @factualopinion Like, I want to see her run up on the side of the road and go “um, there’s a sidewalk!”

    factualopinion @snubpollard touche. that would’ve been an even better ending.

    debaoki i could relate to “Push Pin Woman,” the urge to hurt the person who hurt you — then realizing that it’d hurt you more in the end. while it seems like a predictable thing to say, i’ve never seen it expressed as simply and effectively as it was here. it was kind of like the anti-“The Missing Piece” by Shel Silverstein in its simplicity.

    MangaCur @debaoki I agree both with the metaphor being kind of on-the-nose and also that it was beautifully, cleanly expressed.

    hermanos The new girl licking the spoon is effective, too, and adds a sexual layer to the pain.

    MangaCur Moving on to “A Broken Soul,” by Nishioka Brosis.

    Toukochan “A Broken Soul,” by Nishioka Brosis. …what? No seriously, What? I know some like anstract manga, but… I just… didn’t get this at all. Interesting art style, which I could see it with something that was vaguely coherent.

    factualopinion Broken Soul: felt like a cry for help. go outside and eat a sandwich, Brosis.

    hermanos “A Broken Soul” is exactly the kind of weepy indie comix strawman that I talk about hating sometimes. The sideways text didn’t help.

    snubpollard “A Broken Soul” – Ha, fixing your soul just widens your perspective; it can’t change your life.

    debaoki A Broken Soul: now, is it just me, or does it seem like pages 106-107 are missing text/dialogue in the boxes? it’s like watching a very strange arthouse movie from Finland, the sound goes out halfway thru and no one notices.

    hermanos @debaoki It’s a technique to show how he’s now avoiding reality. Alternately: boring and trite as sin.

    Toukochan @debaoki It felt like the missing text was deliberate to me. I agree with @hermanos, very indie comix. If I’m gonna see art from Finland, it better look like Tom Of Finland rather than these sticks. ^_-

    MangaCur It’s not the kind of comic I can see myself creating with one of my sisters, I’ll grant you. And even I picked up some reproduction problems with this one, and I’m not especially sensitive to them.

    Toukochan @MangaCur Perhaps they’re brother and sister like Jack and Meg White once were?

    @jlgehron Maybe that’s the Alternative Manga equivalent of mopey autobiographies in US indie comix? 🙂

    factualopinion god, the panel where he walks against the flow of Those Mindless Automatons…so he can go home and sit in his room. blah!

    MangaCur Okay, moving on to “Into Darkness,” by Takato Yamamoto, which is prettier, at least. Maybe.

    Toukochan “Into Darkness,” by Takato Yamamoto. Also does not make a lick of sense, but is far easier on the eyes. Though to be honest, it also made me feel like I was reading tentacle porn.

    MangaCur @Toukochan It’s not even my least favorite “pretty art with lots of seemingly unrelated text” piece in the book.

    debaoki Oh, “Into the Darkness” – what a gorgeously drawn story that makes almost no sense! it’s too bad that Takato Yamamoto hasn’t done much manga — only illustrations — because the art/linework is exquisite. Into Darkness reminds me of Charles Vess’ work on Sandman — delicate, gothic-tinged sensuality. What i did like about Into Darkness it is that it offered one extreme end of the AX continuum – beautiful art w/o a story to tell.

    snubpollard “Into Darkness” – This reads exactly like Alan Moore’s Swamp Thing. Like, the sex issue.

    factualopinion “Into Darkness”-i’m all ears. felt to me like overdrawn alt-manga Swamp Thing, with dolls and masturbating.

    factualopinion @snubpollard holy shit did we really just make the same Alan Moore Swamp Thing comparison?

    MangaCur @snubpollard @factualopinion FTW on “Into Darkness.” This is what I get for not reading “Swamp Thing.”

    hermanos I like the art in “Into the Darkness,” with the claustrophobia, body horror, sex, and demon things, but the story is 10th grade poetry. All it needed was the moon crying one single, blood red tear or a wolf howling in the distance to close the circle.

    MangaCur @hermanos Exactly. It’s kind of study-hall angst.

    hermanos But the art—good stuff. Panels 5 and 10 on p111, panel 5 on p115… enthralling. No idea what’s going on in the last one, though.

    snubpollard @factualopinion Sure, it reads just like it! Maybe a bit more Jamie Delano. Oh, sex = death, that too.

    debaoki If you plot the AX compass, there’s beautiful,delicate art —-> incredibly crude, amateurish art, then pointless —>meaningful stories

    factualopinion @debaoki it would’ve been a much better follow-up to “push pin” than “broken soul” was.

    Toukochan “Enrique Kobayashi’s Eldorado,” by Toranosuke Shimda. I really enjoyed this. After all the abstract, it was a great change.

    MangaCur I think if you took genetic material from Joann Sfar and Rick Geary, that clone might make something like “Eldorado.”

    debaoki Oh, Enrique Kobayashi’s Eldorado is my favorite story in AX. great energy with unexpectedly fun story.

    Toukochan Not only did it have a story to tell, but it told it with humor, nostalgia, and social commentary. Plus, great bike. Also, best facial expressions in all of AX.

    factualopinion “Eldorado” i’ve never laughed that hard at a Nazi doing horrible things, and I read Hellboy. “Gold tooth gold tooth”: killer. Eldorado is the manga Rick Geary? I feel okay with saying that. Great stuff, really funny.

    debaoki i love how the character designs in “Enrique Kobayashi’s Eldorado” — did you notice the heno heno mo he ji face on p. 124? FYI — this is “henoheno moheji” — kind of like the Japanese version of “Kilroy was here”

    snubpollard “Enrique Kobayashi’s Eldorado” Feels a bit European, with the historical content intruding on the narrator facing the reader.

    hermanos “Eldorado” was fantastic. The guest appearance by Pele, the tone of the book, and the 4th wall breaking author characters all ruled. It feels a bit like the wacky fairy tales for kids where characters talk directly to us and nothing’s taken seriously but Nazi-killin’

    MangaCur “The Neighbor,” by Yuka Goto was the first story that felt very desultory and superfluous to me.

    snubpollard “The Neighbor” – It’s funny because it looks like shit. BUT: it’s still funny.

    MangaCur @snubpollard Granted. I’d forgotten about that hilariously stiff jump-kick on page 147.

    debaoki “The Neighbor” really didn’t do much for me. the story wasn’t as inventive as the Hanakuma story later in the book.

    Toukochan “The Neighbor,” by Yuka Goto. Had some interesting art, but not a lot to say. I’d have preferred a manga by Yuko Goto, myself.

    hermanos “The Neighbor” is kind of crap, but probably has the funniest panels in the book. The drop kick, the entire dog-choking page, wow. One thing about “The Neighbor”-real life should work like this. Fistfights to teach annoying neighbors a lesson. “The Neighbor” feels like something out of “Ren & Stimpy,” particularly the big fight. Absurd on all fronts, and really kinda ugly.

    Toukochan And yes, the jump kick is the best part. If only as it’s a classic ‘Look how bad my art is!’ panel.

    factualopinion @hermanos i’m guessing you’ve never tried to bring that kind of a drop-kick to the fistfight table.

    factualopinion didn’t really read “Neighbor” the first time through. going back later, it felt like warm-up comics, 1 step past thumbnails.

    debaoki i know that “heta-uma” (bad-good) manga is a big part of the AX aesthetic, but “The Neighbor” was more “heta-heta” (bad-bad) to me.

    aicnanime The Neighbored worked for me once I read what the point was. ledgehammering casual settings with violence

    MangaCur Okay, then… on to “300 Years,” by Mimiyo Tomozawa.

    debaoki i liked the little tubby girl character in 300 years — it just begs to be made into a figure by kid robot or something. tho the part where she gets impaled on a spindle and spun for 300 years? owwww.

    factualopinion @debaoki i think you might run into legal trouble with her accessories.

    MangaCur @debaoki Yes, the character design was my favorite element. Weirdly like Junko Mizuno to me, but not.

    “300 Years” – God damn it, when did they release my medical records?! Of course, spinning on a peg straightens double visions into one image. Er, it’s about society? Relationships?

    MangaCur @snubpollard It was successful for me as a story because I didn’t feel like I needed to care that much about the point of it all.

    factualopinion thought the fill-in page of the spin panel (p. 150) was pretty arbitrary, badly chosen. funniest thing about 300: the doctor’s chest hair, peeking out of his shirt. that’s gold right there.

    hermanos “300 Years” was… what was this? It was like a Kupperman half-page gag spread out across several pages. “Sex Blimps: The Movie”
    I definitely laughed, and the eye ailment is great, but I’m not sure how much I actually like this one.

    factualopinion all told, this was one of the ones that i wasn’t done reading when it ended. where does she go? are her eyes fixed? i’m intrigued!

    MangaCur On another gratuitous front, there’s “Black Sushi Party Piece,” by Takashi Nemoto, which tried my patience.

    snubpollard “Black Sushi Party Piece” – A ‘party’ because it’s improvised? I liked the abrupt end to the A plot on pg. 166.

    debaoki Oh, “Black Sushi Party Piece” — you know how in DMC where Krauser II gets props because he can say “raperaperaperape” really fast? It’s similar to how Takeshi Nemoto is probably going for drawing most hairy penises that can be crammed into a single manga story. oh crap. now i did it. the “p-word” is going to get a ton of p*rn spam followers. damn you Takeshi Nemoto.

    factualopinion “black sushi” he’s still got it! by which i mean some of these panels are pretty repellent.

    snubpollard Hmm, kind of a sketchbook exercise, but then, heta-uma’s about the state of drawing, and this foregrounds it. (Funny too)

    hermanos “Black Sushi Party Piece” is the comic version of getting drunk at a party and drawing dicks on everything in sight. Less funny, tho. The panel of the sushi chef’s body is striking, but trying so hard to offend that you kinda laugh.

    factualopinion @hermanos “advocated a fusion of p*rn and medicine”—that didn’t get you? such a good line. have you read the collection of his that p-box dropped? i don’t think he’s trying. this is what he cares about, feels pure.

    debaoki IMHO, there’s no one else out there who draws such incredibly over-the-top, gleefully offensive material like Nemoto

    debaoki okay! on to “Puppy Love” by Yusaku Hanakuma, the creator of “Tokyo Zombie”

    snubpollard “Puppy Love” – The IQ Zero designation suggests a parody of ultra-blunt societal allegories. Like The Neighbor but making fun of shit.

    debaoki I actually liked “Puppy Love” a lot better than Tokyo Zombie — it works on a lot of levels. the ending is perfect!

    snubpollard A bit like the iguana girl story in A Drunken Dream, but comically undercutting it by looking crappy. Wonderfully awful end joke.

    hermanos If it were a cartoon, “Puppy Love” would end with an iris out when the dad goes “Not again!” I love this one.

    factualopinion dug this one, i’m a fan of this guy’s stuff. the part where he’s held back from preventing his last “son’s” death is spot on.

    debaoki alrighty — are we ready for “The Brilliant Ones” by Namie Fujieda?

    snubpollard “The Brilliant Ones” – Huh, following Hanakuma with a mostly straightforward variation on the same. This reads like a one-off in a seinen magazine, and not one skewing too old either. Mild sarcasm doesn’t sharpen it up.

    debaoki This one really caught me off guard — it was the one story that looked like “regular” manga — until the guy exploded into maggots?
    i enjoyed how it made fun of the dumb platitudes that teachers spout at students to try to get them to “be all they can be.”

    factualopinion “Brilliant Ones” was a classic middling exercise. doesn’t go far enough in either direction to land.

    snubpollard Generally, the upfront metaphor stuff in here hasn’t done it for me.

    factualopinion design for the butterfly creature at the end was boring as hell. maggots turn into balloon animals: snooze

    debaoki it’s true — the material in AX is not uniformly wonderful. there are definite highs and lows.

    factualopinion @debaoki that’s probably a good thing though, right? when dealing with avant-garde, extreme results are the norm.

    debaoki after all the absurdity & non-sequiturs, it was almost strange to read a straightforward tale like “The Hare & The Tortoise”

    snubpollard “The Hare & the Tortoise” – EEEWW, classic compositional fuck up on pg 196!

    debaoki @snubpollard oh? what’s the fuck up on p. 196?

    factualopinion @debaoki dialog reversal. “eh, yes” should be in the second panel, not the third.

    snubpollard @debaoki The panel flow does a U-turn from top right to left, then back to right, then onward. Kills pace dead.

    debaoki @factualopinion i see! yeah, there are several production glitches in this book, which seems odd, since they delayed it a few times. it’s funny, in a straightforward story like the hare and the tortoise, glitches are more apparent. like on page 198, panel 3 — the rabbit’s head is awfully tiny compared to his body.

    hermanos @snubpollard @factualopinion Yeah, it’s a panel flow thing. If you go R-L, and then down, inexplicably, it’s fine.

    snubpollard There’s AT LEAST three too many panels detailing the turtles’ cunning scheme in here

    factualopinion @snubpollard i’m not sure that’s the cartoonist. the sweat on the rabbit indicates a lack of confidence. shouldn’t “eh, yes” be there?

    factualopinion @snubpollard i’m not sure that’s the cartoonist. the sweat on the rabbit indicates a lack of confidence. shouldn’t “eh, yes” be there?

    snubpollard @factualopinion I dunno, it’s… it’s like he’s cool at first, but then his nerves come hilariously out, you know?

    factualopinion @snubpollard i’ll bow to you on this. either way, it’s too long, feels like an unnecessary sequel, like Extreme Aesop 2.

    hermanos @factualopinion “Extreme Aesop 1” was the not-hit-but-pretty-good CGI movie “Hoodwinked.” Look it up!

    hermanos “the Tortoise & The Hare” was my favorite story in the book, in part because it’s so normal. It was my favorite as a kid, too. I can’t even pretend that it’s an outstanding work— it’s just a pretty good and well drawn retelling of a story I already enjoy.

    debaoki @hermanos true — it’s a rare all-ages appropriate story in a collection that has content that is “strictly for adults”

    debaoki alrighty — on to “The God” & “The Twin Adults” by Kotobuki Shiriagari

    factualopinion what do you call this style? it looks like a rough approximation of zen brush drawing.

    debaoki @factualopinion yeah, it reminds me of a zen koan / riddle manga…

    hermanos “The God” and “The Twin Adults” blew right past me. It’s one of the few stirps I just straight up “didn’t get.”

    debaoki @factualopinion it’s kind of like “Waiting for Godot” — if Satre were Japanese and had a sense of humor. 😉

    factualopinion @debaoki you mean Beckett, right?

    debaoki @factualopinion you are correct!! doh! >_<

    Twitter book club

    Hey, just wanted to mention, hopefully without over-promising since none of us have ever done this before, that some folks will be talking about Top Shelf’s AX anthology on Twitter tonight. We’re going to go story by story, giving quick impressions of each. Perhaps there will be a bonus round. Who can say? But it should be a fun experiment, if nothing else. We’re planning on using the hashtag #AXed, if you’re curious, and things are set to begin at 8 p.m. Eastern Standard Time. At the moment, the group includes myself (@MangaCur), Deb (About.Com, @debaoki) Aoki, Tucker (The Factual Opinion, @factualopinion) Stone, and Ryan (Same Hat!, @remoteryan) Sands.

    Updated: Well, we made it through about half of the book in a lively discussion that also included David (Comics Alliance, 4thLetter, @hermanos) Brothers, Sean (A Case Suitable for Treatment, @toukochan) Gaffney and Jog (Jog – the Blog, @snubpollard) Mack, which you can check out by searching for the #AXed hashtag on Twitter. I believe we’re planning to resume on Sunday, though I’m not sure on a time. I’ll post when I hear something, and I’ll get Deb Aoki’s transcript of part one posted either this evening or tomorrow morning.

    Upcoming 9/22/2010

    Welcome to my ultra-lazy look at this week’s ComicList. I have a head cold. Sue me. Here’s what looks particularly good to me:

    What looks good to you?