Vaughan & Chiang's "Paper Girls" Builds a Familiar Yet Disconcerting World
I may or may not cover Kentaro Miura’s Berserk in depth at a later time, but I thought this might be a bit more interesting and informative than a general series summary. Berserk is one of the best comics I’ve ever read, hands down. It’s also one of the more popular English-language manga among non-manga readers. The sword-and-sorcery themes make it fairly accessible to an audience already familiar with western fantasy, but it’s also an awesome series on its own.
It is unlike other manga, but sometimes it is. I’m going to take a look at what makes it unique among manga, and other comics, for that matter.
Sorry for the absence, the holidays are a difficult time of year for me at work, and I also had to contend with switching jobs this year. But I now have my free time back, and I’m going to be trying new things with this column. Admittedly, one of the other problems I was having was that I was running out of topics.
This week, I’m going to be looking at the work of Fumi Yoshinaga. Yoshinaga is one of the few artists who does work aimed at adult women who is still being translated in the current English language manga market. Part of the reason is her popularity, I think, as she has many English-language fans already. But her appeal lies in the stories she writes, where she has a knack for capturing the mundane in entertaining ways. Her early work, in both Japanese and English, was mostly boy’s love one-shots and short series (which, for the uninitiated, are romance stories with gay male characters aimed at women). Even these, her earliest works, still had their touching, quiet moments. Yoshinaga is great at writing sympathetic characters, which makes her sometimes mundane subject matter that much better. Her art is also spare most of the time, but she does great character facial expressions, and the detail in Ooku and her food art is quite impressive.
Here’s the Essential Fumi Yoshinaga, along with some summaries of her other work. Also worth mentioning is the fact that her other current long-running series, What Did You Eat Yesterday, will be released by Vertical starting in March. The story of a gay couple and the dinners they share should prove to be a delightful slice-of-life story, despite what sounds like an unexciting premise.
I’ve always been amused by the lack of short story anthologies available in English for manga. There’s a good reason for it. The short story anthology graphic novel isn’t really a done thing in Japan, primarily because all manga is released serially in themed anthologies, and on any given week you can pick up hundreds of different ones with both chapters and short stories in any genre you want. About the only type we see in English, aside from the infamous Four Shoujo Stories (a very rare and “unauthorized” graphic novel collection), are underground short story anthologies. They appear very rarely, but are a fantastic place to see several artists and stories that usually don’t appear anywhere else. Also, plenty of gross-out stuff. Here are the four big ones I can think of off the top of my head, and all are worth checking out for at least a story or two.
This month I’ve been spotlighting horror manga artists who have several series translated into English. I’ve covered a few of the best and most classic mangaka, so this week, I thought I’d cover a few series that are worth reading, but are mostly one-offs from the artists in English. The fantastic header image is the art of Yuho Ashibe, one of the demons in Bride of Deimos.
I’ve looked at two great horror artists already this month, Kazuo Umezu and Hideshi Hino. Both have had at least one must-read story translated into English (Drifting Classroom for Umezu, Panorama of Hell for Hino), and both are quite famous and worth exploring for different reasons. But for my money, you won’t find another horror mangaka as consistently good as Junji Ito. When he’s good, he’s terrifying. And even his most mediocre stories are still pretty great reads. Sadly, we haven’t seen a new Junji Ito work in English since 2006, but we were very lucky before that. Two of his series are must-reads, and the other two series I’m going to talk about are story collections.
Continuing on with my October feature of horror manga artists in English, this week I’m going to be looking at Hideshi Hino. Hino probably has more one-shot volumes than any other manga artist translated into English, thanks to the efforts of DH Publishing. Most of his books are available in a series called “Hino Horror,” although there’s a few outliers from other publishers that I’ll be looking at in this article as well.
I know it can be tedious to read through all the Halloween-themed articles that happen in October, and I’m going to be doing a series of them. But I dearly love horror manga, and it’s unfortunately something that had its heyday some years ago in English. So for the next couple weeks, I’ll be doing artist spotlights for a few of the classic horror manga artists that are available in English, most of whom haven’t seen a new work translated into English in years.
I’ve always liked the concept of “love gone wrong,” since it can imply anything from a simple messy and dramatic breakup to something like a kingdom-destroying war. Below I present to you three romance manga (which all happen to be for the teenage boy demographic in Japan) that offer… three somewhat difficult relationships. To put it mildly.
While many manga series (and other comics, and novels, and movies…) take place after some apocalypse or other, series that are actually about an apocalypse are much rarer, comparatively speaking. There’s plenty of stuff that deals with zombie apocalypse, but unspecified military, social, or freak occurrence apocalypses always make for interesting reads, espeically when a group of characters is trying to prepare for or prevent it.
In the US, there’s been a recent surge in teen fiction – novels that are written specifically for and about a teenage audience. Fifteen years ago, it didn’t exist, but now it’s one of the hottest-selling categories of literature. While there are several mainstream hits, browsing the section at any bookstore will tell you that most of these titles are aimed at teenage girls. They feature more complex emotional themes, characters that one can easily relate to, and are (debateably) only a step removed from adult literature. And the category covers a variety of genres, as well. A similar thing happened to manga for girls in the 1970s. A group of female artists, who themselves grew up on the popular manga series for young girls, decided that there should be manga for a slightly older female audience as well. The name “Year 24 Group” refers to the fact that many of the artists were born in 1949, or Showa Year 24. A lot of the series written during this time period by these artists remains classic to this day, but criminally little of it has been translated into English. This week, I’m going to feature 3 very different series by 3 Year 24 Group artists that are available in English. And honestly, there’s not a whole lot more than this.
One of my absolute favorite types of manga story are the ones that use heroes. It’s hard to use that as a category, as there are many different types of hero series. There’s the serious types that are one-man shows like Ultraman – Kikaider Code 02 by Shotaro Ishinomori and MD Geist by Koichi Ohata, for instance (these are called tokusatsu, which is technically an umbrella term, but it’s close enough). Sometimes the series try to be as much like an American superhero as possible, or actually are about one – Batman: Child of Dreams by Kia Asamiya, or Zetman by Masakasu Katsura (pictured above). Sometimes they come in the form of a man and his robot – The Big O by Hitoshi Ariga, or Heroman by our own Stan Lee. But for whatever reason, more often than not they are comedies that poke fun at the inherent ridiculousness of people in special outfits beating up outrageous monsters or other people in costumes. It’s really hard to make bad jokes about that, so these series are usually awesome. Unfortunately, they never do well in English, and not very many have been translated. Here are a few worth checking out, though.
As I’ve written previously, what defines an audience for a manga is what magazine a series originally ran in, and this week, I’m taking a look at three series that ran in magazines for women. I’ve actually covered several very good women’s (or josei) series on here already – Utsubora and Ooku, as recent examples (though Ooku ran in a men’s magazine, it’s drawn by a well-loved josei artist, so it mostly counts). Subject matter can vary widely. There are stories about the ever-popular Office Lady, career-seeking college students, young women who have lost their way in life, sci-fi themed stories about life, some noir-ish thrillers, or straight-up smutty romance (in your choice of sexuality). Not many have been translated into English, but these works always have a mature flavor, and can usually appeal to a very broad audience.
This week, it’s the hotly-contested category of non-Japanese manga up for discussion. There are many sides to this debate, but the main arguments are that “manga” should be anything produced in Japan versus “manga” being a style. In general, most use a strict definition that manga is produced in Japan by Japanese artists in the Japanese language, which is rather un-ambiguous. “Manga” is used by many companies to market domestically-produced series to teens, and once upon a time, other Asian comics as well. Still, there’s nothing wrong with a good manga-influenced style, and with modern forays into domestically-produced manga (OEL, Global Manga, or whatever you’d like to label it), the line between gets blurrier and blurrier. This week, I’m looking at 3 different series, all aimed at teenage girls (as that’s what I have handy right now), but for each one, I’ll discuss how much it is or isn’t like a manga.
For lack of a better term, this is the fringe edition. All three titles for this week deal with conspiracies and new age topics. Notably, most of these themes are western in origin, so it can be fun to take a look at a manga version of… say, out of place artifacts, or UFO conspiracy theory. All three of these are also older titles, and most flew under the radar, so it’s worth taking a second look.
This week saw the launch of publisher PictureBox’s Ten Cent Manga initiative, with Shigeru Sugiura’s Last of the Mohicans introducing the line. I was a bit surprised to find that Ten Cent Manga is apparently more for highlighting books that have an interesting artistic lineage, and not necessarily older titles (in the case of Sugiura, his artwork is a bizarre cross between 50s cutesy manga and 60s American action comics). The edition of Last of the Mohicans that PictureBox published is a redrawn 1973-74 edition, whereas the original volume was drawn in 1953. I was hoping for the 1953 edition, as there are very few examples of older titles that have come out in the States. So what are some of the oldest manga that have been translated into English? Here’s a look.
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