Vaughan & Chiang's "Paper Girls" Builds a Familiar Yet Disconcerting World
The romantic comedy genre is one that’s plagued with stereotypes, both on the male and female side. Admittedly, the genres do everything they can to conjure and keep those stereotypes in place, and it’s not often you hear of a series in this genre that trailblazes. But they can still be satisfying reads, and if the characters are good, sometimes that’s all I need to keep coming back. I find it interesting that this genre exists for both men/boys and women/girls, and that the series are very different beasts depending on who their aimed at (also, that there’s not really an equivalent for the male-type story in English, possibly because English-speaking audiences are less inclined to portray the dirty minds of teenage boys, which makes love stories for that age group more appealing for girls). There’s all sorts of commentary that can be offered on the subject of gender differences in the genre, but unfortunately it’s outside the scope of this column. The earnest quality and slightly naughty nature of the male-themed romantic comedy is the subject for tonight. I’ve got one classic, one pillar of the genre, and one terrible imitator for you today.
There’s a genre one sees quite a bit of in manga that seem to appear rarely elsewhere – the magic shop story. These are usually very similar, with a proprietor or a set of characters that runs a shop full of magical items that are vended to unsuspecting patrons, often with ironic results. It’s a good framing device for series of unconnected short stories, usually horror-themed, and a kind of analogue to the horror collections that used to appear often among US comics. The US horror collections and these “magic shop” series are quite different, however. I’m going to cover the most popular “magic shop” series in this column, but there are so many that the topic will come up at least one more time. Also interesting is that the “flavor” of the series is often determined by the shop owner and characters – there is always an overarching plot and direction for the series, and all three of these are radically different, despite being horror-flavored collections of short stories united with a framing device.
Admittedly, I’m not much of a gourmand. I like to not be hungry, and I like eating delicious food, and that’s the extent of my interest in consumables. There are several legitimate “foodie” manga series, believe it or not, including Drops of God (which covers wine extensively), Oishinbo (which is about high end Japanese cuisine), and Not Love But Delicious Foods Make Me So Happy! (a kind of charming Tokyo restaurant guide in manga form by the ever-popular Fumi Yoshinaga). These have somewhat limited appeal if you have no interest in food, and when I read a manga, I like to be entertained. And as I’ve mentioned before, I am very entertained by series that go to any sort of extreme. So today, we’ll be looking at extreme food manga. Check out the others I mentioned here if you are looking for a more grounded, nonfiction-type experience. But the three below are a lot of fun.
And next week, I promise I’ll go back to taking about manga that people might actually want to read.
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