Comics Alternative, Manga: Reviews of Monster and In Clothes Called Fat

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For July’s manga episode, Shea and Derek discuss two distinctly different titles. They begin by looking at Naoki Urasawa’s Monster series published through Viz Media. The fifth volume of the new Perfect Editions was just released last week, so the guys thought this would be a great opportunity to Monster5introduce listeners to this dramatic saga. Monster is the story of a brilliant young surgeon, Dr. Kenzō Tenma, who’s accused of murder and then goes on the lam to find the real killer: a boy that he had perviously saved from a traumatic head wound. Tenma’s search for the enigmatic and elusive figure, now growing into young adulthood, becomes the driving force of the narrative, with Urasawa introducing a variety of characters and unlikely scenarios along the way. The itinerant nature of this series reminded Derek of the old The Fugitive TV series starring David Janssen. And Shea, in fact, thought that the episodic feel of the title began to wear thin as the story progressed, with Urasawa introducing diverseInClothesCalledFat characters in an almost formulaic manner so as to keep teasing out the drama. But this is a highly engaging series with clean, detailed line drawing and rarely flagging momentum. Next, the guys turn from seinen to josei with Moyoco Anno’s In Clothes Called Fat (Vertical). This is a one-volume story about eating disorders, body image, and the dark side of fashion consciousness on young women. Anno herself comes from a fashion background, and her insights on cultural psychology are the underlying bedrock of this narrative. In fact, both Shea and Derek are highly impressed by the ways in which Anno gets into her characters, adeptly revealing how they think and the complexities driving their actions. Body image isn’t the only focus of this story. Anno shows how social pressures, groupthink, and low self-esteem undergird many of our dysfunctional relationships. While Shea likes the book but isn’t completely satisfied with its ending — he feels the pacing shifts too dramatically in the conclusion — Derek is impressed with Anno’s style of narration, allowing characters multiple modes of expression that represent the psychological mechanisms at work. In all, this is an important and socially conscious work for male and female readers alike.

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About Derek Royal

The Comics Alternative is a weekly podcast focused on the world of alternative, independent, and primarily non-superhero comics. (There’s nothing wrong with the superhero genre…we just want to do something different.) New shows become available every Wednesday…much like the comic books you get. Episodes feature reviews of graphic novels and current ongoing series, discussions of upcoming comics, examinations of collected editions, in-depth analyses of a variety of comics texts, spotlights on various creators and their oeuvre, roundtable discussions with prominent critics and scholars in the field, and interviews with the artists and writers who make all of this possible. Along the way, Andy and Derek will talk about the various books that they are reading; the many pop cultural references that, for better or worse, inform their lives; and the unpredictable (and inexplicable) weirdness that seems to creep into each episode. In essence,The Comics Alternative podcast is brilliantly simple: Two guys with PhDs talking about comics.

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