Comics Alternative, Manga: Reviews of Vérité #1 and Cutie Honey: The Classic Collection

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Little T&A

Shea and Derek are back for their September manga episode. (Yeah, yeah. We know it’s the beginning of October, but the guys were a little late getting last month’s show recorded.) This time they discuss two intriguing titles, each quite different one from the other. They begin with the inaugural issue of Vérité, a new anthology series out of India featuring classic alternative manga as well as contributions from contemporary Indian artists that have a gekiga feel to them. The guys were glad to see work from Tadao Tsuge, Susumu Katsumata, and Youji Tsuneyama, but they were also taken by fresh Indian voices such as those of Anpu Varkey, Shaunak Samvatsar, Nandita Basu, and Bharath Murthy, Vérité‘s editor. After that, Shea and Derek discuss Cutie Honey: The Classic Collection, by Go Nagai. This is another one of Seven Seas Entertainment’s nice hardbound collections of classic 1970s manga, other titles including Captain Harlock and Devilman. The guys emphasize Cutie Honey as a representative kind of shonen manga for its time, but they spend most of the time discussing the, at times discomforting, sexual or erotic nature of Go Nagai’s creation. What was written for a particular audience back in the 1970s may come across as gratuitous or even offensive to more contemporary readers. But both Derek and Shea point out that, despite the erotic weirdness apparent at times, the story is engaging and worth revisiting.

Comics Alternative, Manga: Reviews of Captain Harlock: The Classic Collection, Vol 1 and Slum Wolf

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“There’s definitely some kind of cycling going on here”

This month Shea and Derek discuss two great works that bring back some older, or classic, manga. They begin with Leiji Matsumoto’s Captain Harlock: The Classic Collection, Vol 1 (Seven Seas Entertainment), a series that originally ran between 1977 and 1979. Captain Harlock is a classic science fiction work, and with a space pirate protagonist who can be seen as a romantic hero. The Two Guys discuss the figure of Harlock as a curious mixture, while at the same time trying to ferret out the his philosophy. In many ways, they see this manga anchored in its time, both aesthetically and politically. But this work definitely isn’t limited to it’s time and can be appreciated today.

Next they turn to Slum Wolf, another translated collection from Tadao Tsuge (New York Review Comics). An earlier collection of Tsuge’s work, Trash Market, was released in 2015 by Drawn and Quarterly (which the guys reviewed on their June 2015 episode). Slum Wolf is a collection of nine stories originally published between 1969 and 1978 in various publications such as Garo and YagyōIt also includes an essay by Tsuge, as well as a outstanding contextual essay by Ryan Holmberg, who also edited and translated the collection. The guys discuss all the stories, to greater or lesser degrees of depth, but they spend most of their time talking about the linking features that bind most of the narratives. As both Derek and Shea point out, this is one of the manga highlights of the year, so far.

Comics Alternative, Manga: Reviews of Dead Dead Demon’s De De De De Destruction, Vol. 1, The Troublemakers, and Wotakoi: Love Is Hard for Otaku, Vol. 1

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Fully Loaded

On the last episode in The Comics Alternative‘s monthly manga series — a show that was supposed to be the May episode, but was actually a late April show — Shea and Derek promised that they would provide an additional manga episode at the very end of May, and that that show would be the real May show. As reality unfolded, the two guys had problems in coordinating their schedules and being available at the same time. And as a result, you get this episode. But it’s an extra-long episode, one that includes discussions of not two but three recent manga releases.

They begin with the first volume in a the latest series from one of their favorites, Inio Asano. Dead Dead Demon’s De De De De Destruction (VIZ Media) is an unusual work that, in many ways, reminds the guys of Goodnight Punpun they reviewed in March 2016, a title that they especially loved. And they appreciate this new work at least as much. This new book begins as a realistic narrative of Tokyo schoolgirls and their everyday interactions at school. Soon, though, the reader discover that this is not a normal environment, but one where the city is, literally, living under the shadow of a giant mysterious spaceship that visited them three years previously.

Next they turn to a notable new release from Retrofit/Big Planet Comics, Baron Yoshimoto’s The Troublemakers. Translated and edited by Ryan Holmberg, this is a collection of six short works of gekiga that vary in narrative approach, theme, and (to a lesser degree) style. All of these pieces were originally released between 1966 and 1974, and in a variety of publications. The volume ends with a magnificent essay, providing history and context, by the book’s editor. This book marks the first translation of Yoshimoto’s into English.

The guys conclude with a completely different kind of book, Fujita’s Wotakoi: Love Is Hard for Otaku, Vol. 1 (Kodansha Comics). The title is a series of episodes — think of a sitcom — of a small group of young workers, all of whom are otaku (those with obsessive interests in very specific, especially fan-based, media and culture) and interact in everyday scenarios, at work and otherwise. The guys aren’t near as enthusiastic about this work as they are with the others reviewed in this episode. However, Derek is more open to Wotakoi than Shea. In fact, Shea even wonders if the emphases in this series may not even be counterproductive, if not harmful, to consumer health.

Comics Alternative, Manga: Reviews of Iceland and Fukushima Devil Fish

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  • 00:00:26 – Introduction
  • 00:02:29 – More listener mail!
  • 00:06:57 – Iceland
  • 00:30:51 – Fukushima Devil Fish
  • 01:04:49 – Wrap up
  • 01:06:13 – Contact us

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Difference

On the March manga episode, Shea and Derek discuss a couple of experimental works. They begin with Yuichi Yokoyama’s Iceland, released last fall from Retrofit Comics/Big Planet Comics. The plot of this book is minimal — two characters are searching for a third, they find him, and then they drive off in a taxi — and it’s something like you might find in Samuel Beckett narrative. But it’s Yokoyama’s art that propels the text. As the guys discuss, there is something kinetic, claustrophobic, and even frantic about the visuals. For Derek, futurism comes to mind.

After that they look at a book that both Shea and Derek have been eagerly anticipating, Susumu Katsumata’s Fukushima Devil Fish (Breakdown Press). The core text comprises nine short stories that provide a diversity of tone. The first two are the most contemporary, originally published during the 1980s and focusing on the dangers of nuclear power. The remaining pieces reflect Katsumata’s style from the late 1960s into the early 1970s, stories originally appearing in the legendary Garo and COM. Some of these are folklore-inspired narratives, presenting a pre-modern Japan inhabited by kappa and tanuki and reminiscent of the stories found in Red Snow. Others are instances of “I-manga,” introspective and highly personal pieces driven more by tone than cohesive storyline. Four critical and biographical essays, two written by Katsumata himself, round out the collection.