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

Time Codes:

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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: Finishing Up Monster, Othereworld Barbara, and Other Manga Series

Time Codes:

  • 00:00:26 – Introduction
  • 00:02:33 – Setting up the episode
  • 00:04:17 – More listener mail!
  • 00:06:49 – Completing Monster
  • 00:49:03 – Completing Otherworld Barbara
  • 01:14:28 – Completing other manga series
  • 01:26:25 – Wrap up
  • 01:27:47 – Contact us

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Completion

On this episode of the monthly manga series — the April show, actually, albeit late — Shea and Derek revisit some of the titles that they had previously discussed. They talk about these series now that they have more volumes under their belts, and in some cases, have completed the entire series. The first of these that they discuss is Naoki Urasawa’s Monster (VIZ Media), a title that they first discussed in their July 2015 episode. The last volume of the English-language Perfect Editions was released in summer of 2016, and both Shea and Derek explore their experiences finishing up the series. As they reveal, Urasawa has a penchant for vast, multi-leveled narratives, filled with a wide cast of characters, and the guys discuss this style of storytelling, its thrills as well as its challenges.

Next, they turn to the completion of a story they first discussed on the September 2016 manga episode, Moto Hagio’s Otherworld Barbara (Fantagraphics). The second volume of this series was published in August of last year, and the guys revisit Hagio’s storyworld and its wrap-up. As they mentioned on their earlier episode, this is a complex, even vertiginous, narrative that involves dreamscapes, multiple narrative levels, and time interplay. Both of them appreciate Hagio’s conclusion, although at times they wonder about the story’s lapses into sentimentalism, and if the various narrative threads may not be a bit unwieldy.

Finally, the guys discuss other manga series that they’ve been keeping up with, even completing, individually. For Shea, that includes ONE and Yusuke Murata’s One-Punch Man and Yusei Matsui’s Assassination Classroom, both published by VIZ Media. Derek waxes enthusiastically about Inio Asano’s Goodnight Punpun (VIZ Media), Kengo Hanazawa’s I Am a Hero (Dark Horse Manga), and Akiko Higashimura’s Princess Jellyfish (Kodansha Comics).

Episode 264: Our Favorite Comics of 2017

Time Codes:

  • 00:00:27 – Introduction
  • 00:03:14 – Contexts and caveats
  • 00:11:32 – Our favorite comics of 2017
  • 02:09:06 – Wrapping up our favorites, and honorable mentions
  • 02:13:52 – Contact us

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And the Winner Is…

Paul and Derek are back with The Comics Alternative‘s annual “Favorites” episode. This is where the Two Guys share what they consider to be the best comics of the past year. Usually this year-end show is released as the very last regular review episode of each year, but this time around the guys had to postpone the recording due to family issues. But we’re not far from the end of 2017, and Paul and Derek wanted to get the show out in as timely a manner as possible. So here you have it, the Two Guys’ 10 favorite titles of 2017:

Paul’s Top 10 of 2017

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Derek’s Top 10 of 2017

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The Honorable Mentions…These Titles Almost, but Just Didn’t Quite, Make It onto Each Guy’s List

For Paul

For Derek

Comics Alternative, Manga: Reviews of A Girl on the Shore and Goodnight Punpun, Vol. 1

Listen to the podcast!

Eros and Thanatos

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For the March episode of The Comics Alternative‘s manga series, Shea and Derek discuss two recent releases, both by Inio Asano: A Girl on the Shore (Vertical Comics) and Goodnight Punpun, Vol. 1 (VIZ Media). Before they plunge into those titles, though, they provide a bit of context about Asano’s style and briefly discuss his other works that have been translated into English. The guys primarily reference Solanin and Nijigahara Holograph as key Asano texts, but they also mention the two-volume series of short stories, What a Wonderful World. In many ways, Derek feels that A Girl on the Shore is a cross between Solanin‘s GirlOnShore-sampleemphasis on relationships and Nijigahara Holograph‘s fractured or more experimental narration. The guys also spend a good amount of time talking about the sexually explicit nature of the recent book. Most of A Girl on the Shore centers on its protagonists, Kuome and Isobe, slowly exploring one another, and much of that exploration is sexual in nature. However, neither Shea nor Derek feel that the visualizations are gratuitous in any way, and that Asano even complicates his explicitness through certain intriguing artistic choices. Next, the guys turn to a completely different kind of story, and one that’s a little more challenging to wrap your brain around. Goodnight Punpun originally ran for thirteen volumes in Japan, and this month VIZ Media began releasing the English translation in larger, two-in-one editions. In this first volume, we’re introduced to Punpun Punyama, a weird, largely silent bird-like creature who is supposedly a young human boy as are all of the other characters in the story. (Only the Punyama family is depicted as abstracted birds…although for all we know, this is a world where abstracted birds living with humans has been normalized.) While the storyline of this first volume is fairly straightforward — primarily a quest narrative for Punpun and his friends, and mostly involving Punpun’s love interest, Aiko — the manner of storytelling isn’t. At times Asano’s art is surreal or even psychedelic, and the events that occur can be downright trippy. Derek is fascinated by the hipster figure of god that keeps popping up throughout the book, and Shea likens Asano’s style to something approximating magical realism. All in all, this first installment of Goodnight Punpun is a fun punch in the gut that has the guys eagerly anticipating the next volumes to be released later this year. But then again, as far as Shea and Derek are concerned, any Inio Asano is worth eagerly anticipating.

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