On this episode of The Comics Alternative‘s manga series, Shea and Derek discuss two recent publications that, in one way or another, explore a post-apocalyptic world. They begin with a classic, the first volume of Yukito Kishiro’s Battle Angel Alita. Kodansha Comics has recently started to release this legendary cyberpunk series in nice deluxe hardbound editions — the second deluxe volume is due for release in late February — and the guys are excited that the title is back in print. Neither Shea nor Derek was familiar with Battle Angel Alita before, outside of hearing about the upcoming James Cameron/Robert Rodriguez film adaptation due out in 2018, but now both are hooked. In their overview, the guys highlight the kinetic quality of the illustrations, the ways in which Kishiro contextualizes even his most nasty characters, the complexities (and embedded mysteries) of his storyworld, and the ways in which he visualizes the title character…which, for Shea at least, is a little problematic.
Next, they look at Abi Umeda’s Children of the Whales, Vol. 1 (VIZ Media). This is another post-apocalyptic narrative — at least the guys think things are set in a post-apocalyptic world — and the storyworld that Umeda maps out is quite complex. In fact, as Derek suggests, there are so many nuances in this first volume that the story runs the risk of toppling over due to sheer ambiguity. However, the author is able to maintain a comprehendible balance in her tale, although several passages may require more than one reading. There are a lot of questions posed in this book, and while Derek is willing to continue on in future volumes to get the fuller picture, Shea isn’t as enamored of the story. While he admires Umeda’s art, he feels that the story’s premise, especially as it relates to the Committee of Elders, may be a bit too predictable. Still, Derek feel that the volume is worth checking out.
Thanksgiving is tomorrow, and the folks at The Comics Alternative all gather around the virtual table to share what they are thankful for in terms of comics and comics culture. Pulling up a seat this year are Gwen, Paul, Sean, Gene, Edward, and Derek. Among the many things that they’re thankful for are
Shea and Derek are back with their second manga episode of the month! On this show, they discuss several horror manga that will get you in the mood for Halloween tomorrow. As they did last year, the Two Manga Guys are both thrilled and chilled with by introducing listeners to a variety creepy titles, some older and some brand new. They begin with Katsuhiro Otomo’s Domu: A Child’s Dream (Dark Horse Manga), a story that is probably the least horrific of those discussed, but it’s nonetheless one of the guys’ favorites on this episode. As the guys point out, it’s a shame that Otomo’s canonical Akira tends to overshadows other impressive efforts such as Domu.After that they look at a markedly different kind of horror manga, Hideshi Hino’s Panorama of Hell(Blast Books). This is a very violent and blood-filled work, so if you have a weak reading constitution, this might be a challenge for you. After that they cover the three-volume Mail, written and drawn by Housui Yamazaki (Dark Horse Manga). As Derek describes, this is a “lighter” narrative compared to some of the others discussed, but one that nonetheless has them wanting more.
From there Shea and Derek turn to a favorite creator of theirs, Junji Ito. However, his latest graphic cycle, Dissolving Classroom (Vertical Comics) is definitely not what they have come to expect from the horror mangaka. Somewhat similar to Fragments of Horror, which the guys discussed last year, Ito relies a little too heavily on over-the-top graphics at the expense of any bedrock terror. But the guys are more impressed with Gou Tanabe’s H.P. Lovecraft’s The Hound and Other Stories (Dark Horse Manga), an adaptation of three classic Lovecraft stories. In addition to the titular reference, Tanabe also presents manga versions of “The Temple” and “The Nameless City.” Finally, Shea and Derek discuss Neo Parasyte M (Kodansha Comics), the latest anthology inspired by Hitoshi Iwaaki’s Parasyte, which ran between 1988 and 1995. Including contributions from a wide variety of creators, this volume is similar to last year’s Neo Parasyte F, which the guys discussed on the 2016 manga horror episode. However, they enjoyed this anthology even more than last year’s.
The monthly manga series is back, and on this episode — the first of two manga shows in October — Shea and Derek discuss a couple of very different works. They begin with Yeon-Sik Hong’s Uncomfortably Happily (Drawn and Quarterly). This is the story of Hong and his wife becoming frustrated with living in crowded and polluted Seoul, ultimately deciding to move to a house in a remote mountain community. As the guys reveal, the majority of the narrative is devoted to the everyday challenges the couple undergo, the quotidian tasks involved in living in such a raw, isolated area. Over the course of their conversation Derek and Shea address the question of autobiography: Is this indeed a memoir of what Hong and his wife actually underwent? Neither of the guys doubts that the story is anchored in Hong’s real-life experiences, although Derek makes the argument that the construction of the narrative bears more of a fictional stamp than one of life writing.
Next the guys turn to a very different kind of manga. Iou Kuroda’s Appleseed Alpha (Kodansha Comics) is a manga based on Shirow Masamune’s original Appleseed, as well as an adaptation of Shinji Aramaki’s anime feature. Both Shea and Derek are impressed with Kuroda’s art, dynamic and drenched in heavy inks, but they’re not as excited about the coherency of the story. There are gaps in the narrative, the various events aren’t necessarily linked cohesively, and the overall story can be a bit confusing at times. Nonetheless, the guys, especially Shea, are taken by Kuroda’s efforts. Shea appreciates this follow-up to the Shirow’s Appleseed, which he has read, and Derek feels impelled now to seek out the original manga series.
At the end of month, Shea and Derek will be back with their second October manga show, a special Halloween show devoted to horror manga. Keep your ears open!
For the month of May, Shea and Derek discuss two works of manga that, while not necessarily diametrically opposed, are tonally opposite from one another. The first title is Mikoto Yamaguti’s Scumbag Loser (Yen Press). What begins as a story about a teenage outsider with a unique smelling ability quickly turns into a horror story involving mysterious non-human forces. As the guys discuss, there are few characters in this book worthy of sympathy, but it is this lack of empathic closeness that makes this an affecting narrative. However, the guys aren’t without their reservations, as Shea points out in his take on Yamaguti’s patriarchal approach to his subject matter. Derek agrees, but he also sees the text’s larger themes — e.g., the unrealistic demands on youth conformity — saving it from a kind of morbid frivolity.
Next, the guys turn to a series from Kodansha Comics, Gido Amagakure’s Sweetness and Lightning. The English translations became available beginning July of last year, and as of the time of this podcast recording, Kodansha has released five volumes. (Volume 6 is due out in early June.) This is a first for The Comics Alternative, a discussion of cooking manga. It’s the story of Kouhei Inuzuka, a recently widowed father, and his daughter Tsumugi. He is unable to cook adequately for his family, and eventually he becomes close with one of his students, Kotori, who helps him become proficient in the kitchen. The series is a collection of episodes, each involving a dilemma where food preparation, complete with useful menus, helps to alleviate the problem. At the same time, cooking brings everyone closer together…even hinting at complicating affections. This is a nice read and, as Shea suggests, one to take out with you on a pleasant spring day.
On the April manga episode, Shea and Derek discuss two very different series. They begin with Shuzo Oshimi’s Happiness, the fourth volume of which has just been released by Kodansha Comics. This is a vampiric narrative that takes place in the suburbs and centers on the relationships among high school students. But don’t make the mistake of thinking that this is Twilight-tinged fantasy. Oshimi’s characterization is sophisticated and, in places, unpredictable, and his art style captures the interiority of his key marginalized figures. Of particular interest is Yuuki, a bully who befriends the narrative’s protagonist, Okazaki, and how both characters handle their newfound vampirism once each has turned. The guys appreciate where this story is going, and Shea, in particular, is impatient in having to wait for the next few volumes.
Next, Derek and Shea check out the first volume of Gengoroh Tagame’s My Brother’s Husband. This book is notable for a couple of reasons. For one, it is the first work of manga that Pantheon Books, a leader in major trade graphic-novel publishing, has ever released. And second, this is an all-age title by a mangaka known primarily for his gay BDSM erotic manga. It’s the story of Yaichi and Kana, a single father and daughter, and their relationship with Mike, a gay Canadian who had married Yaichi’s estranged brother. After Mike’s husband dies, he honors his memory by getting to know his Japanese family. As the guys reveal, My Brother’s Husband is a tale about relationships, coming to term with personal prejudices, and the strictures various cultures place on interpersonal behaviors.
This month on The Comics Alternative‘s manga series, Shea and Derek check out two very different titles. They begin with Kazuto Tatsuta’s Ichi-F: A Worker’s Graphic Memoir of the Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant(Kodansha Comics). This is a 500+ page account of the reconstruction and cleanup in the wake of 2011’s disaster in Fukushima. As the guys discuss, the text does two things at once: provides objective reportage of the situation surrounding Fukushima and reveals the author’s very personal experiences in securing and maintaining his role in the cleanup efforts. While both guys enjoyed the book, perhaps Derek more than Shea, they nonetheless wondered about Tatsuta’s background as a mangaka — “Kazuto Tatsuta” is a nom de plume, so it’s difficult to determine any bibliography — and any potential agenda (if any) underlying this work.
After their focus on real-world disaster, the guys move into the realm of fantasy. Platinum End (VIZ Media) is a current shōnen series from Tsugumi Ohba and Takeshi Obata, the same team behind Bakuman and Death Note. The second English-language volume was just released this month, so the guys have enough story under their belts to get a secure feel for the art and narrative. As Derek explains, the premise appears a little on the hokey side, at least at first, but as things develop the story begins to take on a life of its own, one that soon hooks you. Much of this is because of Obata’s style, but there are also larger thematic issues that make this title worth exploring. The guys discourse over the text’s theological import, its engagement with gender identity, and its satiric commentary on contemporary popular culture. This is definitely a series that both Shea and Derek will continue reading.
On this episode of the manga series — a few days later than expected — Shea and Derek discuss two new deluxe editions of older titles. They begin with Revolutionary Girl Utena Complete Deluxe Box Set, soon to be released by VIZ Media. This is a different kind of shōjo, one that the guys don’t often encounter, and an aspect that makes this title stand out is its conceptual genesis. Revolutionary Girl Utena was conceived by the creative team known as Be-Papas but written and drawn by Chiho Saito (also a member of Be_Papas). Shea and Derek discuss the “collaborative feel” of its genesis and the unusual mix of characters, costumes, and scenarios that define the series.
Next, the guys turn to a new deluxe edition of Masamune Shirow’s classic Ghost in the Shell, just released by Kodansha Comics. The paperback versions of this title, and of the two follow-up volumes, are still in print, but Kodansha now has these wonderful new hardbound editions. The new Ghost in the Shell volumes stand out because for the first time in English, the story is presented in the original right-to-left reading order, they retain the author’s original hand-drawn sound effects, the translation has been updated, and everything has been done under the author’s supervision. Both Shea and Derek have a great time revisiting Ghost in the Shell, and they hope that Kodansha will be bringing back more of Shirow’s manga — e.g., Appleseedand Dominion — in these nice deluxe editions.
For the month of November, Shea and Derek get together to discuss to two recent manga publications, although the first text they cover is not entirely new. Jiro Taniguchi’s A Distant Neighborhood: Complete Edition brings together the two-volume English editions originally published by Fanfare/Ponent Mon in 2009. (The original Japanese was published in Big Comic magazine between 1998 and 1999.) It’s the story of Hiroshi Nakahara, a 48-year-old salaryman with an uninspired life, and who finds himself mysteriously transformed — or transported? — into his 14-year-old self. This is the same period of his life when his father abandoned his family. The guys discuss A Distant Neighborhood as a quasi-time travel narrative, but definitely not science fiction. In fact, Derek reads this text through the lens of the romance tradition, à la Horace Walpole and Nathaniel Hawthorne. Shea enjoys to story, but he feels that the premise may be a little too loaded and that Taniguchi at times relies too much on telling and not showing.
Next they turn to a very different kind of book, Kodansha Comic’s Attach on Titan Anthology. This is similar to a text that the guys discussed last month, Neo Parasyte F, an anthology of new works based on and inspired by a previous manga property, in this case Hajime Isayama’s Attack on Titan(which began in 2009). However in contrast to the Parasyte homage, this collection is made up of work written and drawn by a variety of Western creators. Although the collection resonates differently with each — Derek tends to like it, as a whole, better than Shea — both of the guys can agree on some of the anthology’s highlights. These include Ronald Wimberly’s “Bahamut”; Asaf and Tomer Hanuka’s “Memory Maze”; Rhianna Pratchett, Ben Applegate, and Jorge Corona’s “Skies Above”; and Evan Dorkin and Sarah Dyer’s “Attack on Attack on Titan.” But really, every contribution to this collection is worth reading. As the guys point out, one of the beauties of this anthology is that its eclectic styles reflect the broad and diverse readership to which Isayama’s series appeals.
He’s taken a bite out of the moon! He’s threatening to destroy earth! He’s… teaching junior high? What is the many-tentacled Koro Sensei up to? Why is he up for letting a bunch of 14-year-olds try to kill him? Tim and Kumar talk about Yuusei Matsui’s Assassination Classroom – incomprehensible sound effects and all!
In celebration of the Halloween season, Shea and Derek devote October’s episode to a discussion of horror manga. This month they look at six — count them, six! — books, all of which embody the eerie holiday spirit in some way. That makes this a extra-long episode, clocking in at over two and a half hours, the longest manga show the Two Guys have ever produced. They begin with a classic example of horror manga, Hideshi Hino’s Hell Baby(Blast Books), and then move on to the medium’s most notable practitioner of the genre, Junji Ito and his 2014 collection Fragments of Horror(VIZ Media). They then turn up the creep factor with Usamaru Furuya’s Lychee Light Club (Vertical Comics) and Jun Abe’s Portus(VIZ Media). Finally, the guys conclude with two brand new titles from Kodansha Comics, Kazuhiro Fujita’s The Black Museum: The Ghost and the Lady, Book 1 and the shojo anthology Neo Parasyte F. The latter is a fifteen-story celebration of Hitoshi Iwaaki’s classic Parasyte series, which ran from 1988 to 1995. In their extensive discussions, Shea and Derek visit such topics as the juxtaposition of cute and gross, why the grotesque may become a writing crutch, the many uses of gender ambiguity, if video games are inherently spooky, and how Florence Nightingale can be quite sexy. That’s right, folks, it’s all here!
It’s the end of the month, so that must mean it’s time for Shea and Derek to look at another round of manga. For September, they discuss two recent releases, the first of which is Leiji Matsumoto’s Queen Emeraldas, Vol. 1 (Kodansha Comics). Originally serialized in Weekly Shonen Magazine between 1978 and 1979, this is a science fiction adventure with two protagonists. Hiroshi Umino is a fearless earth boy wants to make his own way in life, and the titular character is a mysterious and much-feared figure who sees in Hiroshi a kindred spirit. Matsumoto is known for these kind of space operas, and the guys aren’t entirely sure why more of his manga hasn’t yet been translated into English (although Americans may be more familiar with Matsumoto’s work in anime).
Next, Shea and Derek look at the first of a two-volume collection, Otherworld Barbara. This is the latest in Fantagraphic’s translations of Moto Hagio’s manga, the previous editions being A Drunken Dream and Other Stories in 2010 and the shōnen-ai classic, The Heart of Thomas, released in 2013. The latest book has a completely different feel from the earlier Hagio translations, as this is a futuristic, psychological drama playing out in a surreal dreamscape. However, don’t mistaken this for anything reminiscent of Christopher Nolan’s Inception.Derek and Shea spend a lot of time discussing the themes of identity and doubling in this sophisticated narrative, and they eagerly await the completion of the concluding volume.
For the August manga episode, Shea and Derek go topless…at least that’s a common condition that they sense in the two titles that they discuss this month. They begin with Hiroya Oku’s Inuyashiki, the fourth English-language volume of which was released in June by Kodansha Comics. It’s the story of an older Sad Sack of a salaryman, Ichiro Inuyashiki, whose slowly crumbling life is turned around after contact with an alien life form. As a result of this encounter, his body is replaced with a weapon-grade robotic shell, and over the course the first four volumes, Inuyashiki learns to use his new condition to positively change the lives of others. However, complications arise when another man similarly changed by the same alien encounter decides to use his powers for more nihilist purposes. Shea and Derek spend much time discussing Oku’s art — a clean yet static style — the borderline melodrama of the storytelling, and the fact that Inuyashiki goes around without a shirt much of the time.
After that, the guys turn to their second title of the month, Kenji Tsuruta’s Wandering Island (Dark Horse Manga). This is a quest narrative centered on the discovery of a mythical island in the Pacific that is free floating. The protagonist of this series, Mikura Amelia, owns a small delivery service and pilots a bi-floatplane along the Izu Islands. When she discovers the writings of her dead grandfather about the elusive Electric Island, Mikura sets off with her cat Endeavor to prove its existence. The guys appreciate the protagonist as a fully formed, complex adventuring character, but they disagree slightly about the ways in which Tsuruta represents her. Shea feels that the frequently bikinied Mikura is too often posed specifically for the male gaze, and while Derek agrees with his cohost, to a point, he’s not entirely convinced that Mikura is sexualized for that purpose. Regardless, Wandering Island rests upon a fascinating premise that will have both of the guys coming back to the title for volume two…whenever that publication might be.
This month Shea and Derek look at two tonally different works of manga. They begin with Yoshitoki Oima’s series, A Silent Voice, the final (seventh) volume of which was released from Kodansha Comics at the end of May. It’s the story of an elementary school bully, Shoya Ishida, and his attempts to atone for his past behavior after he enters high school. The object of his ridicule was Shoko Nishimiya, a deaf transfer student who was pulled out of her elementary school because of Shoya’s insensitive mocking. Now teenagers, Shoyo and Shoko establish a relationship that is spottily therapeutic for both, and with the help of their former elementary school classmates with whom they reestablish contact. While the guys both enjoy this title, there are times when the narrative is worn a little thin. Derek feels that there is excessive emotional wallowing in places, and Shea is not thrilled with the series’ quick ending.
A completely different kind of manga is Rokudenashiko’s What Is Obscenity?: The Story of a Good for Nothing Artist and Her Pussy (Koyama Press). And the book’s subtitle says it all. Rokudenashiko — a pen name for Megumi Igarashi, and which translates into “good-for-nothing woman” — tells the story of her evolution as an artist, her work in manko (vagina) art (or “deco-man,” as she calls it), and her two 2014 arrests for violating various obscenity laws in Japan. The core of the text is its manga, three separate stories that were originally serialized in the leftist political magazine, Weekly Friday. But about a third of the book is composed of photographs and text-only supplemental material, making this more of a hybrid chronicle of Rokudenashiko’s art and legal ordeals. Both Shea and Derek love this book, filled with humor and keen observations on Japan’s archaic, paternalistically mandated obscenity laws. In fact, they each want to get a little Manko-chan figurine for themselves!