After a month’s hiatus (due to unforeseen circumstances), the on-location episode is back! And for the March visit to Valhalla Games and Comics, the topic is completely open. On this recording Derek is joined my several of the shop regulars including Craig, Matt, and Tristan. Among the many topics they cover are the recent Justice League Vs. Suicide Squad miniseries; the latest (and one of the best) X-Men films, Logan; the news surrounding the production of Star Trek: Discovery; and lots of manga talk. In fact, from the amount of time everyone discussed Japanese comics, it looked like this might turn into the month’s manga episode. Along the way the guys discuss Stephen Hillenburg (the creator of SpongeBob SquarePants) and his recently announced fight with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, legally permissible uses of the word “mutant,” Derek’s shame at being so behind on Marvel’s Netflix and Fox series, and Tristan’s utter dislike of children.
For July’s manga episode, Shea and Derek discuss two distinctly different titles. They begin by looking at Naoki Urasawa’s Monsterseries 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 introduce 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 diverse 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.