Comics Alternative, Manga: Reviews of A Silent Voice and What Is Obscenity?

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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!

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