Shea and Derek are back with their February manga episode. This month they look at two titles that, in many ways, are diametrically opposite in terms of style and audience. They begin with Seiichi Hayashi’s Red Colored Elegy, the softcover edition of which has just been released from Drawn and Quarterly. This is the story of two young artists cohabiting and the struggles they endure with their families, they work, and their relationship with one another. But there’s much more going on in this narrative, as the guys abundantly point out. This is an experimental work that was originally serialized in Garo during the early 1970s, and Hayashi’s variations in visual style, along with his employment of nonconventional storytelling techniques, are what make this such an intriguing and significant work.
After that, Shea and Derek discuss the first volume of Kaiu Shirai and Posuka Demizu’s The Promised Neverland(VIZ Media). It’s a fantastical, and even futuristic, series about a community of orphans who learn that their comfortable life is undergirded by demonic forces. Both of the guys appreciate Demizu’s art, and they’re intrigued by the series’ premise. At the same time, they wonder about some of the choices the creators made toward the end of this first volume, especially regarding narrative focalization. But they’re both interested in seeing how things develop and if, indeed, Shirai’s storytelling choices turn out to be effective as the plot unfolds. VIZ Media released the second volume of the series earlier this month, but the guys weren’t able to get copies of that text in time for this recording (despite reaching out several times to the publisher’s publicity department).
On the July manga episode, Shea and Derek discuss two recent publications that highlight, in different ways, the history of the Japanese medium. They begin with Seiichi Hayashi’s Red Red Rock and Other Stories 1967-1970 (Breakdown Press). All but two stories that compose this collection were originally published in Garo, examples of the avant-garde coming from that publication in its heyday. Although not nearly as abstract and non-linear, Hayashi’s manga reminds the guys of Sasaki Maki’s Ding Dong Circus, which they discussed in December’s manga episode (and also a Breakdown Press publication). As both Derek and Shea point out, the stories collected in Red Red Rock represent some of the earliest of Hayashi’s efforts, and they’re noticeably more experimental, or at least less linear, than his other work available in English, such as Red Colored Elegyand the stories in Gold Pollen and Other Stories. Adding to this collection is an astute contextualizing essay by Ryan Holmberg, also the book’s translator.
After their trip down Garo-inspired memory lane, the Two Guys turn to a work that delineates a much earlier chapter in manga history. The Osamu Tezuka Story: A Life in Manga and Anime is a graphic biography of a man often called “the god of manga” and published by Stone Bridge Press. Created by Toshio Ban (who served as Tezuka’s “sub-chief” assistant) and Tezuka Productions, and translated by Frederik L. Schodt, the book appears to be a collaborative, or even corporate, effort to tease out the dynamism and the many facets of its subject’s life. In fact, both Shea and Derek feel that there are too many details embedded in the narrative and that the book’s 869 pages of story (not counting the substantive Appendixes) could have been paired down significantly. What’s more, the tone of the the biography is blatantly reverential and becomes almost too much at times. Readers are presented with example after example of the seemingly superhuman nature of Tezuka, and with little insight into the contradictions and complications that would define any artist’s life. Still, The Osamu Tezuka Story is a recommended read and a useful, albeit lengthy, introduction to this manga legend.