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).

Comics Alternative, Manga: Reviews of Red Colored Elegy and The Promised Neverland, Vol. 1

Time Codes:

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Demonic Relationships

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).

Manga: Reviews of Servant X Service and Sweet Blue Flowers, Vol. 1

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November Is For Lovers

For November Shea and Derek discuss two very different kind of manga, but both that involve romance in one form or another. They begin with Karino Takatsu’s Servant X Service. The complete series was released in two volumes by Yen Press in 2016, and the guys spend much of the episode discussing this strip-like series. The title concerns civil servants on the job — a topic you don’t really encounter much in comics/manga — and both Derek and Shea have a lot to say about the unusual subject matter and format. After that they discuss the first volume of Takako Shimura’s Sweet Blue Flowers (VIZ Media). As the guys reveal, this is an example of yuri manga, where two childhood friends who have lost track of one another become reacquainted in high school, although they attend different academies. As the story unfolds, romances and complicated relationships develop. However, the friendship of the series’ main protagonists (at least in this first volume), Fumi and Akira, is what really anchors this text.

Comics Alternative, Manga: Reviews of Battle Angel Alita: Deluxe Edition, Vol. 1 and Children of the Whales, Vol. 1

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Post-Apocalyptic Takes

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.

Comics Alternative, Manga: Reviews of My Lesbian Experience with Loneliness and Golden Kamuy

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Time Codes:

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Getting Real

It’s the end of the month, so that must mean that it’s time for Shea and Derek to discuss their latest manga recommendations. They begin with Kabi Nagata’s My Lesbian Experience with Loneliness (Seven Seas Entertainment), a deeply personal autobiographical work whose title is perhaps more provocative than it is revealing. In fact, the guys spend a good bit of time talking about the underlying impulses embedded in the text and how sexual preferences take a backseat to the deeper longings that Nagata reveals. This is a manga all about self-discovery, a diary-like account of the author’s attempts to understand herself within the context of her culture and her yearning for what she calls “next level communication.” As Derek and Shea highlight, this is in some ways an example yuri manga, but at the same time such a designation doesn’t do the text justice.

Next, they look at the first volume of Satoru Noda’s Golden Kamuy (VIZ Media). This is a more realistically based narrative that takes place in the wake of the Russo-Japanese War. The protagonist, Saichi Sugimoto, gained a reputation during the war as an almost invulnerable hero, but he lives his post-war years unsuccessfully prospecting for gold in the Hokkaido region. There he befriends a young Ainu woman, Asirpa, and together they begin hunting down a legendary hidden treasure with a violent pedigree. Both Shea and Derek appreciate the story’s realism and historical context — in many ways, this is a didactic text — but they’re not yet sure of how Noda will handle the indigenous Ainu culture. That being said, they’re both definitely on board for future volumes.

 

 

Comics Alternative, Manga: Reviews of Scumbag Loser and Sweetness and Lightning

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Time Codes:

  • 00:00:27 – Introduction
  • 00:02:21 – Listener mail!
  • 00:04:28 – Comments on the 2017 Eisner Award nominations
  • 00:09:26 – Scumbag Loser
  • 00:52:10 – Sweetness and Lightning
  • 01:21:25 – Wrap up
  • 01:22:14 – Contact us

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Sweet and Sour

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.

Comics Alternative, Manga: Reviews of Revolutionary Girl Utena Complete Deluxe Box Set and Ghost in the Shell Deluxe Edition

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Time Codes:

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A Deluxe Show!

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., Appleseed and Dominion — in these nice deluxe editions.

Comics Alternative, Manga: Review of Sunny and Discussions of Other Works by Taiyo Matsumoto

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The Young Ones

Time Codes:

  • 00:00:28 – Introduction
  • 00:02:36 – Catching up for the new year
  • 00:04:19 – Sunny
  • 01:09:40 – Other works by Matsumoto
  • 01:20:29 – Wrap up
  • 01:22:06 – Contact us

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This month on the manga show, Shea and Derek discuss the recently completed, Sunny, as well as other works by Taiyo Matsumoto. Late last year VIZ Media published the six and final volume of Sunny, a series that began in December 2010 in the original Japanese (published in Monthly Ikki), and has been coming out in English translation since the first volume in May 2013. This is a title that the guys have been wanting to discuss for some time, but they decided to hold out until the everything was wrapped up so that they could look at the series in its entirety.

This is a realistic, evenly paced drama about a group of orphans and outsiders residing at Star Kids Home, a foster home that serves as a refuse for children without family or whose parents do not have the means, or even the interest, in caring for them. Although this narrative functions with an ensemble cast, Shea and Derek feel that the de facto protagonist here is Haruo, an angry, troubled kid whose parents remain aloof. The series unfolds as Haruo interacts with the other children at the home, each of whom gets ample attention in the text, and the adults who try to make things manageable for them. The one central refuge in their lives, a space of safety and imagination, is a derelict Nissan Sunny 1200 that sits abandoned in the front yard of the Star Kids Home.

The guys spend most of the episode mapping out the various characters and their struggles in Sunny, but they also take the time to discuss other manga by Matsumoto, including Blue Spring (the original collected in 1993, and translated into English in 2004), Gogo Monster (2000/2009), the untranslated Takemitsuzamurai (2006-2010), and especially the Eisner Award-winning Tekkon Kinkreet, which originally ran from 1993-1994 and was collected as a one-volume English translation in 2007. As Shea points out, this is one of their favorite manga creators — for both guys — and they wanted to use this episode to dig deep into his art.

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Comics Alternative, Manga: Reviews of Inuyashiki and Wandering Island

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Shirtless

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Time Codes:

  • 00:00:26 – Introduction
  • 00:03:39 – Listener mail
  • 00:08:26 – Inuyashiki
  • 00:54:21 – Wandering Island
  • 01:22:21 – Wrap up
  • 01:23:13 – Contact us

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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 inuyashiki-interiorman 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.

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Comics Alternative, Manga: Reviews of Shigeru Mizuki’s Hitler and Message to Adolf

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This is NOT the History Channel

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Another month, another healthy dose of manga! For November, Shea and Derek make it a themed episode, one whose binding tie is an unlikely and infamous historical figure. To coincide with the 70th anniversary of the start of the Nuremberg Trials, the guys discuss two masters of manga and their takes on Adolf Hitler. They begin with Shigeru Mizuki’s Hitler, released earlier this month from Drawn and Quarterly. Since 2011, the Canadian publisher has been introducing English-speakers to the incredible work of Mizuki, and this most recent translation is of a curious graphic biography originally published in 1971. Mizuki approaches Hitler’s life as more of a character-study than as a historical determinant. Over the course of the book’s first half, we see a very human, very pathetic — and very troubled — Adolf Hitler, a man whose failures far outweigh his triumphs. But both Shea and Derek note that as the text carries us into the 1940s, Mizuki’s narrative is more rapid-fire and historically episodic, and the man that we’re left with is the failed, unstable dictator most often depicted in popular media. Next, the Two Manga Guys turn to a more epic undertaking, Osamu Tezuka’s A Message to Adolf (Vertical). Originally serialized in Shukan Bunshun magazine between 1983 and 1985, this is a work of fiction that heavily incorporates the historical figure. In fact, the entire narrative — totaling over 1,200 pages in Vertical’s most recent edition — is driven by questions surrounding Hitler’s possible Jewish heritage. The gist of the story, however, is devoted to the lives of two other Adolfs, both living in Kobe, Japan: one a German Jew growing up in the East, and the other a half-Japanese son of a Nazi Party official. The two become fast friends, only to have history, and fascist ideology, disrupt that relationship. Another character, a newspaper reporter named Sohei Toge, functions as the binding element of these various storylines, and both Derek and Shea highlight — and marvel at — the many moving parts that make up this narrative. This is a massive work that shows Tezuka at the peak of his artistry and storytelling abilities. There may be a lot of Hitler in this month’s episode, but in the hands of both Mizuki and Tezuka, it’s the kind of Hitler that the Two Guys can definitely stomach.

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NOTE: This episode is dedicated to the memory or Shigeru Mizuki, who passed away in a Tokyo hospital the day that this episode went up.

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