Shea and Derek are back for their September manga episode. (Yeah, yeah. We know it’s the beginning of October, but the guys were a little late getting last month’s show recorded.) This time they discuss two intriguing titles, each quite different one from the other. They begin with the inaugural issue of Vérité, a new anthology series out of India featuring classic alternative manga as well as contributions from contemporary Indian artists that have a gekiga feel to them. The guys were glad to see work from Tadao Tsuge, Susumu Katsumata, and Youji Tsuneyama, but they were also taken by fresh Indian voices such as those of Anpu Varkey, Shaunak Samvatsar, Nandita Basu, and Bharath Murthy, Vérité‘s editor. After that, Shea and Derek discuss Cutie Honey: The Classic Collection, by Go Nagai. This is another one of Seven Seas Entertainment’s nice hardbound collections of classic 1970s manga, other titles including Captain Harlock and Devilman. The guys emphasize Cutie Honey as a representative kind of shonen manga for its time, but they spend most of the time discussing the, at times discomforting, sexual or erotic nature of Go Nagai’s creation. What was written for a particular audience back in the 1970s may come across as gratuitous or even offensive to more contemporary readers. But both Derek and Shea point out that, despite the erotic weirdness apparent at times, the story is engaging and worth revisiting.
“There’s definitely some kind of cycling going on here”
This month Shea and Derek discuss two great works that bring back some older, or classic, manga. They begin with Leiji Matsumoto’s Captain Harlock: The Classic Collection, Vol 1(Seven Seas Entertainment), a series that originally ran between 1977 and 1979. Captain Harlock is a classic science fiction work, and with a space pirate protagonist who can be seen as a romantic hero. The Two Guys discuss the figure of Harlock as a curious mixture, while at the same time trying to ferret out the his philosophy. In many ways, they see this manga anchored in its time, both aesthetically and politically. But this work definitely isn’t limited to it’s time and can be appreciated today.
Next they turn to Slum Wolf, another translated collection from Tadao Tsuge (New York Review Comics). An earlier collection of Tsuge’s work, Trash Market, was released in 2015 by Drawn and Quarterly (which the guys reviewed on their June 2015 episode). Slum Wolf is a collection of nine stories originally published between 1969 and 1978 in various publications such as Garo and Yagyō. It also includes an essay by Tsuge, as well as a outstanding contextual essay by Ryan Holmberg, who also edited and translated the collection. The guys discuss all the stories, to greater or lesser degrees of depth, but they spend most of their time talking about the linking features that bind most of the narratives. As both Derek and Shea point out, this is one of the manga highlights of the year, so far.
For July, Shea and Derek discuss two works of manga that are radically different, one from the other. They begin with Nagata Kabi’s My Solo Exchange Diary, Vol. 1 (Seven Seas Entertainment). This is the follow-up to her previous autobiographical work My Lesbian Experience with Loneliness, a text the guys discussed last year. Whereas the earlier work was more targeted to a particular experience, the first volume of Kabi’s Solo Exchange Diary is broader in scope and chronicles a variety her life phenomena. Both Shea and Derek are fascinated by this project, especially given the diary’s structure and the creator’s conversations with herself.
Next, the Two Guys check out the first volume of Kenji Inoue and Kimitake Yoshioka’s Grand Blue Dreaming (Kodansha Comics). The premise of this series is based on a young man going off to college and expecting to have the usual college experiences. What he finds instead is a wild world of drunken and naked partying, all generated by the men of the local Diving Club. Both Derek and Shea find this title quite different from their usual reading, and they didn’t expect the wildness, and the weirdness, embedded within. If you’re looking for a manga about heavy drinking and naked game play, then Grand Blue Dreaming is for you.
This is the June manga episode, and unlike Shea and Derek had been doing the past couple of shows, this month’s manga episode actually comes out on the appropriate month…on time! And on the June show, the Two Guys discuss Riyoko Ikeda’s Claudine (Seven Seas Entertainment), a shōjo narrative set in historical France. The titular figure is a trans man, feeling trapped inside of his female body. Claudine’s journey takes him through several relationships, a lot of disappointments, and frustrations on not being understood. Next, Shea and Derek discuss the first volume of Akiko Higashimura’s new series, Tokyo Tarareba Girls (Kodansha Comics). While the style of this josei series is similar to Princess Jellyfish, the focus is more mature — and even more comedic — than that of her previous series. The guys discuss both the comedy and the messaging that seems to come through the story proper, and then contrast that tone with that of the “Bonus Story” that ends this first volume.
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.
This week, Tim talks with two women who are mixing Japanese and Western influences in their comics!
First, Ana Moreno, former US Marine and writer of Marine Corps Yumi, drawn in a gag-manga style by Takeshi Nogami. A gag manga about joining the Marines?! (available in both English and Japanese)
Then, Aussie Madeleine Rosca, creator of Hollow Fields (reviewed on last week’s show). Why does her work read right to left? Does she get any guff from readers about imitating a Japanese style? Also, the art of revealing neither too many nor too few secrets as your story moves forward, and more.
You may have been vaguely aware that a number of non-Japanese are drawing very manga-esque comics that are published in English only. They’re known as Original English Language (or “OEL”) manga, and many of them are published by Seven Seas Entertainment. Is this an area of comics worth exploring?
This week, Kory and Tim randomly pick up three of Seven Seas’ OEL titles (clockwise from upper right): The Outcast, by Vaun Wilmott and Edward Gan; Free Runners, by Bill Strauss and Jennyson Rosero; and Hollow Fields, by Madeleine Rosca.