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).
This month on The Comics Alternative‘s manga series, Shea and Derek check out two very different titles. They begin with Kazuto Tatsuta’s Ichi-F: A Worker’s Graphic Memoir of the Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant(Kodansha Comics). This is a 500+ page account of the reconstruction and cleanup in the wake of 2011’s disaster in Fukushima. As the guys discuss, the text does two things at once: provides objective reportage of the situation surrounding Fukushima and reveals the author’s very personal experiences in securing and maintaining his role in the cleanup efforts. While both guys enjoyed the book, perhaps Derek more than Shea, they nonetheless wondered about Tatsuta’s background as a mangaka — “Kazuto Tatsuta” is a nom de plume, so it’s difficult to determine any bibliography — and any potential agenda (if any) underlying this work.
After their focus on real-world disaster, the guys move into the realm of fantasy. Platinum End (VIZ Media) is a current shōnen series from Tsugumi Ohba and Takeshi Obata, the same team behind Bakuman and Death Note. The second English-language volume was just released this month, so the guys have enough story under their belts to get a secure feel for the art and narrative. As Derek explains, the premise appears a little on the hokey side, at least at first, but as things develop the story begins to take on a life of its own, one that soon hooks you. Much of this is because of Obata’s style, but there are also larger thematic issues that make this title worth exploring. The guys discourse over the text’s theological import, its engagement with gender identity, and its satiric commentary on contemporary popular culture. This is definitely a series that both Shea and Derek will continue reading.
It’s the end of the month, so that must mean it’s time for Shea and Derek to look at another round of manga. For September, they discuss two recent releases, the first of which is Leiji Matsumoto’s Queen Emeraldas, Vol. 1 (Kodansha Comics). Originally serialized in Weekly Shonen Magazine between 1978 and 1979, this is a science fiction adventure with two protagonists. Hiroshi Umino is a fearless earth boy wants to make his own way in life, and the titular character is a mysterious and much-feared figure who sees in Hiroshi a kindred spirit. Matsumoto is known for these kind of space operas, and the guys aren’t entirely sure why more of his manga hasn’t yet been translated into English (although Americans may be more familiar with Matsumoto’s work in anime).
Next, Shea and Derek look at the first of a two-volume collection, Otherworld Barbara. This is the latest in Fantagraphic’s translations of Moto Hagio’s manga, the previous editions being A Drunken Dream and Other Stories in 2010 and the shōnen-ai classic, The Heart of Thomas, released in 2013. The latest book has a completely different feel from the earlier Hagio translations, as this is a futuristic, psychological drama playing out in a surreal dreamscape. However, don’t mistaken this for anything reminiscent of Christopher Nolan’s Inception.Derek and Shea spend a lot of time discussing the themes of identity and doubling in this sophisticated narrative, and they eagerly await the completion of the concluding volume.