Comics Alternative, Manga: Reviews of School Judgment 1 and A Drifting Life

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“Wacky all the way around”


On the February manga show, Shea and Derek look at a new title and an older title. They begin with a discussion of School Judgment 1, recently released by VIZ Media. Written by Nobuaki Enoki and with art by Takeshi Obata — perhaps best known for his work on Death Note — this is the first book in a series that has a unique premise. In fact, the guys comment several times on the wacky setup of School Judgment: a legal arbitration system established in Japan’s elementary schools, where the students themselves try criminal cases serving as judge, prosecution, SchoolJudgmentPineand defense. In this first installment, the protagonists Abaku Inugami (for the defense) and Pine Hanzuki (prosecution) battle over three strange cases, with the book ending by setting up a fourth. Shea and Derek discuss the weirdness and the social pertinence of the storylines, including arbitration concerning both drug use and pedophilic voyeurism. After that, they look at at Yoshihiro Tatsumi’s A Drifting Life (Drawn & Quarterly). With an original English publication of 2009, this is Tatsumi’s slightly veiled autobiography and a look at his growth as a manga artist. In fact, Derek points out that the book can best be read as a künstlerroman, a narrative about an artist’s growth to personal and creative maturity. This is a hefty book of over 830 pages, a marked difference from the kind of short-form manga that Tatsumi is best known for. Indeed, both Shea and Derek contrast reading A Drifting Life to their experiences with his short-story collections, such as The Push Man and Other StoriesAbandon the Old in TokyoGood-Bye, and Fallen Worlds (also published in English by Drawn & Quarterly). While the shorter slice-of-life narratives are clear examples of gekiga, an alternative manga form advocated by Tatsumi himself, this autobiographical work is more conventional. And being a retrospective look back at his early life, Tatsumi brings into his story the real-life artists that inspired him and served as his companions and competitors, including Osamu TezukaMasahiko Matsumoto, Takao Saito, and Susumu Yamamori. As the guys conclude, this is an outstanding book and the perfect introduction to the world of Yoshihiro Tatsumi.