Comics Alternative, Manga: Reviews of Die Wergelder, Vol. 1 and The Strange Tale of Panorama Island

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A Decadent Episode


Shea and Derek are back with their January episode of the manga series. But isn’t this the first of week of February? Yes it is, but due to unforeseen circumstances, the guys had to postpone the recording of their January episode and had carry it over into this week. But no worries! They still bring you the same great quality manga analysis, and, in addition, this means that listeners will get a double dose of Shea and Derek’s manga talk for the month of February!

They begin with Hiroaki Samura’s Die Wergelder, Vol. 1 (Kodansha Comics). Those familiar Blade of the Immortal will instantly recognize Samura’s style and know that they’re in for a dynamic narrative punctuated with what some might feel are scenes of gratuitous sexual violence. In fact, Shea addresses this issue toward the beginning of their discussion, wondering if Die Wergelder might put off some of its readers. Derek argues that these kind of scenes serve a legitimate narrative purpose, especially as it regards one of the book’s protagonists, Träne, building character and setting a purposefully disturbing context. This first English-language edition collects the first two volumes of the original Japanese series, which began in 2011, and introduces what is arguably the title’s three main protagonists, women with uncertain and even tragic pasts whose stories converge in a narrative of yakuza wars and corporate intrigue. Next, the guys turn to Suehiro Maruo’s The Strange Tale of Panorama Island (Last Gasp). Originally published in English in 2013, this is an adaptation of Edogawa Rampo’s 1920s novel, a twisted Poe-esque narrative of death, indulgences, and self-reinvention. Derek highlights what he sees as the carnivalesque nature of the story, but a more appropriate descriptive frame would be ero guro (erotic grotesque), a style of art defined by eroticism, decadence, and sexual (at times horrific) indulgence. Indeed, Maruo is known for this kind of manga, perhaps more notably displayed in Mr. Arashi’s Amazing Freak Show and the stories collected in Ultra-Gash InfernoPanorama Island is more tame and lower down the “grotesque” scale than these books, but it’s nonetheless a disturbing, nightmarish journey into human desire.