Thursday, 31 March 2011
Friday, 18 March 2011
It’s not manga, nor is it anime, so this one comes under ‘other cool stuff’ as described by the blog’s subtitle. ^_^
What with Okamiden coming out on DS right about now, it seemed a good idea to look back at its roots with this fantastic book. Adopting a style that referred heavily to traditional Japanese painting, Okami first came out on the PS2 that put you in the position of a white wolf named Amaterasu, the Goddess of the sun, on an adventure to revive Nippon and defeat the demon Orochi. Exploring in a Zelda-esque manner Okami was unique in that it set its game as though playing out on a scroll, and on it players could use the powers of a ‘Celestial Brush’ to paint in and interact with the game world.
In large format and almost 300 pages, the Okami artbook is a sturdy tome. It starts out with illustrations and summaries of all the main cast, and then goes off to explore the demon designs, concept artwork and then more detailed illustrations toward the end. The majority of art employs lush brush pen work and coloured with marker pens. More obvious use of digital techniques are apparent, but this rarely detracts from the general organic style of the artwork. Basically anyone familiar with at least the box art of the main game will know what kind of work to expect. The game’s damn pretty, and in kind so is this book.
This is obviously a niche title that is only of real appeal to pre-established fans of the game, but if it tempts you it’s not one to hang around for. This book sells out quickly with prices soaring in between print runs - get it or regret it.
Sunday, 13 March 2011
Fanfare / Pontent Mon is a collaborative publisher that publishes manga in several languages. Avoiding more brash titles, their output of comics has a more thoughtful approach. You won’t exactly be finding ninjas firing energy beams at each other in their back catalogue!
Relating directly to its title, The Walking Man is about a somewhat eccentric man who enjoys walking about his home town. He has no real direction as we accompany his quiet exploration with rarely with any particular incident. Sometimes he’ll walk the dog or happen upon a friendly stranger, but more frequently he’s happy enough to wander about town on his own to discover untouched locations and witness small inconsequential events. The backgrounds are gently detailed, giving a real sense of the place and pages often fly by without a word being spoken. It’s all completely relaxed and ambient.
The Walking Man is currently out of print, but it’s definitely one of those books to keep an eye out for on the off chance you spot it a neglected comic shop or charity shop. Taniguchi’s work stands out for his ultra-detailed backgrounds and older protagonists who offer a more thoughtful perspective than many other manga. Several of his other titles are also available and are well worth checking out (I particularly recommend A Distant Neighbourhood). I’ll have to try and talk about more of his stuff as time goes on…
Tuesday, 8 March 2011
You kind of have to wonder sometimes how a series is pitched to publishers, especially if your idea has little plot, wobbly artwork and virtually no sense of direction. But despite being in this predicament, Bobobo-bo Bo-bobo (that’s 7 lots of ‘bo’) somehow got itself a gig and went on to spawn 21 volumes, an anime and a further sequel series.
Running almost as a stream of consciousness, Bo-bobo is takes every typical fighting manga cliché you’ve read and then stamps all over it with loving prejudice. Bungee fights, attacking with nose hair and screaming special moves such as ‘Fist of the Wild Dance of the Infuriated Jelly’, there’s much to take in but little genuine content. Reading a single chapter requires a surprising amount of headspace to keep up the its random and destructive tendencies, and many will be put off by its constant juvenile stupidity with little else to back it up. There’s a guy with a turd for a head also. The quality of the series? It just. Doesn’t. Stop. Most pages have more ideas than most series run in a chapter. Quite what the mangaka’s inspirations are is anybody’s guess, but I doubt it’s anything legal.
Imagine if you were suffering from food poisoning, had taken laxatives and were high on laughing gas - This is manga diarrhea at its most violent,. I’ve yet to even finish the first volume… is that even a recommendation?
Note: Doing a little research for writing this it seems that the US release of this is pretty confusing. A solo volume was released a few years ago which actually turns out to be volume 9 of the Japanese release. If you buy volume 1, you’re actually starting at volume 11 and carrying on from there.
Thursday, 3 March 2011
Sazae-san is known by virtually every man woman and child in Japan, but is completely obscure in the western market. Starting in 1946, the title became a staple of post-war cultural entertainment Japan, and even though the manga stopped running in the 70s, the anime has been running constantly for over 40 years and exists as the longest animation series in the world. If it were ever to stop Japan would probably break down into a civil war or something…
Sazae-san depicts the everyday lives of a twenty something woman and her family who all live under the same roof (this being her siblings, parents, husband and own child). As a 4koma, it is a comic strip in the truest form with visual gags, puns and observations on life in postwasr Japan – very much appealing to people who went through similar experiences at the time. Despite being unreservedly Japanese in its approach, instances of Sazae appearing unladylike or failing to keep up appearances are universal, with only the odd cultural note needed to help things along. It could be seen as being a little dry as it’s fairly conservative by today’s standards, but there’s no denying its cultural significance as well as offering insight into the more mundane instances of contemporary Japanese life.
The only reason this title has even made it to western shores is through bilingual editions translated by Kodansha itself. With the English in the speech bubbles and the Japanese sitting next to each panel, the idea is that this could be used as a learning aid. 12 volumes are out there somewhere, predominantly from second-hand sources at variable prices. The educational value as a language learning really depends on the reader, but for some gentle entertainment and cultural insight this is filled with charm.