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Shaenon K. Garrity
This is where I write stuff.
New Smithson! 
6th-Jul-2006 11:43 am
Just the pencils, though. Enjoy the creepiness of the mostly-uncolored page:


Okay, on to this week's installment of Overlooked Manga Festival!

"Shaenon," said my good friend Jason Thompson, "your description of From Eroica with Love sounds completely insane."

"Well, Jason," I replied, "that's because it is."

(By the way? That's a MAN, baby.)

Based on the manga I've discussed so far, and also my boobs, you may have deduced that I'm a fan of shojo (girls') manga. It's true; although I like all comics that don't suck, I have a soft spot for the chick stuff. (Also, most of my favorite boys' manga, like One Piece and Death Note, are already super popular and have no place in an Overlooked Manga Festival.) And you know what I like even better than shojo manga? OLD shojo manga. The older, the better. Basara, my first Overlooked Manga selection, hails from the 1990s, which makes it better than manga coming out now. Please Save My Earth, last week's choice, is from the 1980s, which makes it even better than Basara. Now we're getting to the real meat: shojo manga from the 1970s, the greatest era of manga.

The 1970s was a hugely important decade for shojo manga. Basically, a whole bunch of young women started drawing manga, took over the whole girls' wing of the industry, and revolutionized it, turning shojo manga into the most interesting and innovative area of Japanese comics. Also, they drew hot men making out. Tragically, very little shojo manga from this awesome, awesome period has been published in English. CMX, DC's manga line, has rendered upon the world a priceless service by publishing two great 1970s shojo manga: Swan and From Eroica with Love. I'm going to talk about Eroica this week, because it's the one that's batshit insane.

It all starts, as so many things do, with three plucky superpowered teens with unintentionally hilarious names:

Laugh all you want, but a lot of manga artists a) don't know what kinds of names non-Japanese people have, and b) don't care. Here in America, we have the grace to admit our ignorance and just name all our Japanese characters "Ken." But in Japan, cartoonists will make up any crazy gaijin-sounding shit they want. Even in Death Note, a mostly serious manga, the white characters all have made-up names like "Wedy." You know what's a better name than "Wedy"? LEOPARD SOLID.

A lesser cartoonist would probably stick with these clean-cut losers. But not Yasuko Aoike, who almost immediately realizes that she has a much better character in their first foe:

Earl Dorian Red Gloria, you say? But what brings you to this manga?

The Earl's turn-ons include globe-trotting, flying around in his personal blimp, moonlighting as the dashing art thief and international criminal "Eroica," and men almost as pretty as himself. His turn-offs include not being the main character, and bears. Obviously, he is a million times better than the nominal heroes of the story, and by halfway through Volume 1 the plucky teens have vanished, never to return. So long, plucky teens!

But wait! This leaves Eroica without either a good guy to battle or a love interest to seduce! Something must be done! Someone must fill the gap!

From the moment NATO officer Major "Iron" Klaus Eberbach appears, the manga hits its groove. The Major wants to stop the Earl, and the Earl wants to do unspeakable naughty things to the Major. And steal stuff. Once they meet, it's all international espionage and guy-on-guy flirtation, for volume after volume after volume (despite its extremely '70s origins, Eroica is still running sporadically in Japan TO THIS VERY DAY).



It's sort of a high-camp Golgo-13... but Golgo is another story and shall be told another time.

Besides the flamboyancy, art-thievery, and blimp ownership, there's one more extremely awesome thing about Eroica:

Yes, Eroica is modeled physically after Led Zeppelin lead Robert Plant. He also has henchmen who look like the other members of the band. Could that be any more wonderful? Could it be any more Seventies? I say nay!

In fact, I realized just now while writing this that the Earl must have "Red" in his name because it's the Japanese pronunciation of "Led." I cannot believe it took me like three years to figure that out. I am so sad.

To hide my shame, I'll distract you with Eroica dressed as a pirate:

Aoike's art is just so-so, at least by the extremely high standards of classic shojo manga. But it gets the job done. And this manga is all about the writing: the (improbable) plots, the (ridiculous) characters, the (completely absurd) intrigue. About the gay stuff, I'm pretty fascinated that, just a few years after the groundbreaking boy-love manga Heart of Thomas and Song of the Wind and Trees, the "pretty boys in love" premise was already common enough to get the tongue-in-cheek (but still sexy) camp treatment in a manga like this. Eroica never takes itself or its protagonists seriously, but that just makes them more lovable.

So that's From Eroica with Love. Super highly recommended. And FABULOUS.

6th-Jul-2006 08:36 pm (UTC)
After this, I will never think of Robert Plant in the same way again.

And how do they stand on those legs? Wouldn't the weight of their hair knock them over?
6th-Jul-2006 09:55 pm (UTC)
Heh. drcpunk has been talking Eroica at me since the late '90s.

More recently, they've been being reprinted in the US, so I've actually been reading them -- yeah, they're pretty good, though I didn't know about the Led Zepplin (ah, I get the blimp reference now) thing.

BTW, dunno why, but lj-as-rss-aggretgator has been fairly sporadic on Smithson updates -- you can see it here: smithson_comic, but it looks like it just didn't get chapter 2, page 3 at all, skipping from 2p2 to 2p4 (with a truckload of Narbonic updates in the mix).

This appears to be because the RSS feed does exactly the same thing (you can search it in Firefox by doing view source and then activating search) -- it shows an update for 2p4, and before that, 2p2, but between them...nothing.

Admitedly, the smithson_comic feed should really be pointing to the series feed (made more obvious once you moved Narbonic over, but the feed links are more visible than they were):


But...even -that- feed (and it's much more glaring there) skips strips. (or in the case of 3p36, multiplies them).

I've submitted a support url to fix the smithson_comic url, but it doesn't fix the basic problem.
6th-Jul-2006 10:14 pm (UTC)
Leopard Solid and Caesar Gabriel are, iirc, based very loosely on the actors who played Starsky and Hutch.
6th-Jul-2006 10:37 pm (UTC)

Please, manga of the '70s! Do not become more awesome or you will make my HEAD EXPLODE!
6th-Apr-2007 04:37 am (UTC)
I had to say wow, love your Eroica commentary! 70's manga rocks!!! Have you read "Rose of Versailles"? If not you should check it out.
19th-Jan-2007 01:53 am (UTC) - all
7th-Jul-2006 12:04 am (UTC)
Hey Sarge, can you bonk Jason on the head and get him to get more pages of "The Stiff" done?
7th-Jul-2006 01:10 am (UTC)

Jason is hard at work on a Secret Manga Project, but he swears he's getting "The Stiff" back on schedule. I poke him as much as I can.
16th-Jul-2008 04:00 pm (UTC)
Her: yeah, but he's so polite, he'll probably just ask us to join him. Me: that's true -- but I think I might be too paralyzed to speak.
9th-Oct-2008 03:41 pm (UTC)
But the best explanation is probably the most obvious one: she's just not ready for this job. That's a pity, because I still really like her and hope that she is ready some day.
17th-Oct-2008 04:16 am (UTC)
But the best explanation is probably the most obvious one: she's just not ready for this job. That's a pity, because I still really like her and hope that she is ready some day.
17th-Oct-2008 04:23 am (UTC)
But the best explanation is probably the most obvious one: she's just not ready for this job. That's a pity, because I still really like her and hope that she is ready some day.
25th-Jan-2007 02:20 am (UTC)
vivamus, mea Lesbia, atque amemus,
rumoresque senum severiorum
omnes unius aestimemus assis!
soles occidere et redire possunt:
nobis cum semel occidit brevis lux,
nox est perpetua una dormienda.
da mihi basia mille, deinde centum,
dein mille altera, dein secunda centum,
deinde usque altera mille, deinde centum.
dein, cum milia multa fecerimus,
conturbabimus illa, ne sciamus,
aut ne quis malus invidere possit,
cum tantum sciat esse basiorum.

Nice to know that dear old Gaius V. Catullus is alive and well, even in the oddest of places. Just linked from The Comics Curmudgeon. Werra-werra interesting.
9th-Oct-2008 03:13 pm (UTC)
Valentine's Day, Let me share the first Latin poem I ever learned: Carmen 5 , Gaius Valerius Catullus Vivamus, mea Lesbia, atque amemus Rumoresque senum severiorum Omnes unius aestimemus assis Soles occidere et redire possunt Nobis, cum semel occidit brevis lux Nox est perpetua una dormienda Da mi basia mille, deinde centum Dein mille altera, dein secunda centum Deinde usque altera mille, deinde centum Dein, cum multa millia fecerimus Conturbabimus illa, ne sciamus Aut ne quis malus invidere possit Cum tantum sciat esse bassiorum Let us live, my Lesbia, and let us love And all the rumors from severe old men Let us regard as worth but a farthing Suns may rise and they may set For us, when once the brief light dies Night is one perpetual sleeping Give me a thousand kisses, then a hundred Then another thousand, then a second hundred Then right on to another thousand, then a hundred Then, when we've made many thousands We shall mix them all up, so that we do not know Nor can any villain be jealous When he knows the number of kisses there were So let us live, my friends, and let us love.
16th-Jun-2007 10:44 pm (UTC)
Fabulous summary. Love to Eroica! :D
10th-Sep-2007 07:18 pm (UTC)
Waaaah! I´m reading Eroica at the moment, and it´s totally awesome!!! Really, a gooood manga! I`m so sad that the manga isn´t more popular...
21st-Oct-2007 04:46 am (UTC)
Hehe, I love that manga. It's awesome, and hilarious. I kept expecting Ceaser to come back, and was kinda disappointed when he didn't. I mean, Ceaser seemed to really like Dorian, and vice versa. But I love the Major, so it's alright.

I actually haven't read it in quite awhile. Makes me wanna go read it again.
18th-Nov-2007 03:41 pm (UTC)
Was trawling for Eroica stuff on the net when I hit upon your page. I swear my face hurts from smiling so much. XD Great introduction to an equally great series. Hope more ppl pick it up. (Even if CMX's translation doesn't really do it justice.)
14th-Dec-2007 04:06 pm (UTC)
During your trawling, did you hit upon LJ's Eroica communities? schlosseberbach & castlegloria

31st-Jan-2008 03:28 pm (UTC)
Waaaah! I´m reading Eroica at the moment, and it´s totally awesome!!! Really, a gooood manga! I`m so sad that the manga isn´t more popular...
7th-Feb-2008 10:59 pm (UTC) - Gaaaaay
Dude! I always thought Eroica's name was Dorian Red because it's like Dorian Grey, but much more gayer (yay for Oscar Wilde!). But that Led Zeppelin thing makes sense too. Sooooo evil!
4th-Jun-2008 03:56 am (UTC) - Re: Gaaaaay
Ahaha I think the Dorian Grey theory makes a lot of sense as well.

And I love "From Eroica With Love" From the Cold War jokes to Dorian's fantasies. It cracks me up every time. The only problem is, it's hard to get my hands on them where I live.

Personally, I'm GLAD Caesar Gabriel is gone! I couldn't STAND him. Sugar and Leopard was tolerable but... Yes, the only downfall to Eroica With Love is gone by the first book. : D
25th-Mar-2008 10:31 pm (UTC) - Okey
Admitedly, the smithson_comic feed should really be pointing to the series feed (made more obvious once you moved Narbonic over, but the feed links are more visible than they were):
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8th-Apr-2008 12:21 pm (UTC) - Re: Okey
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8th-Apr-2008 12:22 pm (UTC) - Re: Okey
good manga ı love mangas when ı was a child, ı was reading manga books

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4th-Sep-2010 11:24 pm (UTC)
ooh! i ADORE this series! tis true! the protagonists are not taken seriously. and i kinda like that. though i do laugh at how hard Dorian tries but nevah seems to get a Klaus....xDDD. At times i wish they'd kiss (even if by accident) and get it over with, but i feel that it would be downhill from there and dare i say: predictable! i mean, let me guess: he figures out they have some feeling sthere, explores it further, and WHAM they're. like, married or something! bah. no. i like them chasing eachother around the world. i believe this is the only shojo that i have NOT demanded a pairing or hookup. :D
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