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Shaenon K. Garrity
This is where I write stuff.
New Smithson! 
5th-Jan-2007 09:39 am
Enough of this romantic triangle stuff. Let's move on to some weird thing!


Remember how I said there'd be no Overlooked Manga Festival this week? I LIED. Or changed my mind. At any rate, I decided it was high time I did a year-end manga update.

This has been another awesome year for manga in the US. If you're a tottering old granny nerd like me, you remember a time when hardly any manga got published in English, and everything that made it over had to appeal primarily to American comic-book fans. It was all sci-fi, fantasy, and male-ego-stroking harem romantic comedies, basically. Oh, and porn. Not that I don't love all these genres (if you can't at least tolerate harem comedies, you're SOL in the manga world), but it gave American readers a pretty narrow idea of what manga was all about.

Then, less than ten years ago, things started to happen. Pokemon got big, and suddenly kids were into manga. Sailor Moon got big, and suddenly girls were into manga. Then Tokyopop started publishing its comics in little trade paperbacks instead of monthly pamphlets, and everything changed forever. I started working at Viz in 2000, when everyone was living large on Pokemon money (yes, as late as 2000, and for several years after that--most people have no idea how big that yellow rat really was) and we all thought manga was as popular as it was ever going to get. We were so wrong.

Now we have more manga, and more types of manga, than old-school manga nerds like myself could ever have imagined. Looking at my Overlooked Manga Festival picks for 2006, I see manga for girls, boys, little kids, and adults. I see manga about ballet, baking, hot gay voice actors, Warren Buffett, and manga itself. I see creepy-ass horror from the 1970s, poop jokes from the 1980s, postapocalyptic sci-fi from the 1990s, and lots of great work from today. And the Overlooked Manga Festival is just about overlooked manga. Think of all the other, more popular manga out there, working hard to give us awesome stuff to read.

In 2007, there's a book coming out that will illustrate just how much manga is now available in English, and you will be overwhelmed. But that's all I can say about that. (And I'm only talking about the work in official translation, not the million billion scanlations out on the Internets. I don't even read scanlations, unless someone puts up a Moto Hagio story, because there simply aren't enough hours in the day.)

Since a lot of the manga I cover in the Overlooked Manga Festival are ongoing series, I thought I'd recap a few of them, just to let you know what's been going on since my original post.

The subject of the very first Overlooked Manga Festival continues to be everything I could want in a manga. Seriously, it's a good thing this kind of work wasn't available when I was a teenager, or my head would have exploded from pure pleasure. I'm now editing the final volumes, in which everybody kicks the crap out of everybody, shojo style, in a climactic battle spanning several volumes. A lot of manga run too long and then have to shoehorn in a hurried resolution, so I love a manga with a strong, satisfying ending. Basara is carefully plotted from beginning to end. And it's epic. In one of the liner notes, Yumi Tamura comments that she wanted to do a big cast picture at the end, but then she went back and counted and realized she'd have to draw 130 people, "and that was just the major characters."

So she's got this huge sweeping story, and then she's all like, Oh, by the way, I can totally draw awesomely, too.

Hell yeah!

Please Save My Earth
The next-to-last volume just came out. I continue to be addicted to this manga even though the two leads need to be slapped, hard, at least twice per volume. This is one of those stories where the central crisis would be resolved instantly--or, heck, not exist in the first place--if the characters could have one ten-minute conversation in which they didn't act like assholes and/or useless weeping dishrags. This sort of thing is one of the (admittedly many) reasons I stopped reading Orson Scott Card novels. But damn it, Please Save My Earth is painfully absorbing anyway. Saki Hiwatari pulls you into the story and its earnest, mystical, adolescent worldview and doesn't let go. Plus she's a fantastic artist. I'm on the edge of my seat until Volume 21.

From Eroica with Love
I've brought this up before, but Eroica just keeps getting better with each new volume. It may be the most pure fun I've gotten out of a comic book. In fact, I'm going to declare right here that Eroica is the #1 Overlooked Manga Festival pick you should be reading right now. I'm up to Volume 7, in which Eroica tries to steal the crown jewels of England and then constructs an elaborate, if not especially well-thought-out, plan to steal the art collection that triggered his sexual awakening into the gayest Robert Plant lookalike in Europe, and it's such a great ride.

Osamu Tezuka's sprawling, nutty "life's work" never ceases to amaze. I'm going to do a big Phoenix recap when the series ends, but for now you can enjoy this monster parade from Volume 9:

I also highly recommend Tezuka's Ode To Kirihito, out now in one big fat edition from Vertical. It's part medical drama, part globetrotting adventure, part Christian allegory, and part fever-dream of a diseased lunatic mind. Great, great stuff.

Knights of the Zodiac
Seiya and his friends haven't done much since the last time I wrote this, thanks to Viz slowing the production schedule down to four volumes a year. The Poseidon Saga is now out in its entirety, and soon we'll be launching into the final, ten-volume Hades Saga. And it will be rad-tastic. Believe me when I say that, right out of the gate, the Hades Saga reaches levels of batshittery and badassitude that make the previous 18 volumes of Knights of the Zodiac look positively sedate. And, yes, I'm aware that the Poseidon Saga basically consisted of the heroes physically throwing each other headfirst at the massive pillars of an underwater temple in the hope of smashing the whole thing down around their heads, weeping manly tears all the while.

The Hades Saga is much, much insaner than that.

The Drifting Classroom
Kazuo Umezu's horror masterwork is already up to Volume 4, and I have no words. As you may recall, at the end of Volume 2 we were promised that a small child would be simultaneously crucified and burned at the stake. We got that. We also got a) a weird jungle of sand-plants inhabited by a giant centipede monster; b) a weird psychic link through space and time allowing Sho to get some eleventh-hour help while wrestling with an insane teacher in the upper story of a ruined building; c) an attempted coup by a tough girl who beats everybody up, inspiring many sexist comments about the poor leadership skills of women; and d) the first-graders suddenly deciding to jump off the roof of the school en masse. Then, in Volume 4...but I can't even go into Volume 4 without dropping spoilers that you probably wouldn't believe anyway, especially the part where Sho saves himself from a monster by turning into a chair. Suffice to say that, if you keep reading The Drifting Classroom, you can expect to enjoy many more panels like this:

What manga am I excited about in 2006? For me, it's all about Vertical's upcoming publication of To Terra, by Keiko Takemiya, a classic sci-fi manga from the golden 1970s by one of the very greatest shojo artists. Vertical is also publishing more work by Tezuka, starting with the sexxxay Apollo's Song, and has promised more Takemiya manga after To Terra. Vertical is my new ultimate hero. I sincerely hope that none of these manga will become Overlooked Manga, but I'll probably want to talk your ear off about them anyway.

Previous Overlooked Manga Festivities:
Please Save My Earth
From Eroica with Love
Even a Monkey Can Draw Manga
Dr. Slump
Your and My Secret
Wild Act
Knights of the Zodiac
The Drifting Classroom
OMF Special Event: Manga Editors Recommend Manga, Part 1
OMF Special Event: Manga Editors Recommend Manga, Part 2
OMF Special Event: Manga Editors Recommend Manga, Part 3
OMF Special Event: Great Moments in Manga Baking
Shout Out Loud
Warren Buffett: An Illustrated Biography of the World's Most Successful Investor
Sexy Voice and Robo

5th-Jan-2007 08:28 pm (UTC)
Triangle? I figured he was confessing to his growing attraction to Chuck, and she was misconstruing it.

What, that's not where you were going with it? ;> I dunno, almost anywhere you take it there's that potential for gut-churning awkwardness, so it's all good....
(Deleted comment)
5th-Jan-2007 11:12 pm (UTC)
I got volumes 3 and 5 of Phoenix for Xmas, and they emphatically get the How the Hell Did I Miss This Award for good comix. They're both fun reads and really inspiring in the art department.

If possible, though, I'd like to keep the bulk of the Earth between me and any of those Drifiting Classroom books. Thanks to Shaenon for inspiring a fresh bout of insomnia with the "I Need Food" kid (just after I finally stopped seeing Laughing Guy whenever I closed my eyes ...)
6th-Jan-2007 04:35 am (UTC)
Mmm. My copy of volumes 18-20 of Please Save My Earth are on their way. Are there any rumblings of licensing the sequel after PSME is finished?
6th-Jan-2007 11:20 am (UTC)
I'll have to read Phoenix some day. It's just so strange looking.

Tezuka truly deserves the title of Japanese Kirby/Disney.
6th-Jan-2007 11:21 am (UTC) - aww crap
that was me. LJ let's you post anonymously too easily.
16th-Jul-2008 02:29 pm (UTC)
Let me know what you think and if you want me to post the code for you I can. Www. Myspace. Com/infinity_inthe_palm PM     deathbypain said.
8th-Jan-2007 05:36 pm (UTC) - Drifting Classroom
I regret that I haven't read any of these yet, but your description is classic.
9th-Oct-2008 03:32 pm (UTC)
Russo: I haven't read the new Delillo yet but I understand it's terrific. Dave: It's completely different from his earlier novels, particularly Underworld , the most recent.
11th-Jan-2007 08:29 am (UTC)
The sexist comments were in the original, of course. Early '70s Japan... :/
17th-Nov-2007 03:25 am (UTC)
So many of the people I know who are into manga now don't even have a clue what it was like before. Every time I go into Borders, not only am I amazed that their manga section is nearly as large as their sci-fi/fantasy section, I'm amazed that they're selling manga at all. Not only that, but it's almost reaasonably priced, at $8-10 per book (though frankly, if I had to read it in English, I would not be able to afford to read very much), rather than $3 for twenty-some pages or $15-20 for a graphic novel (and of the handful of series that came out here, even fewer actually got the graphic novel treatment). I started reading manga in the early '90s, but I stopped even paying attention to the American market as soon as I could read enough Japanese to understand the originals, so it's really amazing to see how much things have changed in fifteen years or so.
6th-May-2010 12:01 pm (UTC)
i really love Saint Seiya (Knights of Zodiac) manga



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