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Shaenon K. Garrity
This is where I write stuff.
New Smithson! 
25th-Jan-2007 10:00 am
Atagoul
Brian has drawn another fabulous page of The Number One Superhero Comic on the Internet©:

http://www.webcomicsnation.com/shaenongarrity/smithson/series.php

Now with more Gilbert and Sullivan in every bite!

Incidentally, copyright symbol notwithstanding, "The Number One Superhero Comic on the Internet©" is a non-exclusive promotional tagline. I encourage all you cartoonists out there to declare your work The Number One Superhero Comic on the Internet©, whether or not it actually features superheroes or is on the Internet. If we get just a few more people to add "#1 superhero comic on the web" to their Comicspace tags, we can make the tag list!

In other news, Andrew has posted a new installment of The Chronicles of William Bazillion, The Number One Superhero Comic on the Internet©, which I hope you've been following:

http://www.webcomicsnation.com/andrew/bazillion/series.php

This weekend we'll be at Vericon, at Harvard. You should totally come see me on the webcomics panel on Saturday.

Meanwhile, enjoy another Overlooked Manga Festival!



David Cross has a routine about how, in New York, you're constantly torn between staring at the most beautiful woman you've ever seen and the craziest guy you've ever seen. That's kind of how Osamu Tezuka is for me. His comics are alternately the most brilliant and the most batshit insane comics I've ever read. Actually, strike that: his comics are simultaneously the most brilliant and batshit insane. And the more serious and ambitious his work gets, the nuttier it gets. It's a reading experience like none other.

But the man was a genius, probably the greatest comic-book artist who ever lived. And of all his many manga, this one was said to be his personal favorite.



Ode To Kirihito isn't quite as overlooked as some of the Overlooked Manga; at least, it's gotten some critical attention. But I don't see it on no Bookscan sales charts, and everybody needs to be reading this thing. You like globetrotting adventure? Medical drama? Psychological melodrama? Science fiction? Christian allegory? Naked women getting breaded and cooked alive in a giant deep-fryer? Good, then you'll like Ode To Kirihito.

The English edition comes to us from Vertical, which is quickly carving out a niche for itself as the publisher of Manga Shaenon Likes To Read. I'm not sure how lucrative the Shaenon-targeted market is for them, but I'm enjoying their output. Ode To Kirihito is published in a single fat volume, and the $25.00 paperback version (less than $20 on Amazon) is a total steal. I sincerely doubt that you will regret such a purchase.

So. Medical researchers in Japan are baffled by the "Monmow Disease," which causes its victims to change gradually into doglike creatures who crave raw meat. Dr. Kirihito Osanai travels to a remote Japanese village afflicted with the rare disease, where he discovers what he believes to be the cause. Unfortunately, he also contracts Monmow himself. He's able to stop the disease from killing him, but he's stuck with the face of a dog. (A similar fate befalls the protagonist of one of the later volumes of Phoenix, so the whole dog-head thing evidently fascinated Tezuka. Or maybe he just liked to draw dogs.)




Spurned by the medical establishment, shunned by humanity, attacked by random assholes, Kirihito lands in an underground freak show and begins a long journey home by way of Syria, Taipei, and other exotic locales.



Everywhere he goes, Kirihito has to struggle to assert his humanity. His animal features make people deeply uncomfortable, because this is a world where even ordinary humans are just a few steps and a nice pair of shoes away from devolving into beasts.




Nonetheless, Kirihito continues to abide by the principles of his profession, championing life in the face of death, and allowing Tezuka to work in some of that medical drama he loves to draw. Tezuka was educated as a physician, and the medical scenes in his comics typically walk a narrow line between his expansive professional knowledge of medicine and his desire to go completely nutzoid.



Meanwhile, his colleague, Dr. Urabe, investigates an outbreak of a similar disease in South Africa. His work is stonewalled by the medical authorities of the white half of apartheid South Africa, who refuse to admit that the disease could affect white people.




But, in fact, a white person has been infected: a saintly nun named Helen Friese.




So far, so good. But if you think the well-meaning Dr. Urabe is going to solve the Monmow mystery, save Sister Helen, and rescue Kirihito...well, obviously you aren't aware that he's a MENTALLY-ILL SERIAL RAPIST. Alternately good and evil, Urabe is running out of time as his mind rapidly deteriorates. The following sequence illustrating an Urabe breakdown is one that other bloggers have posted online, but I'm including it here as well, because it truly is one of the most insane things I have ever seen in a comic book.






Tezuka plays with format and style like this throughout Ode To Kirihito. He seems to see the story as an opportunity to experiment and do things he wouldn't do in a more conventional manga narrative. And this is not a conventional narrative by any stretch of the imagination. Alternately sincere and goofy, grittily realistic and wildly outlandish, it can only be described as bizarre. At times it reminds me most of Black Hole, the dark, pulpy graphic novel by Charles Burns about a disease that mutates teenagers in creepy ways. And then, at other times, it's just a crazy-ass manga.



It's also very dark in its outlook. Kirihito's condition dredges up deep-seated human fears: of atavism, of ostracism, of literally "losing face." And Kirihito travels through a world of brutes. People hurt each other in vicious and arbitrary ways. Sex is always taken by force, by men and women alike. Cruelty and suffering abound.

I would go out into the streets to fight with my delusion, and prowling women would mew after me; furtive, craving men glance jealously at me; weary, pale workers go coughing by me with tired eyes and eager paces, like wounded deer dripping blood; old people, bent and dull, pass murmuring to themselves; and, all unheeding, a ragged tail of gibing children. Then I would turn aside into some chapel,—and even there, such was my disturbance, it seemed that the preacher gibbered “Big Thinks,” even as the Ape-man had done; or into some library, and there the intent faces over the books seemed but patient creatures waiting for prey...And even it seemed that I too was not a reasonable creature, but only an animal tormented with some strange disorder in its brain which sent it to wander alone, like a sheep stricken with gid.

The Island of Dr. Moreau



Tom Spurgeon compared it to a Sam Fuller movie.

The only hint of salvation comes through small human efforts at divine grace. Like I said above, Ode To Kirihito is, among many other things, a Christian story. "Kirihito" sounds like the Japanese pronunciation of "Christ," and Tezuka draws parallels between his characters' ordeals and the suffering and humiliation of Christ on the cross.




I have never read a comic like Ode To Kirihito. It's harrowing and hallucinatory, a bad acid trip of a manga, and I highly recommend it.



Previous Overlooked Manga Festivities:
Basara
Please Save My Earth
From Eroica with Love
Even a Monkey Can Draw Manga
Dr. Slump
Your and My Secret
Phoenix
Kekkaishi
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
Monster
Swan
Warren Buffett: An Illustrated Biography of the World's Most Successful Investor
Sexy Voice and Robo
OMF Special Event: 2006 Overlooked Manga Update
The Four Immigrants Manga
Gerard and Jacques

Comments 
25th-Jan-2007 08:05 pm (UTC)
I totally want to start a webcomic just so I can call it The Number One Superhero Comic on the Internet©
25th-Jan-2007 08:07 pm (UTC)
Please, Sarge, please please pretty please, do not keep saying "The Number One Superhero Comic on the Internet©" all the time. It makes my eyes itch and my brain swell up.
25th-Jan-2007 09:39 pm (UTC)
I put it on my comicspace, but I'm pretty sure everyone's going to think I'm a jerk now.
16th-Jul-2008 09:45 pm (UTC)
I’m never one to brag and toot my own horn, but I’m actually pretty proud of the new site and how responsive it is.
26th-Jan-2007 12:44 am (UTC)

The exact phrase to use as your tag in ComicSpace is: #1 superhero comic on the web

If we can get at least five people using it, it'll make it onto the main "tag" page. My goal is to get 50 people proclaiming their comics as the "#1 superhero comic on the web." Please use it on ComicSpace whether or not your comic even resembles a superhero comic, or even if you don't do a comic at all. The fate of the free world is at stake here.
26th-Jan-2007 12:44 am (UTC)

The exact phrase to use as your tag in ComicSpace is: #1 superhero comic on the web

If we can get at least five people using it, it'll make it onto the main "tag" page. My goal is to get 50 people proclaiming their comics as the "#1 superhero comic on the web." Please use it on ComicSpace whether or not your comic even resembles a superhero comic, or even if you don't do a comic at all. The fate of the free world is at stake here.
17th-Oct-2008 05:25 am (UTC)
If you can’t do it, you can at least find out where the problem is and fix it before you go live.
(Deleted comment)
17th-Oct-2008 04:14 am (UTC)
*4 Princess Fireball becomes a Sailor Senshi only in the manga. "Kinmokusei" is a Japanese pun on the word for "sweet olive", which explains her scent.
26th-Jan-2007 06:53 am (UTC)
Yes! G&S! Woohoo!

And those Urabe breakdown panels are astounding.
27th-Jan-2007 11:32 am (UTC)
I encourage all you cartoonists out there to declare your work The Number One Superhero Comic on the Internet©, whether or not it actually features superheroes or is on the Internet.

Or, indeed, if it's not a comic? ;)
27th-Jan-2007 05:03 pm (UTC)
OK, I'll play! I am Tagged.

Thank heaven for the public library, or else all these keen manga recommendations would cause serious harm to my bank account. I can't get them all this way, obviously, but I get a decent sampling. Keep 'em coming!
29th-Jan-2007 07:49 pm (UTC)
Anonymous
I found this journal through The Comics Interpreter, where both this writeup as well as your post on Phoenix Volumes 1 through 8 were linked to. When I saw the title of this series of posts was Overlooked Manga Festival, I was quite curious to see if there was any overlap between our picks and those of a SJ editor. It turns out we have a good bit in common, though I have not rasterized a gigantic image from Phoenix to adorn an entire wall. At least, not yet anyway.

Interesting that you bring up the dark outlook present throughout Kirihito. When we did our review of it about a week or so ago, we speculated that the depth of human depravity contained within Kirihito might have been part of Tezuka's response to the gekiga movement, having been penned in the early 70s and all. But unlike Tatsumi and company, Tezuka wasn't really the type to make a completely pessimistic tale. It probably sounded like we were being astute at the time, but I'm sure everyone heard that and felt "these guys are SO full of it," much like myself half the time as I read through all these "term paper turned anime academia book" books.

You know what's REALLY overlooked? That's right, Offered by Kazuo Koike and Ryoichi Ikegami. Once I become king of this rock, Offered will be required reading in history class. And also anatomy class. Perhaps a Project Mayhem-style scheme in which pages from AIUEO Boy are covertly placed within the pages of Nodame Cantible is in order. Anyway, good to find that there's people out there who know about this stuff. I can never have too many sources to steal from and claim as my own. Er, I mean "research."

Daryl Surat
Anime World Order Podcast
http://www.animeworldorder.com
30th-May-2007 08:10 am (UTC)
It's funny. When I was in Nagoya last August, my host family gave me the set of Ode to Kirihito as a going away gift ( It was in a 3-4 set and dubbed it's english name Eurology to Kirihito). Since I couldn't read kanji without furigana I was crushed.

And then at a university book store they had the compilation.

That was a dumb personal story but I have nothing other to post about this subject!
6th-May-2010 01:01 pm (UTC)
Ode to Kirihito manga Review:
A promising young doctor, Kirihito Osanai visits a remote Japanese mountain village to investigate the source of the latest medical mystery. While he ends up traveling the world to discover what it takes to be cured of such a disease, a conspiracy back home attempts to explain away his absence. Hinging upon his fate are those of his loved ones: an unstable childhood friend and colleague trapped between factions of the medical establishment that nurtured him; a fiancée emotionally transformed by Kirihito’s mysterious disappearance; and a stranger who becomes his guardian angel, a sensual circus-act performer with volatile psychological secrets.

You can buy Ode to Kirihito manga at manga astore

Regards
Smystery

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