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Shaenon K. Garrity
This is where I write stuff.
New Smithson! 
16th-Aug-2007 09:30 am
Duh duh DUH!


And of course there's always the latest Chronicles of William Bazillion!

Good as Lily, by Derek Kirk Kim and Jesse Hamm, just came out, and you should totally read it. It's Derek's first graphic novel since his award-winning debut Same Difference and Other Stories, and it's Jesse's first published graphic novel, period (although really old-school Modern Tales readers may recall his series Bitten Apple, which he stopped drawing about FIVE PAGES from the end, to the eternal frustration of many). Anyway, it's a super cute comic, but my favorite part is right here:

Yup, that's Andrew and me in the first panel, cheering on the food fight. I'm wearing a They Might Be Giants t-shirt, and Andrew's wearing a shirt with Kamandi, The Last Boy on Earth. Jason Shiga's getting creamed in the foreground of panel two. Thanks for the cameo, Jesse!

Okay, time for yet another Overlooked Manga Festival!

Here at the OMF, I try to avoid talking about the same creators over and over, but some are just so good I have to keep coming back to them. Fumi Yoshinaga is one of those. How is she so great? It's mathematically impossible! Every time I read one of her manga, I think it's the greatest manga I'm ever going to read, and then I read another Yoshinaga manga that's even better! Her best-known series, the Eisner-nominated Antique Bakery, won The Great Manga Bake-Off, and later I sang the praises of her smutty Gerard and Jacques. And yet Fumi Yoshinaga will just not stop being brilliant.

Despite the cover illustration and Yoshinaga's reputation as a purveyor of quality man-pr0n, Flower of Life is not yaoi. I'm sorry, but hot guys completely fail to make out in these pages. Instead, it's a dramedy about high-school life. And manga fandom. If you were a nerd in high school, and you had nerdy friends, and you and your nerdy friends did nerdy stuff like trading comics and organizing study sessions and putting together school plays, this is your story.

Harutaro Hanazono, roughly the central character, starts high school late after battling leukemia, something he cheerfully announces on the first day of class. He soon becomes bestest friends ever with Shota Mikuni, a cute little rotund fellow.

Already, this manga features two things you almost never see in manga:

1. Characters with real-life illnesses or medical conditions, dealt with realistically.
2. Fat kids.

Shota convinces Harutaro to join the school manga club, which initially comprises the two of them and creepy-ass hardcore otaku Kai Majima. Kai is a dead-on portrait of a nerd type I'm sure we've all encountered at some point, a walking answer to the question, "Why don't more girls like geeky guys?"

If you understood the above, I have just one word for you:


Fortunately, Harutaro has the right idea:

Harutaro turns out to have a talent for drawing manga characters, having had nothing else to do during his months of chemotherapy, and the manga club starts to pick up steam. Eventually, the gang acquires Sumiko, a shy girl with an unfortunate resemblance to that creepy little girl from "The Ring" (something that, again, characters cheerfully point out) and a hidden gift for writing and drawing old-school shojo manga.

This is the kind of thing that makes me wish more old shojo manga would get published in English, so I could see some of manga that this material is based on.

Flower of Life is riddled with knowing jokes about manga fandom, including a trip to the giant doujinshi convention Comiket and many explorations of Kai's icky, dating-sim-inspired sexual tastes. I'm not normally a big fan of nerd in-jokery. When I read a manga about otaku culture, I don't want a nice, isn't-it-cute-that-we-all-like-this-stuff manga like Genshiken; I want something like Welcome to the NHK, which covers pornographic video games and pedophilia in the very first volume and goes downhill from there. But Flower of Life is invariably on the nose in its depiction of manga geekery, and Yoshinaga's love for the material is infectuous. You've gotta love those conversations about how inappropriate the characters will let their homemade manga get.

But there's more to school life than drawing manga. Flower of Life covers a lot of the stalwart plotlines of manga about high school: friendships, parties, Christmas, the big class play.

Other key characters emerge: various classmates and their friends, a teacher torn between two extremely bad romantic choices, and Harutaro's sister, who periodically gets exasperated about having to take the mom role in their household.

Once Yoshinaga has established her characters, she can build entire chapters around such minor events as a character borrowing a book, or a trip to the mall.

I've got a soft spot for "our happy high-school days" manga; heck, I was the editor of Here Is Greenwood, and loved it. But Flower of Life is a cut above the rest of this genre: smart, quirky, and extremely well written. I know it's a cliche, but you really do feel like you get to know the characters like your own friends.

Plus, it's funny as hell. Thank you, Fumi Yoshinaga, for continuing to be better than everyone!

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
OMF Special Event: 2006 Overlooked Manga Update
The Four Immigrants Manga
Gerard and Jacques
Ode To Kirihito
Bringing Home the Sushi
Banana Fish
Skip Beat
OMF Special Event: The Greatest Manga Magazine in American History
Cyborg 009
Anywhere But Here
To Terra
Town of Evening Calm, Country of Cherry Blossoms
Doing Time
The Walking Man
Sugar Sugar Rune
Japan as Viewed by 17 Creators
Mariko Parade
Golgo 13
Ricca 'tte Kanji!?
Pure Trance
OMF Special Event: My Legacy
OMF Special Event: An All-Star Tribute to Carl Gustav Horn
Guest OMF by Jason Thompson: 888
JoJo's Bizarre Adventure
Tekkon Kinkreet
Yakitate! Japan

16th-Aug-2007 05:44 pm (UTC)
...and all in two volumes? Wow.

I may have to get this; it looks really sweet and fun.
16th-Aug-2007 05:53 pm (UTC)

There's at least three volumes out now.
16th-Aug-2007 05:57 pm (UTC)
That'll teach me to believe the listing at AnimeOnDVD.com! *sigh* Good to know there's more...
16th-Jul-2008 06:34 am (UTC)
Oh and also -- there is at least one property -- httpwww. Redfin. Com/WA/SeattleS. . . Ome -- that shows up on my Favorites list as Off Market, but when I searched on the address to see whether it had been sold or pulled, the same old Active listing came up.
16th-Aug-2007 05:55 pm (UTC)
So far there are three volumes of it. I don't know if there will be more, though. I don't think so.
16th-Aug-2007 07:04 pm (UTC)
The complete series is four volumes, the last of which came out in Japan this May. So there's still a little bit more wonderful Yoshinaga humour to go!
16th-Jul-2008 02:02 pm (UTC)
July 11th, am Wow, I may have to update my jailbroken iPhone for remote, it looks awesome. One question, though… whose sorry collection of music is being displayed in the screen cap above.
16th-Aug-2007 06:05 pm (UTC)
My favorite is his parent's professions!
16th-Aug-2007 06:31 pm (UTC)

That's right! I didn't even get around to mentioning that this may well be the only manga featuring PROFESSIONAL CHICKEN SEXERS!
16th-Aug-2007 08:01 pm (UTC)
I didn't want to say it - cause you know, spoiler!

But I went around for weeks saying "I'm not the chicken sexer I'm the chicken sexer's son, I'm only sexing chickens till the chicken sexer comes. " (From the children's rhyme about plucking figs. )
16th-Aug-2007 08:39 pm (UTC)
You know, chicken sexers are actually very much in demand. It's a dying art.
16th-Aug-2007 10:54 pm (UTC)
It is. I saw it on dirty jobs
16th-Aug-2007 06:59 pm (UTC)
Picked up Good as Lily yesterday and finished quick reading it last night. I'll probably do a review after I do a second more detailed reading. But right now its tied with Plain Janes as the 2nd best of the line so far. A definite step up from the dissapointing Clubbing. And the next two in the line look pretty good as well. Still would like to see more female writers/artists involved in their "girls" line. You or Carla Speed McNeil or Linda Medley or...well its a big list that I wish DC would do more to tap...
16th-Aug-2007 07:09 pm (UTC)
I always get a kick out of reading these "Overlooked Manga" posts. I don't read it myself, but its nice having someone give me the Nickel tour of them :)

I'm not sure what it is, but most of them just don't do anything for me, I have a hard time getting past the reading from right to left and I get the dialouge jumpbled up.
16th-Aug-2007 08:38 pm (UTC)
great cameo!
16th-Aug-2007 10:47 pm (UTC)
Is that you wielding a pie in panel 2? I see Andrew over to the side, looking as though he's just launched something.
16th-Aug-2007 11:20 pm (UTC)
It is. Although seeing it again, I fear I put her watch on the wrong hand.
16th-Aug-2007 11:50 pm (UTC)
Shaenon doesn't own a watch, but if she ever gets one, I'll make sure she wears it on her left wrist for the sake of accuracy.
17th-Aug-2007 05:40 pm (UTC)
In fact, I'd argue that Andrew probably threw the cupcake that smacked Jason Shiga upside the head.
16th-Aug-2007 11:51 pm (UTC)
I got to see some artist prints of Antique Bakery illustrations at the Art Institute when I was there for some work. I squeed. I'll post pictures sometime.
17th-Aug-2007 04:11 pm (UTC)
I loved the entire dip into "inappropriate subjects". The whole book is an exercise in 'fandom 101' and it was a terrific read.

18th-Aug-2007 07:27 pm (UTC)
*giggles* That looks absolutely adorable! Oh, another series I'll have to add to my lists....
17th-Nov-2007 05:36 am (UTC)
This looks really cute. I'll have to take a look for the Japanese version when I go to Book Off tomorrow.
20th-Dec-2007 11:12 am (UTC)
not bad at all

6th-Feb-2009 09:46 am (UTC)
flowers of life... it seems interesting story. Title of story "Flowers of life" is meaningful. Flowers are indeed to make happy everyone.send flowers to india to your near and dear ones.
8th-Jun-2010 04:18 am (UTC)
Little review about Flower Of Life Volume 1

Forced to enroll in school one month late after recovering from a serious illness, Harutaro is doing his best to remain optimistic about the entire situation. The other students are working hard to make Haru feel welcome - especially his chubby, loveable pal, Shota. However, Kai Majima, President of the Manga Club and all-around hard case, seems to be the one person intent on making Harutaro's school life a living nightmare.

You can buy Flower Of Life Volume 1 at manga comic


Andy Landers


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