Meanwhile, Andrew posted a new installment of The Chronicles of William Bazillion:
I'm delighted by the number of people who have declared their comic "#1 superhero comic on the web" on ComicSpace. As the writer of Smithson, The Number One Superhero Comic on the Internet©, I happily welcome all the other Number One Superhero Comics on the Internet© and hope we can work together to make the Internet the Number One place for Number One Superhero Comics©. Excelsior!
Also, I'm nominated for two Web Cartoonists' Choice Awards! I'm nominated for Outstanding Writer, and my comic Narbonic is nominated for Outstanding Comic. Since Narbonic just ended, this is the last year it can win any bricks, so I'm really touched by these nominations. If you produce an online comic in any way, shape or form, you're eligible to vote in the WCCAs. Go do that. Unless you're planning to vote against me, in which case absolutely don't. I've got a lot of stiff competition this year.
Okay, on to this week's Overlooked Manga Festival!
First, an Overlooked Manga Update. Kekkaishi has won this year's Shogakukan Manga Award in the shonen (boys') manga category. The Shogakukan Manga Award is the oldest manga award in Japan, established in 1955. It's pretty darn prestigious, although Kekkaishi did have something of an edge in the competition, as it's published by Shogakukan. But, you know, Shogakukan publishes a lot of manga.
So what scored Kekkaishi the win? Was it this rotund nature god?
This rotund, donut-loving nature god?
These creepy little bird-girls?
Perhaps this freaky wheel-monster?
Or maybe this teeny-tiny bite-size demon?
Oh, it's all these and more. Seriously, I love the monster designs in Kekkaishi. If all it had going for it were its monsters, it'd be worth a look. But Kekkaishi has a lot going for it: great characters, interesting situations, and a story that unfolds satisfyingly and takes a very simple premise in unexpected directions.
I know, I know, that's not what the cool kids are into these days. They're into one thing, and one thing alone: BUSINESS MANGA. I got to chat a lot about manga at Vericon this past weekend, and the one subject that kept cropping up was those crazy manga for subway-riding salarymen. I fielded many questions about the infamous Cup Noodle manga, more relevent than ever in the wake of instant-noodle inventor Momofuku Ando's recent passing, and the Warren Buffet manga, subject of a previous OMF. In these conversations, one truth became clear to me: people are hungry for business manga. Or, barring this, a crash-course in what the hell the deal is with business manga.
Fortunately, there's help.
Bringing Home the Sushi, published in ancient 1995, is an anthology of excerpts from manga aimed at white-collar workers, accompanied by essays explaining Japanese business culture. Because it hails from the long-ago era before manga was wildly popular in America (I swear there really was such a dark age), it spends a little more time demystifying Japanese comics than is probably necessary nowadays. And it employs what I can only describe as a deeply unfortunate solution to the problem of printing right-to-left comics in a left-to-right world. The book is published left-to-right, but the individual manga pages are left unflopped, forcing the reader to loop around and around while reading. It's not the smoothest reading experience.
But it's worth all the trouble, because where else are you going to see the insanest caricature of Lee Iacocca in the history of insane caricatures of Lee Iacocca?
That's from the stunningly over-the-top Director Hira Namijiro, in a dramatic sequence proving the superiority of Japanese automobiles and the mental instability of American auto executives. Take that, Detroit!
As the presence of Lee Iacocca suggests, the comics in this book hail from a relatively early period in the history of business manga, mostly the '70s and '80s. Since I love manga from the '70s and '80s more than I love oxygen, this makes Bringing Home the Sushi a treasure trove of awesome little manga gems. There is, for example, a chapter from Diary of a Fishing Freak, an immensely popular and long-running manga about a salaryman who gets in good with the boss thanks to their mutual addiction to fishing. Diary of a Fishing Freak is parodied in Even a Monkey Can Draw Manga, another Overlooked Manga pick, and it's fun to get a glimpse of the source material.
There are also a couple of gag manga strips. I think by now I've read enough four-panel gag manga to say with authority that the humor never really quite translates. But sometimes that kind of makes it better. Here are a couple of murderous strips from Don't Cry, Tanaka-kun!, about a hapless salaryman:
And some strips from Evolution of the Office Lady, about the young women who work as degraded yet outlandishly overpaid secretary/receptionists in Japanese offices:
What else? Oh, I like Salaryman Seminar, a collection of two-page gags aimed at aging businessmen who don't get young people these days and their slacker attitudes. Of course, in Japanese business culture, "slacker attitude" translates as "works a twelve-hour day but won't go out for karaoke with the boss afterward."
There's more. "The Telephone Pole," a naturalistic and affecting story about a businessman's fear that he's growing up to be just like his pathetic salaryman father. A chapter from the incomparable, incredibly long-running Section Chief Kosaku Shima, a sprawling white-collar epic that's partly a realistic overview of contemporary business issues, partly a naked wish-fulfillment fantasy rife with heroic boardroom deals and beautiful twenty-year-old women who can't wait to get into the pants of aging, workaholic businessmen, and partly an incredibly depressing concept of a way for a man to live his life. No wonder the bubble burst. (Shima was eventually promoted, with enormous fanfare and media coverage, to Division Chief Kosaku Shima, then Manager Kosaku Shima, and is currently Executive Director Kosaku Shima. And what is up with the lack of a Kosaku Shima entry, Wikipedia?) And the strangely and relentlessly energetic Notes from the Frantic World of Sales, which features one of the more disturbing panels I've come across in my manga reading:
It's not much better in context, believe me.
Bringing Home the Sushi came out of a feature in the sadly defunct magazine Mangajin, which attempted to explain Japanese culture and teach Japanese language through manga excerpts. The essays, by a variety of writers, are generally solid introductions to the concepts featured in the manga, and some are excellent. If you want to learn more about business manga, or just sample some classic examples of the genre, this is the book to track down.
Previous Overlooked Manga Festivities:
Please Save My Earth
From Eroica with Love
Even a Monkey Can Draw Manga
Your and My Secret
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