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Shaenon K. Garrity
This is where I write stuff.
New Smithson! 
22nd-Feb-2007 10:00 am
Right on schedule, with MORE RUNNING ACTION!


Also, Andrew's opus, The Chronicles of William Bazillion, continues apace:


We apologize that only one of the above comics currently features Hitler punching Lincoln.

Also, this week I'm interrupting our regularly scheduled Overlooked Manga Festival for an Overlooked Manga Festival Special Event!

This week's OMF Special Event is a loving tribute to the greatest manga magazine in American history. Manga-oriented magazines have had a colorful, if spotty, history here in gaijin land. In Japan, of course, nearly all manga are serialized in one magazine or another before being published in those squarebound little books we've all come to know and love. The most popular manga magazine in Japan is the megalithic, phone-book-sized Shonen Jump, which has its own annual convention and a circulation that topped 6 million readers a week back in the '90s. Even ordinary, non-nerdy magazines in Japan often include manga. The great shojo manga Paradise Kiss first ran in the fashion magazine Zipper. Ultimate Muscle, one of the manga I proudly edit, ran in Weekly Playboy. I am so not kidding. You open the magazine, it's all photos of naked women, then Ultimate Muscle, then more photos of naked women.

America, alas, has yet to reach this enlightened state. Over the past twenty years, there have been many efforts at manga anthology magazines and manga-themed pop-culture magazines, some successful, some unsuccessful, some really unsuccessful, some really incredibly unsuccessful, some just total bombs...Look, the American magazine market is tough. If Shonen Jump and Shojo Beat see far today, it's only by standing on the shoulders of fallen Viz-published comrades like Animerica Extra, Manga Vizion, and, of course, the subject of today's OMF Special Event, the greatest manga magazine in American history...

The greatest American manga magazine is the August 2002 issue of PULP.

The "Manga Hell" issue was the last issue of PULP, a noble experiment in manga and related J-pop for adult readers. Really nerdy adult readers, admittedly, but adults all the same. Roughly half of each issue was devoted to manga, and half to articles on manga and general Japanese pop culture. It was headed by Alvin Lu, who has since been promoted to Emperor of All Manga or something (I can't keep everyone's titles straight these days), and mad genius Carl Gustav Horn, who now edits manga over at Dark Horse. Regular contributors included Jason Thompson, who has since descended into madness induced by reading every single manga ever published in English, and Patrick Macias, who has, like all otaku who are pure and true of heart, boarded the White Ship and passed into the East (i.e., moved to Japan to blog about maid cafes). PULP was the first magazine to publish my writing on manga; I interviewed Colleen Doran for the two-part "American Manga" issue (another high point in the magazine's five-year run) and covered the very first Yaoi-Con. Sadly, I was not able to contribute to the final issue, although I must concede that anything I could have written would only have diluted the magazine's otherwise unadulterated awesomeness.

First, the manga lineup in PULP at that point was excellent. This issue featured the final installment of Junji Ito's stunning horror manga Uzumaki, about a town infested with sinister spirals.

Readers also got a chapter of Dance Till Tomorrow, by Naoki Yamamoto, a sex comedy for mature readers (translation: nipples drawn in) about a guileless college boy who stands to inherit a fortune and the gold-digging floozy who is his OTP. I really wish more of Yamamoto's work was available in official English translation; he's a great cartoonist and storyteller with a bracingly cynical point of view. I think Dance Till Tomorrow is the only one of his manga that's been published over here, and it probably deserves the Overlooked Manga treatment one of these days.

Also on the bench: Short Cuts, a surreal gag manga by Usamaru Furuya, a fantastic draftsman with a weird, imaginative sense of humor. The strips in Short Cuts are linked only in that they all feature teenage schoolgirls, apparently just because, hey, teenage schoolgirls are hot. (There's actually a sequence making fun of the schoolgirl fetish, in which Japanese men start going gaga over younger and younger women, and end up staring lecherously down a microscope at a just-fertilized embryo. All the other strips, meanwhile, happily indulge that same fetish.)

And last but never least: Banana Fish, subject of a recent OMF. Ash Lynx, will you eulogize PULP for us?

Now that's a solid lineup. That's like the 1974 Pittsburgh Steelers of manga. But that's just the back end of PULP. The real meat of this issue is in the features, wherein each contributor writes about his or her interpretation of "Manga Hell."

It kicks off with an intro by Carl Horn about "American doujinshi," which was a new and mysterious fringe movement at the time, as opposed to the bulk of the current Tokyopop website. Carl, rocking his intro in true Carl Horn style, manages to namecheck his favorite OEL, Ed Hill's short comic "Fairy Princess Yukio Mishima," while simultaneously coining the term "neuromanceasthenia." Now that five years have passed, I can probably safely reveal that Carl honestly wanted to publish "Fairy Princess Yukio Mishima," a story casting the famous suicidal transvestite militaristic genius novelist as a Sailor Moon-type magical girl, in PULP, and probably would have done so had the magazine survived a little longer. Let's all pause for a moment of silence to honor what might have been.

Then it's on to Manga Hell! Tomo Machiyama contributes a list of "The Most Hellish (Untranslated) Manga...Ever! (Maybe)." A few highlights:

Machiyama's closing paragraph:

Izumi Evers, who was also the PULP graphic designer, provides lengthy descriptions of two classic creepy-ass manga. The first, The Domestic Yappo, is an adaptation of a novel by "king of masochists" Numa Shozo, given manga form by kiddie cartoonist Shotaro Ishinomori (who will appear in a happier context in a future OMF). Both the novel and the manga describe a far future ruled by white people, where the Japanese have devolved into subhuman, unintelligent little creatures called "Yappo" which are manipulated for the pleasure of the aristocracy. As Evers puts it, "Although SF tools and gadgets usually make people excited about the future (like Doraemon, for instance), the Yappo is a more problematic invention. To enjoy this future, one must give up an ordinary sense of morality." Um, yeah.

Evers' second feature covers Rally Up Mankind!, a bizarre sex comic by none other than Osamu Tezuka. If you weren't aware that Tezuka included sex comics in his arsenal of Every Manga Genre Ever Invented, I believe Vertical is planning to educate you with the publication of Apollo's Song later this year. Rally Up Mankind! features asexual mutants and a protagonist who inexplicably looks like Adolf Hitler, and it doesn't sound like it makes a whole lot of sense.

Patrick Macias writes about Kazuo Koike, just like everyone knew he would: "But for me, Manga Hell is real and palatable. In short, it is typified by any manga written by Kazuo Koike. It burns. It hurts, and it is sinful beyond belief. And as a card-carrying bad-comics masochist I kind of like it that way. Besides, one can only imagine what kind of real trash gets to rest on puffy white clouds with angel wings up in accursed manga heaven--a place where Koike's best-known title, Lone Wolf and Cub, probably plays the harp."

This leads neatly into "The Wounded Man Interview," an instant classic by Dean Blackburn, who was also Viz's IT manager. It's not an interview with the creators of the manga Wounded Man. It's an interview with Wounded Man. Out of the kindness of my heart, I'm reproducing it here in its full glory.

But for me, the "Manga Hell" issue of PULP reaches its glorious climax with "The Cantos of Manga Hell: The Most Hellish (Translated) Manga," a labor of love by Jason Thompson. Thompson divides all the worst manga published in English into the nine circles of Dante's Hell, with softcore T&A romps condemned to the eighth circle (The Panderers) and formulaic fighting manga landing in the seventh circle (The Violent), where they are "forced to undergo training excercises while weighed down with tons of shackles and chains, and taunted with cries of 'Show me your power!' while being bludgeoned with copies of Shonen Jump magazine." I'll share just the first two pages.

Remember, this was in 2002. Just imagine the stunning tour of Translated Manga Hell that would be possible today, when a quick trip to your local Barnes and Noble can provide you with armloads of manga far shittier than Slayers. In fact, I'm going to try to get Jason to write one for me.

There's more. An article on "gekiga movies," crazy manga adaptations of American and Hong Kong movies (case sample: Dog Day Afternoon rewritten to remove the gay element because it ran in a kiddie magazine), reprinted from the Japanese movie magazine Eiga Hi-Ho. Chuck Stephens on brutal action director/star Takashi Miike. Jason Thompson's monthly manga review column, "The Manga Browser," which was moved to Animerica magazine after PULP's demise, giving me the chance to write a bunch of reviews. A profile of the band Buffalo's Daughter. Happy Ujihashi's diary comic, "Happy's Tokyo Scene."

Why? Why must the good die young? Why did the public not embrace PULP and cradle it to its collective bosom? It was a monthly spotlight on manga most people just weren't ready for, stuff that was too smart, sexy, bloody, creepy, surreal, or just plain untranslatable for prime time. It was, in fact, in many ways, the Overlooked Manga Festival in magazine form.

Farewell, August 2002 issue of PULP magazine. Go in peace into the cleansing fires of Manga Hell. Your deeds here on earth will not be forgotten. And for the dignity of humankind, kill the savages!

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

23rd-Feb-2007 12:31 am (UTC)
Awesome OMF, but I've been wondering since the Byrne Forum post: what are your new LJ icons from?
(Deleted comment)
23rd-Feb-2007 01:30 am (UTC)

Yeah, they're from the Moomin comic strip. The new D&Q book is utterly fantastic.
23rd-Feb-2007 12:36 am (UTC)
Oh, Shotaro Ishinomori, you and your simultaneously-cute-and-horrible manga politics. That the yappo are more subtle than Cyborg 009 says deep things.

But I must disagree vehemently with one sentence of the five-year-old magazine. Pokemon Adventures was really good for a while! It had a plot, and the plot was actually kind of dark, and the art was absolutely adorable but also very clean, and the characters weren't (too) annoying, and one of them was a snippy girl thief who broke the fourth wall, and there was mild homoerotic subtext (on which the girl thief commented), and, uh, everything! What more could one ask of a shounen manga?
23rd-Feb-2007 10:48 pm (UTC)

Yeah, for a licensed comic strip, there was some bizarre subtext in Pokemon Adventures. Like a whole week of the characters discussing the fact that the Pokemon don't have gender...I remember reading Gerard Jones' thumbnails as they came in on the fax machine and being fascinated.

If nothing else, I think the Viz editors who worked on it had a good time; we don't usually get the chance to work with artists on original projects, so a comic like this is kind of a treat. And the book collection Viz eventually put out, Pokemon Meets the Press, was very nicely produced.
23rd-Feb-2007 03:03 am (UTC)
Luckily, the temporary European embargo on Viz kicked in after Pulp died.

One of the best worst doujinshi I ever had the pleasure to get rid of was mostly about Naga from Slayers, with the figure that she should have had between the food and the boobage. It was reassuring. Sort of.


Anyways: oh, goddamnit, &c.
23rd-Feb-2007 05:52 am (UTC)
Hmm...so the "Slayers" manga are regarded as crap? I'm rather fond of some of the assorted Slayers anime (although I'd not say they're the best of the lot, no); are they different from the manga or do I just have incredibly bad taste?
23rd-Feb-2007 06:45 am (UTC)

It's mostly just Jason who doesn't like Slayers. I was really into the anime in college. The anime is better than the manga, though. It came out before the manga (both versions are, if I remember correctly, adapted from a series of novels).
24th-Feb-2007 01:36 am (UTC)
I recall that the anime is from the novels, yeah. I've not picked up any of the manga although I almost picked up one when it was still in a comic book format. Sadly, my main manga purchasing has been the Tenchi Muyo manga for some reason. Oh well....
11th-Jul-2008 02:16 am (UTC)
Recently I've been trying to pick up a few Manga books based on what I've heard on CGS as well as a few other podcasts, but I really can't get into the style.
15th-Apr-2007 06:01 am (UTC)
Sure, I'll do a Neo Manga Hell for you. :)

9th-Oct-2008 03:33 pm (UTC)
So let's just say they make me want to dance naked in front of the window whilst playing the harmonica.
17th-Oct-2008 06:46 am (UTC)
Rather because it tries to do something a little different, and have fun with it. And like Haruko on her Vespa, Furi Kuri tears up the landscape.
23rd-Feb-2007 03:26 pm (UTC)
FAIRY PRINCESS YUKIO MISHIMA appeared in JUKU: A COMICS ALBUM, which is still available on Amazon, I believe, or you can get it from me if you send me five bucks. We were going to do a sequel titled MAGICAL IDOL TRUMAN CAPOTE but haven't gotten around to it yet. Ed and mine's (?) story NIGHT OF THE LIVING TREK starring a zombie Gene Roddenberry is featured in the anthology DRUNK TANK. I love Ed's work and wish he'd do more of it and Carl is a total sweetie for the name check. Also I just like using Carl and "total sweetie" in the same sentence.
24th-Feb-2007 05:27 pm (UTC)
Times were good when this came out. I was getting prepared to move to a big city, with comic stores that actually carried manga, and I believe that the gn-only switch was just starting to pick up. I was pumped, because I wasn't buying much on the internet at the time and I really wanted to start reading Pulp. Of course, the same month I moved into the city, the last issue hit the stands.

I ought to see if they still have this issue in the backstock at the comic store though, because I NEED to read about the most Hellish Manga in English.
(Deleted comment)
25th-Feb-2007 05:41 pm (UTC)
God bless the Internet Wayback Machine. I had forgotten they archived content on the Pulp website like that. It's how I got my first taste of Heartbroken Angels.
27th-Feb-2007 08:12 pm (UTC)
...There was a comic about Yukio Mishima as a magical girl and it almost got published? That's the saddest missed chance I have heard of in so long... Is there anywhere I might be able to track this thing down?

This is Alexis, by the way. My boyfriend and I had lunch with you about a month ago.
7th-May-2010 03:59 am (UTC)
Hi, that was definitely an awesome read about greatest manga magazine in American history.



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