Shaenon K. Garrity (shaenon) wrote,
Shaenon K. Garrity

New Smithson!

The theme music for this scene, as in all scenes featuring these characters, is "Cycling Is Fun" by Shonen Knife.

And thus ends Chapter 4. Brian's taking a couple of weeks off before we launch into Chapter 5, so I'll be filling in with my horrible drawings and even worse poetry.

Oh, and don't miss this week's installment of The Chronicles of William Bazillion:

Andrew and I will be at this year's Alternative Press Expo, April 21-22, sharing a table with the fundamentally unhinged Jason Thompson. I'll have copies of Narbonic Volumes 1-4 for sale, not to mention plush gerbils, and Andrew will have a brand-new minicomic set in the thrilling universe of William Bazillion, scripted by yours truly.

All right! On to the Overlooked Manga Festival!

This may be the most overlooked of all the Overlooked Manga ever featured in the festival, judging from the trouble I had finding a copy. When Comic Relief, the greatest comic-book store in America, doesn't have a manga, that is one damn overlooked manga. Fortunately, Jason Thompson, for reasons too horrifying to go into here, has all the manga in the world, and he loaned me his copy.

If you value truth in advertising, The Walking Man might be the best title ever. It's about a man. A man who walks. That's literally it. In each nearly-silent chapter, the nameless, middle-aged protagonist takes a walk. Sometimes he's joined by his wife, his dog, or, in the really action-packed chapters, his wife and his dog.

Jiro Taniguchi is a hell of an artist, and enough of his work has been published in English over the years (starting, I believe, with Hotel Harbor View, a Viz title so old and long out of print that not even I have a copy) that people are slowly starting to catch on. His precise, ultra-detailed seinin style is immediately recognizable, as are his protagonists, who are almost always stocky, mild-faced middle-aged men, whether they're assassins, samurai, or, well, walking dudes.

The Walking Man has no plot. It exists to escort the reader through a series of settings, and to meditate on little moments of beauty along the way. Manga like this are actually not uncommon; even the nerdy manga magazine Comic Blade, for instance, runs the plotless sci-fi tour Aria, which may get the Overlooked Manga treatment one of these days. I really like this loose, gentle approach to comics, and Taniguchi fills his pages with detail, revelling in the sheer love of illustration.

He comes up with an array of unique, yet utterly ordinary, settings for the walking man to walk through: city, country, seaside, rain, snow, dusk, dawn. Sometimes he's on an errand; sometimes he's on his way to work; sometimes he's just wandering around.

Occasionally Taniguchi plays with his chosen point of view, as in a chapter where the walking man breaks his glasses:

The Walking Man is about looking at ordinary things with new eyes. And, trite as that may sound, it works. The walking man is gentle, friendly, and observant, fully enjoying his richly detailed little world. Who wouldn't want to be just like him, lounging in cherry blossoms, finding seashells, buying Christmas cake in the snow, and running up to the roofs of buildings to catch the sunrise? Frankly, it looks like a pretty good way to live.

Maybe it's significant that Taniguchi draws his protagonist as a suit-and-tie-clad businessman. Here in the land of wind and ghosts, we tend to stereotype the Japanese, especially Japanese businessmen, as uptight workaholics. The Walking Man reflects another side of the Japanese character: the love of nature, the quiet curiosity, the appreciation of simple pleasures and small details. Taniguchi glorifies mundane landscapes, and every page glows with love for his subject matter. It's a good walk.

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

Tags: overlooked manga festival, smithson

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