And we're into Chapter Five. All the chapters open this way, which may be repetitive but does provide rare evidence that the characters actually attend classes. Oh, and you should peruse the Art of Smithson site, if only to see Brian's "Chapter Four: The Short Version."
And be sure to check out this week's Chronicles of William Bazillion while you're at it. More Svarbald than four out of five webcomics, guaranteed!
Friends of Lulu is opening the nominations for its annual Lulu Awards up to the general public. I received the Lulu of the Year in 2005, which meant and continues to mean a huge amount to me. Get over there and nominate some laydays!
The May issue of Sequential Tart is out, and I've got some stuff in there. I reviewed Big Fat Little Lit, said a few words about Death Note, and participated in the Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab roundtable, offering my suggestions for a kickass line of JACK KIRBY PERFUMES!
Also, my birthday is tomorrow. I'm going to be SO OLD.
Okay, on to this week's Overlooked Manga Festival!
The U.S. is far from the only country currently wreathed in manga's tentacular hold. Over in France, for example, manga is extremely popular, and Japanese comics fight for shelf space with French bandes dessinées. Although many French cartoonists and comics scholars worry about the manga incursion, sometimes manga and BD can learn to get along and live in beautiful harmony.
Japan as Viewed by 17 Creators is a product of the nouvelle manga movement, wherein a group of Franco-Belgian and Japanese cartoonists attempt to combine the powers of their respective comics cultures into one magnificent, Voltron-like sequential force. The OMF has already covered two Japanese nouvelle manga, Doing Time and The Walking Man. 17 Creators is a true Franco-Japanese coproduction, an anthology evenly divided between European and Japanese creators. Each cartoonist presents a short comic set in a different part of Japan. The Europeans have the outsider perspective, while the Japanese are insiders.
Some familiar artists from previous OMFs crop up here. I already praised Jiro Taniguchi's intricate seinin-style art in The Walking Man. Here, he devotes his talents to evoking summer in his hometown, Tottori.
And sure, we all loved Moyoco Anno's sugary-cute shojo artwork for Sugar Sugar Rune, but see what she does for this anthology:
Seriously, she's so awesome.
So who comes out on top in this book: the French or the Japanese? I'm tempted to call this one in favor of the manga-ka, all of whom turn in outstanding work and have the advantage of knowing their territory inside out; sometimes it's hard for non-Japanese creators not to give up and just gape at the weirdness of Japan for six pages. However, the best piece in the anthology may be that of the great Joann Sfar, who gives us a hilarious tour of Tokyo led by a cynical expatriate friend.
And sometimes the outsider perspective works to the Europeans' advantage. The city of Osaka, for example, has a lot of specific cultural associations in Japan: comedy, high spirits, thick tough-guy accents, really good udon. A Japanese cartoonist would almost certainly not have invented the interpretation of Osaka dreamed up by Francois Schuiten and Benoit Peeters, who offer an illustrated guide to a fantasy Osaka complete with floating glass-bottomed restaurants, mutant insects, and bizarre manga.
Most of the European cartoonists offer autobiographical comics about their stay in Japan, while many of the Japanese cartoonists go for fiction and fantasy. The great alternative cartoonist Taiyo Matsumoto, known in America for Black and White, Blue Spring, and No. 5 (to my knowledge, the last manga Viz cancelled before releasing the whole series, and a cryin' shame at that), spins a manga folk tale:
Others opt for the naturalistic approach, like the amazing Kan Takahama, who's probably going to show up in next week's OMF.
Japan as Viewed by 17 Creators is up for an Eisner Award this year in the Best Anthology category, and deservedly so. Not only is it a great overview of the nouvelle manga movement and a nifty transcontinental publishing experiment, it avoids most of the pitfalls common to comics anthologies. There are no weak entries, there are several outstanding entries, and most of the stories feel exactly as long as they need to be. The stated theme--each contributor draws a different part of Japan--provides just enough unity to pull the book together without feeling heavy-handed or restrictive. It allows each comic to stand on its own while some common themes flow through the background: What is Japan? Who are the Japanese? Who are the foreigners?
From Aurelia Aurita's survey of Tokushima.
Japan as Viewed by 17 Creators is the best comics anthology I've read in a good long while. Read it! And vote for it in the Eisners!
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
Bringing Home the Sushi
OMF Special Event: The Greatest Manga Magazine in American History
Anywhere But Here
Town of Evening Calm, Country of Cherry Blossoms
The Walking Man
Sugar Sugar Rune