Speaking of comics inspired by our friends, please do not miss this week's installment of The Chronicles of William Bazillion!
Tonight Andrew and I will be at the Asian Art Museum, running mini-workshops on manga for the big new Osamu Tezuka show. Also in attendance: my good friend Jason Thompson, giving a Powerpoint presentation on manga magazines, and manga historian Fred Schodt, giving guided tours. As we all know by now, Tezuka is both the greatest and the insanest comic-book artist of all time. This should be a fabulous show.
Okay, on to the Overlooked Manga Festival!
As I've sometimes mentioned in the past, the manga industry doesn't have quite as active an "underground" scene as the American comics industry, and only a small amount of underground and alternative manga has been published in English. But we're lucky enough to have a bunch of Junko Mizuno's cute/creepy/sexy/violent/uncategorizable work in translation, so let's look at some of that.
One of Mizuno's first manga, Pure Trance was originally published in Japan as a series of CD booklets for trance music albums, which is about as out-there as manga gets. It's basically a showcase for Mizuno's amazing artwork, which depicts pulpy, over-the-top sex and violence in a hypercute Hello Kitty style. Come on, have you ever seen a more adorable naked-lady chainsaw fight?
I don't think so.
The plot...okay, the plot is on drugs. The story takes place in a worn-out future where humanity lives underground and everything from food to children is artificial. Much of the action takes place in a clinic for women suffering from addiction to artificial food, where the evil Director (who is herself addicted to a supplement called Liquid Apple, causing her to cover herself in syringes like a porcupine) rules with an iron fist.
Got all that? It doesn't matter, because Pure Trance isn't interested in making sense. It just wants to take you on a wild, hallucinatory ride through vistas of hot, tough half-naked women, tiny ineffectual men, polyester dystopias, primeval jungles, gruesome violence, and cute cute cute everything.
Over the course of the story, various nurses, patients, and hangers-on at the clinic confront the Director and/or escape. One nurse manages to make it out to the long-abandoned surface world, where she and a group of rescued children survive off the land. She's pursued by the Director's scar-covered (but sexy) goon Kimiko.
Into the cracks and crevices of this vague plot, Mizuno crams everything she wants to draw: sadistic mad science experiments, women greedily eating everything in sight, bizarre (but cute) animals, fields of bunny-headed flowers, plump robots, creepy clones, death and dismemberment, psychic twins. Everything.
I remember a PULP interview in which Mizuno gushed about her passion for Russ Meyer movies, and that trashy-sexy aesthetic definitely comes through in her work. Plus there's a lot of scenes of scantily-clad women fighting.
In his upcoming book Manga: The Complete Guide, which you will want to run out and buy as soon as humanly possible, Jason Thompson compares Pure Trance to the work of Tezuka. Strange as it seems, I can see where Jason's coming from. The rambling, surreal, everything-but-the-kitchen-sink plot recalls Tezuka's early work in particular, and so does the cute, bold, simplified artwork. It's just that Tezuka chose slightly different subject matter.
As you've no doubt noticed from the pages above, another feature of Pure Trance is the running string of footnote illustrations along the bottom of each page, detailing various ephemera of the story's weird sci-fi world. It's best to read the manga first, then go back and look at all the notes. A few choice examples:
If nothing else, Pure Trance is one of the best-looking manga you're likely to find; there simply is no other artist like Junko Mizuno. And she's totally batshit insane.
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
Japan as Viewed by 17 Creators
Ricca 'tte Kanji!?