And of course there's a new installment of The Chronicles of William Bazillion! With spot color!
Okay, Overlooked Manga Festival time.
I know you're all still reeling from Jason Thompson's Top Ten Best Worst Manga, so let's take it easy this week. How about a manga that's all about looking at pretty things? All right!
In previous OMFs, I've mentioned the peculiar charm of what might be called tourism manga: manga that take you to a vivid setting and just kind of wander around there. The Walking Man is the best available in English, but it's a fairly common genre. Manga like Aria, which runs in Japan in the nerdy magazine Comic Blade, sort of cleanse the palate between more action-packed titles. After you've spent twenty pages reading about psychics blowing up the Earth, maybe you just want to glide along the canals of Mars in a gondola and let weightier matters slip away.
Aria has kind of a complicated publication history. It's a sequel to an untranslated manga called Prima. Aria itself was originally entitled Aqua, but became Aria when it moved to a new manga magazine. The English edition was originally published by ADV, but after three volumes it became one of countless ADV titles put on "permanent hold" when ADV suddenly realized it wasn't actually capable of publishing eight billion manga. Now Tokyopop is gearing up to publish both Aqua and Aria. (All this information comes courtesy of Manga: The Complete Guide. Thanks, Jason Thompson!) Got all that?
Aria takes place in a hella classy future where people know how to colonize planets in style. Mars has been flooded with water, and in the city of Neo-Venezia trained gondoliers ferry people through canals lined with buildings based on the architecture of the original Venice. Also, because this is a manga, all the gondoliers, called "undines," are pretty girls. Akari, our heroine, is an undine in training, and each chapter follows her through a day of her life. The days are eventful--there are festivals and gondola races, trips to neighboring islands and the tunnels beneath Mars, rivalries with other gondoliers--but not exactly thrilling. Just...nice.
Although Akari gradually progresses as a gondolier and deepens her relationships with her various friends and rivals, overall Aria doesn't have much of a plot. It exists primarily to draw the reader into its detailed fantasy world, and to give Kozue Amano interesting things to draw. As a cartoonist who can just about barely draw some cute characters in front of a sketchy background, I'm always impressed by comics that are all about background and setting. Scott McCloud says that American cartoonists ought to focus more on setting, and he's right! I'm not going to do it, because it's hard, but I'm happy to sit back and lazily applaud a more dedicated artist who builds his entire comic around elaborate illustrations of spaceships and Italian architecture.
Also, you learn a lot about the history and landmarks of the real Venice.
Akari herself is just about enough of a character to carry the slight story. Her central traits are a sunny disposition and a deep love for her city and its simple pleasures: spring blossoms, hot baths, roast sweet potatoes from a stall, and, of course, endlessly sailing the canals. Her attitude reflects the mood of the manga itself, content to drift blissfully from one pretty sight or gentle surprise to the next. It's all about stopping to smell the roses.
With Tokyopop bringing Aria back in print, it's the perfect time to pick up this and Aqua. It's a sweet, easy, lazy summer day of a manga. And it looks damn good after Eiken.
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!?
OMF Special Event: My Legacy
OMF Special Event: An All-Star Tribute to Carl Gustav Horn
Guest OMF by Jason Thompson: 888
JoJo's Bizarre Adventure
Flower of Life
OMF Special Event: Top Ten Lines from the Excel Saga manga
OMF Special Event: Jason Thompson Presents the Top Ten Best Worst Manga, Part One
OMF Special Event: Jason Thompson Presents the Top Ten Best Worst Manga, Part Two