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

New Smithson!

Gemma means well, in her own way.

And there is, of course, a new installment in The Chronicles of William Bazillion! Big one this week. Lots of robots.

If you live in the Bay Area, Al's Comics in San Francisco is having a sale this weekend: 50% off backstock, 25% off all other items (except for just shipped items), all T-shirts $10. Al's is a great little store that's had some trouble paying the rent lately, so shoot Al some business if you have the chance.

Thanks to everyone who preordered copies of the Marvel Holiday Special! I'll send them out when our copies show up at Al's.

You know what this calls for? An Overlooked Manga Festival!

How insane does a manga have to be in order to be the insanest manga I've ever read? Keep in mind that I've read a whole bunch of Tezuka.

Okay, Moon Child might not be the all-time insanest manga, but it's way up there. Its very existence in English translation stands as yet more proof that sometimes the people who choose manga for CMX are smoking crack, and sometimes they're smoking great crack that benefits all humanity. Other publishers won't touch old shojo manga with a ten-foot manga pole, because they stupidly and short-sightedly want to publish things that sell, but CMX is all, "Let's do Swan! Let's do From Eroica with Love!" And just when you're thinking, okay, those two old shojo manga are known classics, so maybe that's why they were chosen, CMX adds, "Oh, and let's also do this completely bizarre manga from the 1980s that no one's ever heard of!"

I cannot express my gratitude enough.

So. Moon Child is about a race of shape-changing, psychic, hermaphroditic alien fish who come to Earth every few centuries to assume human form and spawn (but with each other, not with humans). They were the inspiration for human myths about mermaids and the targets of medieval witch hunts, the latter of which decimated their numbers. Now, according to prophecy, their hope for the future rests on one of their number, the half-human child of the actual, historical Little Mermaid. This child appears to be a small, amnesiac boy named Jimmy who lives with an abusive Broadway dancer, but when Jimmy lies in the moonlight he transforms into a beautiful woman named Benjamin. Really, though, it's a story about water pollution.


The relationships in this manga are every single kind of wrong. Jimmy/Benjamin has two love interests: Art, the dancer, who tries to be a good surrogate parent to Jimmy but tends to lose his temper and get slappy, and Shonach ("Shona" in the first volume, until Reiko Shimizu made CMX change it), a merman haunted by dreams of Benjamin and her beautiful, tragic mother. Art has other problems, like his ballerina ex-girlfriend and his stalled dancing career. It's not easy to get by as a hoofer in 1985 when you're also raising a little boy in a bow tie who has a crush on you.

The mermaid community is afraid that Jimmy will make the same mistake as his mother, who sacrificed herself and sold out her people for the love of a human. Instead of glomming on to Art, Jimmy should turn into Benjamin and pair off with Shonach. But Jimmy, understandably, has mixed feelings about this plan, as does Shonach's beleaguered girlfriend.

Oh, and did I mention that when Jimmy turns into Benjamin, she still has the mind of a prepubescent boy? It is all so incredibly wrong. I won't even get into the way everyone constantly talks about "birthing eggs."

But if the story is weird and disturbing, it's also well-told, with a dense, literate plot that mixes Hans Christian Andersen, the Book of Revelation, piscine biology, and 1980s environmental crises into a thick fantasy stew. The dreamy sci-fi, imaginative depictions of ESP and alien worlds, and environmental theme are reminiscent of early OMF pick Please Save My Earth, but Moon Child is far stranger. And the art's great, full of haunting, dreamlike images: grotesque monsters, schools of fish flying through the air, levitating furniture, and two creepy blonde twins who follow Jimmy around (Shimizu even acknowledges their resemblance to the twin little girls in The Shining).

As the story unravels, it picks up more parallels to "The Little Mermaid." Andersen's story is a cautionary tale about the dangers of choosing personal and sexual independence over the life your family has mapped out for you, and Moon Child asks related questions about sex, maturity, responsibility and family ties. Only with psychic alien fish people.

Bizarre Drawings of Black People Warning: It's not uncommon for manga artists to draw black people in ways that the rest of us may find offensive, or at least hilarious. Moon Child has one black character who is portrayed in a sympathetic way (she's actually the leader of the mermaids), but drawn as the most peculiar concept of a person of African descent I have seen in all my days of reading manga. I'm just noting this as a warning to anyone who may have trouble with...well, see for yourself:

I can kind of see how this happened, because sometimes, as a cartoonist, you see things in National Geographic and just want to draw them, but still. (Incidentally, last week's Slam Dunk has a character who looks realistically African-American, but is actually Japanese. I'm sure this all means something.)

But, freakish-looking black ladies aside, Moon Child is a rad manga that also happens to be batshit insane. And no, I don't know when "Benjamin" became a girls' name.

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
The Walking Man
Sugar Sugar Rune
Japan as Viewed by 17 Creators
Mariko Parade
Golgo 13
Ricca 'tte Kanji!?
Pure Trance
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
Tekkon Kinkreet
Yakitate! Japan
Flower of Life
OMF Special Event: Top Ten Lines from the Excel Saga manga
What's Michael?
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
Comics Underground Japan
Slam Dunk

Tags: overlooked manga festival, smithson
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