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Shaenon K. Garrity
This is where I write stuff.
New Smithson and Li'l Mell! 
10th-Jan-2008 09:49 am
And a new installment in The Chronicles of William Bazillion! This one is...I don't know what to say. Words fail me. I'm just so proud to be married to that man.

In this week's Li'l Mell, Old Sergio makes a very, very dumb move.

And in this week's Smithson, we finally get some damn romantic tension. Sorry about the black and white; color will follow shortly.

By the way, if you enjoy any of these comics, and you write or draw a webcomic (as who doesn't?), please consider nominating them in the Web Cartoonists' Choice Awards. The nomination round is going on now. Go! Nominate webcomics!

With all that said, I regret to announce that, once the current chapter ends, Smithson will be going on hiatus for a while. Brian is expecting a kid and needs to focus on paying work, something I can certainly appreciate, and Smithson doesn't make a silver dime. I haven't decided yet what to do with Smithson, but I do have a lot more of the story to tell. I mean, a LOT. It's kind of ridiculous.

Also, in a few weeks I'm planning to put the Overlooked Manga Festival on hold too. I think I'm finally nearing the end of the list of obscure manga I really like and can get copies of (which is why I haven't done Daigo of Fire Company M, incidentally--believe it or not, the Viz offices are missing a whole bunch of volumes). But I know there are still plenty of overlooked manga out there. That's why I've decided to turn to you, the reader, for the final OMF. If you have a favorite obscure and little-loved manga that I haven't talked about yet, write up a brief recommendation and send it to me at narbonic at sbcglobal.net. I'll run all the Reader OMFs on the last week.

After that, I dunno, maybe I'll get drunk and watch more "Star Trek."

Okay, Overlooked Manga Festival time!

Overlooked Manga Festival Special Event:
Ten Awesome Long-Out-of-Print Viz Manga, Part Two

6. Short Program

Like so many old Viz manga, this two-volume collection of short stories has a weird publishing history. The stories first ran in Animerica Extra, one of Viz's many now-defunct manga anthology magazines. Volume 1 came out in 2000. It went out of print, everyone forgot about it, and then Viz put out Volume 2 just a year or two ago. Go figure. Anyway, both books are really good. Mitsuru Adachi is a gifted and prolific artist probably best known in Japan for the baseball/relationship manga Touch, which I'd really like to see translated. I like short manga, which I realize may be an acquired taste, but what the hell. These are sweet little slice-of-life stories with nice, Takahashi-esque 1980s artwork. I admit to being a sucker for 1980s artwork.

For the record, I almost filled this slot on the list with the dystopian sci-fi downer Grey, featuring an introduction by Harlan Ellison because at one time the editors thought that sort of thing would help. I still love you, Grey.

7. Dance Till Tomorrow

This manga was too good for America. There, I said it and I'm glad. In many ways, Dance Till Tomorrow is almost too smart to be a manga: it's cheerfully cynical, it's self-aware, there's real sex (albeit with the naughty bits whited out in that weird way that Japanese censors apparently think is less distracting than just drawing in a big old cock), and the characters feel real and unforced.

The plot: clueless college kid and avant-garde theater aficianado Suekichi stands to inherit a fortune in rare stamps from his grandfather once he (Suekichi, that is) gets out of school and settles down. The morning after the reading of the will, Suekichi wakes up entangled with a strange and difficult woman named Aya, who just happened to discover his manly beauty and charm at the exact moment he mentioned he was worth 450 million yen. She's obviously into him for his money, he's obviously into her for her body, and yet this does make their relationship any less complicated.

And does Naoki Yamamoto ever pile on the complications. The first two volumes are especially amazing, a comedy balancing act of money, sex, and power in which one of the two leads always has something the other one desperately needs (sometimes Aya's the one with the money, and Suekichi's the one with the sex). Later, Yamamoto gets away from the central premise, adding gangsters with hot handguns and elaborate seducers scheming to break up Suekichi and Aya for Suekichi's own good, but whatever. Yamamoto is awesome at creating little character details that are both unique and utterly familiar, which is why characters sometimes walk around wearing a giant paper-mache frog mask. And Aya is a fantastic character who turns out to be far more than just a hot young golddigger--although she's that, too.

8. Adolf

Yeah, more Tezuka. Not only that, but the first Tezuka manga translated into English! Viz tried to do it up all classy, publishing Adolf direct to graphic novel form before Tokyopop made it cool, including a scholarly essay by a different manga expert in every volume, and publishing it under the Cadence Books imprint, its now-defunct line for prose books, to impress upon people that this wasn't just a comic--this was Serious Literature. Anything with Hitler has to be serious, right?

Of course, it really is just a comic. Against the historical backdrop of World War II and the years immediately before and after, Tezuka stages a story that's pure pulp action. He can't help it. But it's good pulp, and the historical setting is really well done, especially some of the scenes in WWII-era Japan. Tezuka set chunks of the story in his home province of Kobe, and you can tell that he grew up in this world.

The plot involves "three men named Adolf": two boys who grow up as friends in Japan but ultimately become enemies on opposite sides of WWII, and the other Adolf, the famous one, who made them turn out that way. The story is told from the viewpoint of a Japanese journalist who gets drawn into the drama of the Adolfs while pursuing a story that could destroy Hitler's career, if only he can break it in time. Weirdest detail: recurring Tezuka "star system" character Acetylene Lamp has a supporting role as Herr Lampe, head of Nazi intelligence. It's jarring to see him in a crude, cartoony early Tezuka manga like Lost World and then in this, like following up a "Bosom Buddies" marathon with Saving Private Ryan.

Fun fact: the photo covers for Adolf were made using Viz employees and their friends as models. The dead geisha on the above cover was my supervisor when I started work there.

9. Love Song

Man, Viz translated a bunch of Keiko Nishi stories for a while there. Thank you, Matt Thorn! Nishi has half the stories in Four Shojo Stories, mentioned last week, and gets this all-Nishi anthology all to herself. I wish Viz, or anyone, would publish more of her work. It's amazing stuff: smart shojo/josei manga about lonely people looking for love, all beautifully drawn.

The title story, about an abusive relationship between a self-sacrificing young man and a woman who has what might charitably be described as problems getting close to people, is one of the best and most painful short comics I've ever read. The rest of the collection is good, too. There's a slightly tongue-in-cheek Victorian horror story, a lengthy story about a schoolboy who develops healing powers and is exploited by a con artist, and an introspective sci-fi story about a shy factory girl in a space colony. All good stuff. Why doesn't more smart, satisfying manga like this get published? I mean, aside from the fact that it doesn't sell?

10. A, A'

This is one of the first manga I ever read, and it's still one of my favorites. It may even be my very favorite. Moto Hagio is one of the all-time greatest manga creators, part of the nebulous group of shojo artists called "The Fabulous Forty-Niners" or "The Year Twenty-Four Group" (depending on which calendar you're using) who revolutionized manga in the 1970s. She mostly does moody, symbolism-heavy sci-fi and fantasy stories involving troubled family relationships, weird gender issues, and the difficulty humans have in connecting to one another. She also drew one of the very first shonen-ai manga, "The November Gymnasium," for which contribution alone she (along with Keiko Takemiya) deserves the eternal devotion of fangirls everywhere.

But for some reason her work available in official English translation is limited to this book, the short story "They Were Eleven" collected in Four Shojo Stories, and the very short story "Hanshin," which ran in the all-shojo issue of The Comics Journal a couple of years back. What is up with that?

Anyway, A, A' (pronounced "A, A-Prime") is a collection of three stories set in the same sci-fi universe. All three stories involve the Unicorns, a race of mathematically gifted, emotionally limited, semi-autistic humans genetically engineered for space exploration. In the first story, a Unicorn woman is killed in an expedition and replaced by a clone implanted with her memories; the other two stories involve Mori, a young telekinetic who falls in love with a Unicorn girl and later with a Unicorn boy. This book blew my mind when I read it in college; it was so radically different from any other comic I'd ever read, and the stories were fantastic, like good sci-fi from the 1970s New Wave era. Unfortunately, not a lot of the many, many manga I've read since then have lived up to that early mind-blowing.

But hope springs eternal, and I keep reading manga. Thank you, old Viz manga, for warping my life and career forever!

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
Moon Child
Chikyu Misaki
Bambi and Her Pink Gun
Ten Awesome Long-Out-of-Print Viz Manga, Part One

10th-Jan-2008 08:11 pm (UTC)
I don't know if you'll believe this, but A,A' was the first manga I ever bought and read. I finished it at a baseball game, and wow. What a book. :)
(Deleted comment)
10th-Jan-2008 08:45 pm (UTC)
you write or draw a webcomic (as who doesn't?)


It went out of print, everyone forgot about it

11th-Jan-2008 12:21 am (UTC)
I had no idea Adolf was out of print! Drat, a friend of mine got Tezuka for his birthday the past two years (Buddha, then Phoenix) and I figured Adolf might be up next in the queue...
11th-Jan-2008 12:50 am (UTC)
Yay Adachilove!

Though I confess, I find the stories in Short Program uneven and weak, possibly even weaker than Jinbe.

11th-Jan-2008 03:42 am (UTC)
A, A' was one of the first series I read as well, but I really didn't like it the first time through. Luckily I only had about ten volumes of manga at the time, I learned to appreciate it with subsequent readings.

I loved Short Program when I read it in Animerica Extra. My absolute favorite story was in the second volume... it's been awhile, but I think it was about a rugby player? It was really touching. Those were some of the best manga short stories I've read.
16th-Jul-2008 06:53 am (UTC)
He seems like one of the first to actually approach animation as an art. His films in particular are in dire need of being rediscovered.
11th-Jan-2008 04:40 am (UTC)
Aw, no love for Pineapple Army? That's easily my favorite of Viz's early, impossible to find manga. Great paramilitary action, and the creative team is top notch, featuring two other Overlooked Manga Festival title's creators: Mai the Psychic Girl's Kazuya Kudo and Monster's Naoki Urasawa. Only 10 issues were ever released, but those 10 issues were stellar.
11th-Jan-2008 09:42 am (UTC) - A Prime
Like I said in my note about Four Shojo Stories the Moto Hagio stories are what really made me realize how much I love manga. I still think it's absolutely an embarassment that none of her major works have been translated... I'm hoping Vertical's interest in Takemiya and Tezuka will make them broaden their horizons (then again i thought the amazing Comic journal shoujo issue profile of Hagio issue woulda inspired some interest--and it hasn't really...) I think I;d like to see Marginal and the recent Cruel God Governs the most--or Poe Family, but really I'd grab anything. It's the kinda manga that really becomes art for me--just the depth of storytelling etc...

Although I get the feeling with such little attention being paid to the translation of Takemiya's Andromeda Stories (even though story wise I think it's superior to To Terra) that Vertical might be scared away... Really though, with dozens of clone type manga out ther eon the market--the fact that Viz's Editor's Choice has ZERO interest in trying with Hagio again (who I thought they could promote as the shoujo equivalent to Tezuka) still speaks volumes about the industry and its problems...

Love the Keiko Nishi book as well--i always wanted to investigate her longer series although, from an old correspondance with Matt Thorn, I've been told they're not as interesting.
11th-Jan-2008 03:24 pm (UTC)
Let me share the love for Love Song... Keiko Nishi's got an amazing fine line style, and the stories have real emotional punch. It's a pity this one is out of print, it's probably my favorite shojo collection of all time.

--Dave White (blog.7415comics.com)
11th-Jan-2008 06:20 pm (UTC)
Dance 'Til Tomorrow's awesome. It was the first series I collected in it's entirety. I was going to start reading it again recently and was very, very disappointed to realise I've somehow managed to lose the first three volumes.

Has anyone read Bakune Young ? That also ran in Pulp. I presume it's out of print. I don't actually remember if it was conventionally 'good', but it was funny, and very, very strange.

16th-Jul-2008 03:01 pm (UTC)
I think I’m going to start visiting his site for some good reading material. During the seminar he gave a lot of good advice.
11th-Jan-2008 06:28 pm (UTC)
I liked Adolf and Dance Till Tomorrow, though I'll admit I haven't read all of either.

Regarding the Lampe bit in Adolf -- it's even odder to see the guy who 'plays' Astro Boy's teacher in MW, muttering about how he'll "teach 'em what it means to fuck with the common man".

-- James Moar
11th-Jan-2008 06:57 pm (UTC)
I have volumes 1-14 of "Daigo of Fire Company M", if you want 'em. ;)
11th-Jan-2008 09:02 pm (UTC)
Suekichi's weirdo petit bourgeois cousin Sue was, for me, a big selling point of the later Dance till Tomorrow volumes. Possibly one of my favorite character designs, now that I think of it (of course, I'm pretty sure she was just meant to look like Suekichi with a bob cut).

I like how all these out of print Viz books used to often be the only manga you'd occasionally see lying around a comic shop or Barnes and Nobles (I distinctly remember finding Mai the Psychic Girl in the latter). It's a little distressing to find out that Pulp's flagship title has already gone the way of Pixie Junket, though (well, it seemed like they thought it was going to be their flagship title for a little while there, anyway).

11th-Jan-2008 11:44 pm (UTC)

Oh, man, I love Sue! One of my favorite manga characters.
13th-Jan-2008 12:47 am (UTC)

17th-Jan-2008 12:29 pm (UTC) - Say it aint so!
The Overlooked Manga Festival going on hiatus is terrible news - I find your reviews very entertaining, and your tastes overlap with mine. I hope that, if you have the time, you continue to review manga and comics (even if they aren't necessarily "overlooked").

I still miss Pulp.

11th-Mar-2008 09:03 pm (UTC)
Thanks to overlook manga festival, I keep my eyes out for these and I found "Love Song" at a local public library. I was delighted. Thanks a bunch :)
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