I made an order for a bunch of manga on rightstuf a little over a month ago, and I would have liked to review it all at once. Unfortunately, 3 of my volumes are stuck in backorder hell, so you thankfully get a shorter entry.
Golgo 13 by Takao Saito, vols 9, 10, 12.(I’m talking about the series in general though – I totally need to pre-empt the issue of Otaku USA that’s probably hitting the stands as we speak.)
I’m really a fan of the way that Viz conducts their whole manga business, though a lot of it could very possibly stem from their very fortunate circumstances, as a lot of this industry stuff seems to fall. The way it looks to me, with the backing of titles like, well, their entire Shonen Jump catalogue, they’re able to bring high-profile but probably low-grossing titles like Golgo stateside, a move so crazy that I would normally think that it could only be made in the 80s. I’m honestly hoping that sales of this release will be bolstered by viewers of the new anime series finding out that getting scans of Golgo is harder than getting their hands on the fansub they just watched.
Really, there isn’t a whole lot to say about the plot of Golgo 13. Golgo is an assassin. A very good one, at that. He has sex with prostitutes and is instrumental to just about every significant political event of the last 30 years, along with a bunch of not-significant events, but that’s about where the overarching narrative ends. Saito shows incredible consistency in style and execution throughout the work’s 40-year history, keeping it pulpy enough to keep me turning the pages until I’m late for odd jobs (professional pianists don’t really need page-turners) and lending an almost timeless feel to narratives that acutely date themselves. I mean, there can be a ten-plus year difference in publication date of the two stories in each of the thirteen volumes that Viz is putting out, and I’d have a damn hard time picking them out from stories that are getting published now like the ones I have in Volume 140-or-so at home. The art might take some getting used to if all you’ve been reading is the Shana manga and Kodomo no Jikan scans while keeping yourself warm by burning all of your Seven Seas manga in protest, but everything from extreme long shots to close-ups are drawn in an effective, gritty way that echoes the tone of the stories. Paneling, as mentioned in the extras of volume 9, is very cinematic and formal in style, dynamically and intelligently pacing the unfolding of each story.
In fact, thats most of the reason that I’m not talking about individual stories in the volumes in the review: the series works by getting you hooked on its basic framework, and though each story has its own hooks you seem to most of all be reading “A Golgo Story.” I don’t mean to discount the individual stories, of course – “Wasteland” in volume 10 does an incredible job of capturing 80s nuclear paranoia, and “The Dark-Skinned Sniper” features a rare, refreshing not-horribly offensive treatment of African-Americans that I’ve really only seen in manga in Me and the Devil Blues. I’m sure that the scholar and gentleman of anime, Carl Horn’s editorial oversight helps ensure the highest of quality from these stories, too. Also, the bonus sections included in each volume are short but absolutely packed with Golgo-related knowledge that WILL make you a better person.
I know that a lot of people have the same negative reaction to Golgo that they do to shows like Fist of the North Star, but I would honestly recommend this to just about any manga fan that enjoys a good, serious story. Sadly, I can’t say the same about FotNS, but it is best for one to come to FotNS, as it is not to be forced on an individual, no matter how wonderful it may be. Kind of like Christianity, only a lot better. Buy this, please? I promise I won’t start drawing parallels between this and Aria if you do. (Don’t think I won’t. I’m crazy.)
These next reviews are shorter, I swear.
The Kurosagi Corpse Delivery Service (or the KUROSAGI corpse delivery service depending on how faithful I want to be to the cover/spine) by Eiji Otsuka, illust. Housui Yamazaki. Vol 2.
It had been a while since I ordered vol. 1 of this, but volume 2 was on the top of my list of things to get when the rightstuf Dark Horse sale popped up. Fond remembrances of a rag-tag bunch of Buddhist college graduates fighting evil actuaries while trying to shuttle corpses around still found their way into my head after a long separation, despite my absolutely horrible memory.
Volume 2 covers one self-contained story about a corpse that the Kurosagi crew receives from the Japanese state after it was executed, and a very creepy organization that uses Kung-Fu (read: inexplicable magic) for evil. Well, semi-morally-ambiguous evil. Kurosagi really lives and dies on its characters and its scenario. That’s really my attempt at nicely saying that the art isn’t very good, the backgrounds are often sparse, and there’s nothing really stylistically eye-catching here. The volume has a neat bit of suspense, but nothing here really seems to fetch the $10.95 MSRP. I’ll probably end up buying volume 3, but I’m beginning to think that the character exposition and scenario explanation in the stories of volume 1, which I would gladly recommend, was its high point.
Mail by Housui Yamazaki. Vol 1.
Next up is the first volume of a work that the artist of Kurosagi wrote and drew. This one’s about a detective, Reiji Akiba, who finds ghosts and then shoots them to make them go away. Really, that’s about it. My feelings about the art are the same as Yamazaki’s work in Kurosagi, except no girls that are strangely, ambiguously sexy. The story for the first five chapters really are cut-and-dry in their Person Finds Ghost, Detective is Summoned and Finds Ghost, Detective Kills Ghost, Cursory Post-Explanation format. The last chapter is an origin story, but even that isn’t terribly engrossing. I don’t think I’ll be picking up volume 2, despite the prominence of a character named “Akiba.”
I’d write some words about Eden by Hiroki Endo, but for one thing, I need to go to sleep, and for another, it lived up to my very high expectations of Endo after reading Tanpenshu and I plan to buy a whole lot more in the near future, so I’ll review it as a larger unit at some later, undetermined time.