Archive for the 'manga' Category

Manga Criticism Translation: “At First, I Wanted to be a Manga-ka”: Analyzing the Nausicaa Manga by Kumi Kaoru, pt 1

Wednesday, November 4th, 2009

Translator’s/bloggers introduction: Some time ago, I received an email from Kaoru Kumi, a freelance writer in Japan who had read the coverage of my blog post translations of Kentaro Takekuma’s lectures (1, 2), offering the opportunity to translate portions of the anime scholar’s extensive book on Hayao Miyazaki, Miyazaki Hayao no Jidai (The Age of Hayao Miyazaki), written in the school lecture style, that contained Kumi’s own in-depth analysis of the Nausicaa manga as well as an engrossing examination of a often-used but rarely-explained term used to describe manga.

Kumi's book, Hayao Miyazaki no Jidai (The Age of Hayao Miyazaki)

Kumi's book, Hayao Miyazaki no Jidai (The Age of Hayao Miyazaki)

Since I’ve been busy as of late, I received Kumi-san’s permission to split the translation duties with SDS of Ogiue Maniax, where the second half of this translation will be posted.

I’ve tried my best to keep formatting simple, with underline used for titles, italics used for unusual Japanese words that were kept untranslated, and (Firstname) (Lastname) for Japanese names. I’d like to thank Kumi-san for giving me this opportunity and working with me throughout the translation process. Also, if you have any comments or questions, as always, please let me know.


Here we go, boys and girls. (laughter) Today, I’ll be talking about my analysis of the Nausicaa manga. Not the movie, the manga. The manga was a long-running series, brought into the world in January 1982, and completed in ’94. I’ve already discussed why Miyazaki started working on this project, so I can skip talking about that today… Or so I’d like to, but if I did, I’d surely see some confused faces, so I’ll tell you about his career as a manga artist before Nausicaa.

As I mentioned earlier, Miyazaki wanted to be a manga creator when he was in his teens. There’s an interview with him where he reflects on that period of his life, and I encourage anyone interested to find a copy of it1 . Miyazaki has a number of pleasant anecdotes about this period; when he was a senior high school student, he was shocked when told that his own designs and stories were copycats of Tezuka’s manga, and so he burned all his manuscripts, or about the only time during university he brought his manuscripts to a tiny publisher, but was too shy and nervous to ask them to comment on his manga. He says that he had hardly opened the door before he had left the office. His talent bloomed while at Toei Doga, after graduating from university, in the latter half of the ’60s, during which time he published two obscure manga works while he also lead a busy life as an talented animator. The first is Sabaku no Tami (The Desert Tribe), a manga–or more accurately, an illustrated story2–serialized in Shonen Shojo Shinbun, a weekly children’s newspaper,3 after he worked hard on Toei’s animated feature The Adventures of Horus: the Prince of the Sun was completed in 1968.4 I’ve come across this work on the internet once, and what struck me was how cinematic its image composition is. The story is kind of like if the Pejite tribe from Nausicaa became its main characters. The serialization was cut short mid-run, and the work has never been republished, meaning that the title remains a very rare one. The other work is his manga adaptation of Animal Treasure Island. Only a bit of this was available in a book, and furthermore I was only able to look over it briefly, but this too struck me really as a manga movie. He left Toei Doga after this period.

This was the only experience he had with creating manga up to 1982. Finding out that Animage wanted to have him draw a long series must have troubled him somewhat. There are stories of him repeating many times, “Hmm, I still haven’t got the knack of the syntax of manga” as he was drawing the first chapters. In fact, he would say that he was not sure he was able to draw manga fully with pens. You know, animators use pencils when doing line drawings, right? Being so used to working with pencils meant that he didn’t know how to fully use G pens or ball pens. During its early chapters, except for chapter one, there are actual instances of him using a pencil to draw the manga. Of course, this is while he was working on the television series Sherlock Hound (1982), meaning that he was very short on time, forcing him to submit his completed pages in pencil, not having used pen and ink. Once he left the production team of Hound, he returned to using a pen.

In Hayao no Shigoto, I did an analysis of the Nausicaa manga which garnered quite a response from my readers, but I’m actually not satisfied with my analysis. I mean, while I did tackle the composition of the story, I didn’t tackle any sort of visual analysis from a technical point of view. While manga criticism was once focused just on themes and ideology of the narrative, a form of criticism which adds to that approach by looking at the actual lines on the paper to understand the author’s thought process and the manga as pure image has come to the forefront since the ’90s in the Japanese manga criticism community. You all must know the television program Manga Yawa, on NHK sattelite? On the show, Professor Natsume has a segment where he does manga analysis called “Natsume no Me” (Natsume’s Eyes). Analysis like what he does. I’d been thinking for a while, “I wonder if he’ll ever do Nausicaa…” Incidentally, he still hasn’t done a segment on Nausicaa. Allegedly, Miyazaki won’t OK it. What a narrow-minded man! (laughter) Well fine, if the NHK won’t do it, I will! And with that, I’d like to talk about my technical analysis of the Nausicaa manga.

As soon as the serialization of Nausicaa began, manga lovers began to praise it highly. It seems like the two things you heard the most about it were “it’s quite cinematic” and “its style is dense and hard to read.” This is the opinion of someone who read the manga before watching the movie, and I felt the same way when I read the manga for the first time after seeing the movie.

Putting that aside, what exactly does “cinematic” mean, anyway? You heard the same term applied to another work that began during this period, Katsuhiro Otomo’s AKIRA, even praised as such by the man first said to create “cinematic manga” in Japan, Osamu Tezuka–though in the last 10 years of research, talented scholars have made discoveries leading manga critics to conclude with certainty that “cinematic” techniques were being used in manga before Tezuka began creating cinematic manga. But what does “cinematic” mean? You can’t pin it down. While there are a number of definitions given by a host of manga researchers, none of them sit well with me. To put it bluntly, they’re all functionally useless definitions. Well, there are some ones which are specific and pointed, but there’s always something wrong with them. “What exactly makes a manga ‘cinematic’?” I’ve always suspected that the text that can answer this question is Nausicaa. So finally, I’ve found a way to bring the answer to you, today through my technical analysis of this superheavyweight title. How smart I am, huh? (laughter) Today will be the first time that I reveal this method of analysis in public, so prepare yourselves.

While we use the term “cinematic” a lot, I’d like to pay attention today to the way that shots are connected to other shots. You understand what I mean? I’ve brought a DVD of 2001: A Space Odyssey5 with me today, so I’ll explain while we watch. Why did I choose 2001 as a sample? I found the DVD on a shelf in my house. That’s all. (laughter) Just one film has hundreds and hundreds of shots joined together. (DVD begins to play) Those apes grunting on the screens are the ancestors of mankind; they’re picking grass and eating it. While this is all one shot up to here–there, we just cut to another shot, and we see another ape. We can call the filmed shots that’re tied together by an editor “edits.”

There’s four typical patterns of edits. Pattern A: Despite going from one shot to the next, the action continues to take place in the same location, and the subjects remain in the frame, allowing the action to continue uninterrupted.

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The astronaut is in the Space Pod hangar, and is about to ride a pod to go out to repair an important device of the antenna on his spacecraft Discovery (1). Look closely at the way his body moves. Even as we go from one shot to the next (2), his movements continue, totally uninterrupted. Ah, a light has turned on in the Space Pod, and something has started whirring as it moves (2′). While there’s an edit between the two shots (2′ and 3), the actors and props on screen remain the same between the two, and they continue to move in the same way, uninterrupted. This is the essential part of this kind of edit. If you still don’t comprehend what I mean, imagine a television broadcast of a baseball game. When you hear the crack of someone hitting a home run, a number of TV cameras all follow the ball. You watch the flying ball from multiple camera perspectives continuously, or uninterruptedly, on the screen. That is a typical A.

Patttern B: The setting drastically changes from one shot to the next, but the characters on screen are in both shots, and are not seen briefly during the sequence.

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This takes place inside the space station. The man is using his voice to identify himself. Once the identification takes place, the two take their leave (1), but before they exit from the screen, there is an edit to 2. Now we’re in the space station lobby (2), see? We see the two men entering on screen a split-second after shot 1 cuts to shot 2. In shot 1, the two are passing through space customs, and in shot 2, we’re inside the space station lobby, a completely different location. The essential part of this pattern is that when we cut from one location to the next, the actors don’t appear in both in a continuous way; we do not see them on the screen for a second at the end of shot 1 or at the outset of shot 2.6

Since the actors are unseen for a moment on the screen in pattern B, then naturally, the action is also interrupted. These men take their leave once they confirm their identities. Before the two can exit from the frame (1), there is an edit, and then they exit by walking out into the space station lobby (2). This sequence occurs in a few seconds, while the actual time to travel that far would be in the tens of seconds. Strictly speaking, we would say that the action is not continuous. However, if we look at it as movement from place X to place Y, the action is continuous in a broader sense of ‘walking from customs to the lobby’. I’ll discuss this later; this is a major point.

Pattern C: The film moves from one location and one set of characters to another location and another set of characters, turning into a separate sequence. They’re having a meeting at the moon base(1). And now we cut, and there’s the surface of the moon (2). A Moonbus is flying above the moon’s surface. The shot of the meeting and the shot of the moon take place in different places and times. Basically, it changes to a different scene. In a novel, this would be a paragraph break.

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Pattern D: An edit from one place and cast to another, then a return to the original setting and characters, used to skip the passage of time.

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The Space Pod is slowly moving through space (1). Then we cut to a close-up of the antenna (2). When we cut back to the Space Pod, we find it on standby near the antenna (3). In other words, the time in between shots 1 and 3 has been omitted. It would probably take a number of minutes for the ship to arrive at the antenna, but thanks to editing, it only takes a few seconds. It doesn’t feel like anything’s been abridged, though, does it?

These are the four typical ways in which edits are arranged. While we are so accustomed with television and movies that we don’t even notice them, these four patterns are used in almost everything from films to TV dramas. Of course, there are plenty of deviations from these patterns. Even in this film, 2001, there are sequences edited in totally experimental ways towards the end of the movie. But what I want to get across to you is that these 4 patterns are the most basic, fundamental ones there are.

Now, let’s move to the world of manga. Japanese manga is often called “cinematic,” so if that’s really true, we should expect them to be based around the four patterns above. But what’s the actual state of affairs? Let’s take a look.

Let’s start with pattern A.

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Azumanga Daioh (Kiyohiko Azuma/Media Works) p.46

(Panel 2: Snap! (ぱきっ) / Panel 3: “Hehee…” (へへー)/ Panel 4: “Hm?” (ん?) “Hehee…” (へへー) “Is she that happy just because she split her chopsticks cleanly?” (きれいに割れたのが嬉しいのかな…)

This is Azumanga Daioh. A high school girl nicknamed “Osaka-san” is splitting apart disposable chopsticks. (2). In panel 3, Osaka-san turns to face the tiny girl.7 In other words, there’s nothing omitted between panels 2 and 3. In panel 4, she’s swung around to show the girl wearing glasses how smartly she split her chopsticks. Again, there’s nothing left out between panels 3 and 4. Because manga is a medium of drawings printed on a piece of paper, we don’t actually see Osaka move, but we use our imaginations to fill in the gaps as she turns left and right. In short, this can be compared to the film pattern A. I’ll call this pattern A’ (A-dash).

There’s one more pattern, A” (double-dash).

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Azumanga Daioh (Kiyohiko Azuma/Media Works) p.119

Panel 1: Bam! (ばた) / Panel 2: “Let’s get ourselves back together and start yelling in time!” (かけ声かけておちつけましょう!) “That’s right, let’s take our time.” (そやな ゆっくり) / Panel 3: “One” (いち) Bam!

Chiyo-chan and Osaka-san are running a three-legged race in the school sports festival. These two are well known for their rivalry, competing for the position of most and second most uncoordiated student at the school (laughter), and from the moment the race begins, they seem to be off to a good start, falling over right there. They encourage each other in panel 2, then fall over again in panel 3 (laughter). While I imagine that this sequence of panels reads quite naturally, if you think about it, there’s quite a bit cut out between each panel. I mean, you try it yourselves. After panel 2, the two have to slowly get back up, then try to start running again, then fall over again, as seen in panel 3. That means that there’d normally be two more actions in between panels 2 and 3, and they’ve been omitted. But, you can read the strip without thinking that anything is strange.8

I’m going to say that these correspond to film pattern A, and if there’s no action omitted between panel and panel, I’ll call it A’, while A” will be if there’s one action or more omitted between the panels. Got that? I’ll repeat it again, don’t make understanding these two a mental exercise, actually use your body to confirm what’s going on. If you do, then that will make things much easier to grasp.

What about pattern B? This would seem to be fundamentally impossible in manga. Take this for example.

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Shirley (Kaoru Mori/Enterbrain) p.98

From Shirley. A little maid is preparing tea in the kitchen. Panel 2 takes place in the same room as panel 1, but her surroundings are different. So in a film, we wouldn’t see her in panel 2 at first, and after a few moments, she would enter the frame.9 This girl is actually looking for cranberry jam, and so is moving from one shelf to the next in these panels.10 However, in manga, we can only simulate entering and exiting a frame, as these are static images. The reader must figure out what’s going on in these two panels and connect the action internally. Let’s call this B’.

B’ has a relative, which we can see here. (Shown on the screen)

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Shin Takarajima (reprinted in Go Itoh,Tezuka is Dead, NTT Publishing.)

This is the beginning of Shin Takarajima, the legendary Osamu Tezuka manga that he drew at the age of 19. It seems to have been an extremely shocking manga to its young readers at the time, as they apparently felt that the car seemed to really be moving, despite the manga being static images on a page. While it’s still highly praised to this day, with individuals saying “it’s like watching a movie!”11, if you look at it carefully, this sequence of edits would be very strange if they were filmed. A car appears throughout panels 1 to 4. As I mentioned earlier, if there’s shots edited together where the action takes place in the same location with the same actors appearing in an uninterrupted way, then it would be pattern A. But as we go from panels 1 to 4, the actors are the same, but the scenery changes. Panel 1 takes place on a downhill road. Panel 2 is in a field. 3 is a road alongside the coast, and 4 is at a harbor. While the character’s action is not interrupted, the scenery is. Generally, films tend to avoid this style of editing. However, in manga, there is nothing strange about this. Consistent action–in this case, furiously driving a car at a high speed–allows the reader to overlook the disconnected flow of scenery. While this is similar to the A’ pattern, the character stays the same on the page while the background changes. If this sequence was to be filmed, I imagine that the character would have to be out of the frame at some point, meaning that it is closer to a B pattern. I’m going to classify this as a B” edit.

While Shin Takarajima is still used today as an example of “cinematic manga,” I wonder if Tezuka actually knew what makes a manga “cinematic.” Tezuka would re-draw the work entirely and publish it once more as the “complete edition” dozens of years after the first edition, and I found it was really unexciting, or not “cinematic.”

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Tezuka Osamu Manga Zenshuban Shin Takarajima (p.10~11)

The new version also begins with a car racing down a road, and for some reason the new edition seems overly stretched out; the revised one is set up as if a camera in a helicopter was constantly tracking the car. While a sequence like this would certainly look cool on TV or in a film, it just drags on when drawn on paper. I imagine that Tezuka, upon drawing this revised edition, thought proudly to himself, “look at how dynamic these pages are!” but I wonder why no one tried to stop him. “Tezuka-Sensei, this just looks like slow motion.”12

I’ll be calling the kind of pattern seen in the revised edition of Shin Takarajima B”-(double dash minus), and I’d like to look at another example to illustrate my point.

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Slam Dunk, Jump Comics Deluxe volume 24 (Takehiko Inoue / Shueisha) p.208

One second left in the game and Sakuragi-kun goes for a game-winning shot! We see multiple panels with the same character in the same location, but with different composition in each panel. At a glance, it might remind you of the opening sequence from the revised edition of Shin Takarajima, but in fact these three panels are drawn from entirely different perspectives while the panels from the revised Shin Takarajima are from a single perspective. In other words, it is like how multiple cameras might follow the same home run ball during the broadcast of a baseball game. I.e., this is A’. But it looks like a B”-, doesn’t it?13 The strong point of the A’ shot is its dynamism, while for B”- it is its slow motion effect. This A’ sample is impressive for deftly blending A’ and B”- effects, creating a very dramatic scene, one 1/10th second at a time.14

Pattern C is fairly common in manga, right?

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Whisper of the Heart (Aoi Hiiragi / Shueisha) p.81

This is the original Whisper of the Heart. Shizuku-chan and Seiji-kun are quarreling for some reason in the library. Her father, a librarian, also appears here. After that, we see the image of falling rain, introducing a whole new scene. I’ll call this pattern C’. There are other, more subtle ways of changing scene and setting.

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SP Comics Compact Golgo 13 volume 57 (Takao Saito, Reed-sha) p.170-171

From Golgo 13. We see the streets of Tokyo via a series of panels. No one panel is directly related to the next, as their main purpose is to express the feeling of the city itself. We see this technique used in films quite a bit, don’t we? I’ll call this pattern C”.

As far as pattern D, we see this quite often in manga.

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Zipang 2 (Kaiji Kawaguchi/Kodansha) p.82

This is from a war manga called Zipang. It’s a SF-ish story about a state of the art Japan Self-Defense Force ship, getting sucked in by a storm and being spit out right in the middle of World War II. Here, a JSDF propeller plane is out on a scouting mission, is found by a Japanese Zero Fighter, and gets into a dogfight. Forced to counter fire, the JSDF plane shoots at the Zero in panel 1, aiming at the float attached to the bottom of the plane. Panel 2 is a closeup of the Zero’s pilot. In panel 3, the Zero makes an emergency landing in the ocean, or rather, he crashes into it. For your information, the thing you see in the left side of panel 3 is the JSDF plane’s wing. While I believe that a dozen seconds or so must take place in this sequence, we get a closeup of the pilot in panel 2, allowing the time between panels 1 and 3 to be shortened considerably in a clever way, resulting in a crisp and exciting battle scene. This definitely corresponds to pattern D in film, so I’ll call it pattern D’.

Manga are still images, drawn on pieces of paper. Even so, I bet you often think “wow, this seems just like I’m watching a movie,” don’t you? Take this, for example.

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Master Keaton 7 (Story: Hokusei Katsushika, Art: Naoki Urasawa/Shogakukan) p.78-79

This is Master Keaton. I happened to find that a talented manga researcher singled out these two pages in one of his books, and indeed these pages are really incredibly “cinematic.” Yes, I agree that they’re cinematic. However, I’m a bit disappointed that this researcher never grappled with the question of what makes these pages “cinematic.”15 I then took it upon myself to analyze this page, and noticed that this page of this manga consists of nearly all A’ and D’ patterns. If we map out the panels and write out each editing pattern… (written on whiteboard)

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See what I mean? These pages go A’, D’, C’, D’, A’, D’, D’, (new page) D’, D’, A’, A’, D, and are extremely readable. When I say that these pages are nearly all A’ and D’, it also means that there are absolutely no instances of A” patterns.

So what about the Nausicaa manga? Surprisingly enough, we find quite a few A” patterns used. Strangely, though, it never feels very noticeable. I found this one particularly impressive.

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Vol 5, p. 32

This is a scene where Ketcha is returning Kui’s egg. This happens to take place inside a transport glider. In panel 2, Ketcha is seen trying to loosen Kui’s saddle. A sequence of panels that has the same characters in the same spot, performing an uninterrupted action is the typical A pattern that we discussed earlier. However, if you really pay attention here, you notice that Ketcha’s actions aren’t uninterrupted. In panel 1, she is holding a giant egg, but in 2, the egg is already under Kui’s thighs. That means that the two actions, bending over and placing the egg, then standing up (The lecturer acts the scene out in front of the students) have already taken place, meaning that actions have been omitted between 1 and 2.16

Furthermore, in panel 3, Ketcha’s head is poking out of the window of the glider as she looks at the ground below her with Yupa. I believe that the edit from panels 2 to 3 corresponds to the film pattern B. If this were a film, we’d first see just Yupa’s head looking out the window, then Ketcha coming to poke her head out afterward. Actually, if I was adapting this manga into a film, I’d add one shot in between 2 and 3. Once Ketcha finishes unfastening the saddle in 2, the shot would change to something like this. (board drawing)

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Then we’d cut again to panel 3.

Why do you need to insert another shot into the sequence when you adapt it into a film, unless you see Kecha trying to poke her head in the cut equivalent to panel 3? It’s because the subject’s action has to be continuous in a broader sense even if it is actually being interrupted for a second on screen. In a film, going straight from taking off the saddle (2) to looking out the window (3) would seem far too rushed and disconnected. But, if we have her join Yupa looking down from the window, we know it’s because time has elapsed and she’s finished taking the saddle off. Since there’s no sense of continuous action from panels 2 to 3, this wouldn’t be a B pattern even when you put this sequence faithfully into film form. Again, I would probably insert the extra shot between panels 2 and 3 to make the sequence a D pattern rather than a B when adapting the work to film syntax.17

Oh, sorry, I’m going off on a tangent about film editing, rather than manga, so I’ll try to get back on track. Assuming that this sequence is a B’, I can’t say it perfectly meets the requirement that in a B’ edit the subject’s action has to be continuous in a broader sense even if it is being interrupted for a second when a shot cuts to another. But, in fact, this sequence is quite easy to follow. If you’re wondering why, look at it more closely. Panels 1 and 2 take up the right side of the page, while panel 3 takes up the left side. This page almost reads like a map of the inside of the glider. Did you love illustrated encyclopedias when you were a kid, everyone? They often map out how each section or room is laid out inside a ship or a house in a single illustration. I think Miyazaki applied this style to the visual composition of this sequence–maybe unconsciously. We can see traces of Miyazaki’s childhood love of illustrated encyclopedias in this page.

Let’s go back and compare it to the Master Keaton we just looked at. Theoretically, we would say that Keaton, which uses no A” edits, would be more cinematic than Nausicaa. However, if we look at the two side-by-side, Nausicaa seems no less cinematic than Keaton. Why? Look closely. Many panels in Keaton extend beyond the page. We see this four times in these two pages. On the other hand, this very rarely happens in the Nausicaa pages. Incredibly, there are only two instances in the entire run of the Nausicaa manga where panels are not box-shaped. No matter how incredibly complicated and crowded the art gets, it’s always contained in rectangular panels. For a modern manga, this is a fairly rare, or should I say abstemious, spartan work.

There’s another reason that the Nausicaa manga is cinematic. During action scenes, quite a few of the edits are A’s. Take this for example.

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(5) p.46-47

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A fighter plane from the Valley of the Wind meets a Tolmekian warplane, and they get into a dogfight. Breaking down these panels, we get D’, A’, D’, A’, D’, A’, A’, A’, (next page) A’, A’, D’, D’, A’, A’, A’. Now this is incredible. A’ edits, full throttle!18 The quick speed at which the reader goes through these panels matches the speed of the action. Furthermore, look at panels 11 and 12. Panel 11 is what Asbel, seen in panel 12, is seeing. Manga researchers call this technique “character-reader unification.” 11 and 13 have fundamentally the same composition, but strictly speaking the camera is behind the fighter plane in the latter panel while the former panel is drawn from the pilot’s perspective. Since the enemy plane is larger in 13 than it is in 11, we feel like the plane is quickly closing in. Also, supposing that Miyazaki redrew panels 11 and 13 both from the pilot’s perspective or from that of the imaginary camera following the plane in a high speed dive, skipping panel 12, this sequence would still work fine, but it would certainly lose its exciting dynamism since it turns into a B”-, or into slow motion. By inserting Asbel’s face between panels 11 and 13, and also changing the camera perspective, Miyazaki escapes creating a drawn-out scene that B”- sequences tend to create.

Let me bring out another example. This one’s from Zipang:

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Zipang 2 (Kaiji Kawaguchi/Kodansha) p.60

A Zero fighter begins firing on a JSDF plane. If we break down the panels, we get D’, D’, A’, D’. Kawaguchi’s manga, such as Zipang and The Silent Service, are often praised as “cinematic.” However, we see surprisingly few A’ edits here. The reason behind this comes from the time schedule that this work is produced on. Nausicaa wasn’t serialized in a manga magazine, but rather an anime news and information magazine. That meant that the manga could be produced very slowly, around only 16 pages a month. Compared to that, Zipang was serialized in the weekly magazine Morning, which would call for 18 pages a week. Of course, this kind of volume can’t be produced by one person alone, and so Kawaguchi-sensei has 6 to 7 assistants in his studio, all working together to produce the manga. The basic sketches of the panel layout and composition, what Japanese manga artists normally call “Name”s, are created by Kawaguchi, who would also draw the main characters such as the pilots. However, things like the Zero and the JSDF plane, or the spray of the waves of the ocean would be handled by his capable assistants, using photos as reference. To make a grossly simplified classification, there are two kinds of panels here: ones that Kawaguchi penned himself, and ones that were only laid out by him that the assistants would work on, both of which would appear normally next to each other in the manga. Naturally, there will be more D’ edits.

So, in both Nausicaa and Zipang, we see panels of a pilot’s face inserted in the dogfight scene. But in the Nausicaa example, doesn’t it feel like the pilot is actually a part of the plane, or rather, that the plane is an extension of the pilot? While we are shown the faces of a given plane’s pilot, whether that is Asbel or Mito or a Tolmekian soldier, it ultimately feels like we’re watching two birds engaged in aerial combat. In Zipang‘s case, the JSDF plane and the Zero both seem like plain machines, and it feels more like the pilots are the main characters of the scene.

However, the techniques that these two have in common are their use of on’yu (sound effect, or “sonopher”) and keiyu (visual effect, or “formpher”). The “DAKAKAKA (ダカカカ)” and the “VUII (ヴイイ)” you see in the top and bottom panels are on’yu. We also see some strange, thin lines surrounding the plane. These express that the plane is flying at a high speed, and we call these keiyu. On’yu and keiyu are a vital part of what makes comics, especially Japanese manga, so dynamic. However, you have to be careful not to overuse them, or else they get in the way of the story.

Let me show you an example of these techniques used in an unintrusive way.

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Yotsuba&! 1 (Kiyohiko Azuma/Media Works p.118)

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From Yotsuba&!. These are succinct and unintrusive. Nonetheless, on’yu and keiyu are being used in a very subtle way. As an experiment, let’s erase the keiyu next to Fuuka-chan’s head and the “Gara (がらっ)” on’yu in panel 3.

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In the original panel 2, Fuuka-chan is bending her head back when she hears her mother calling, but if we erase the keiyu in the panel, it looks as though she was in that position even before her mother called her. Thus, the relationship between panels 1 and 2 become fuzzier without the keiyu.

Next, panel 3. Here, Fuuka-chan opens the door, “Gara,” and says “what?”, but if we take the “Gara” out, it seems like the door was open before she entered the room, see? To put it a different way, just by using the on’yu “Gara,” the action of “Fuuka opening the door” is expressed–the reader fills in the blank, mentally. While Yotsuba&! seems like a relatively simply drawn manga, it still uses on’yu and keiyu, in subtle ways. In some ways, you could consider this as a very restrained manga. Although, a surprising amount of work went into Fuuka-chan’s chest in panel 2.19 Azuma-sensei, you perv (lots of laughter).

  1. “Kaze no Kaeru Basho” (The Place Where the Wind Returns), interview by Youichi Shibuya for rockin’on []
  2. E-monogatari/絵物語 []
  3. Launched in December 1968 as 少年少女しんぶん, published weekly. Changed its name in March 1970 to 少年少女新聞. Ceased publication in March 2004. []
  4. The title ran from September 1969 to March 1970 under the pen name Saburo Akitsu []
  5. Directed by Stanley Kubrick, produced in America in 1968 by MGM. Often praised as the pinnacle of the sci-fi genre, but Miyazaki apparently hates it. []
  6. Strictly speaking, this can be divided into three patterns: exit from shot A, then cut to shot B, enter to shot B before exiting from shot A (what happens in this case), and exit from shot A, then enter to shot B. Each has their own subtle difference. []
  7. Try covering up the “Snap!(ぱき)” sound effect in panel 2, along with the lines to the left of it, then read the comic again. This places the panel into the moment after the chopsticks are broken, rather than as the chopsticks are being broken, increasing the number of actions that take place between panels 1 and 2. In other words, an action is omitted, and turns a A’ edit into a A”. []
  8. Try covering up the “One (いち)” on the right part of the final panel with your finger and read the strip again. The transition from panel 2 to panel 3 feels abrupt, now. The action, “the girls begin running” is replaced by the “One.” On the other hand, if you cover up the “Hehe (へへーー)” and the curved lines in the third panel (The “keiyu,” or the lines that show that Osaka-san is turning around) of the strip above, it doesn’t seem abrupt at all. This means that in the case of the three-legged race strip, we’re dealing with an A” edit (one or more actions are omitted between the two panels) and in the chopsticks strip, it’s an A’ edit (no action is omitted). []
  9. In film, there are other edits possible, such as her exiting from the first panel, then already being present once the shot of the new panel starts, or her exiting the first panel, then the second scene appearing, which she proceeds to enter. However, these all have slightly different effects than the setup that I’m hypothesizing. Use your finger to cover the characters up and try for yourself. []
  10. Pay close attention to panel 2, where the line “Cranberry jam…” appears, along with Shirley’s slightly urgent, excited posture. This is what silently helps to support the B’ edit. []
  11. Though notice that there are no onomatopoeias or speech balloons. []
  12. According to Tezuka, the panels that you see in the revised edition were ones that he wanted to draw from the beginning. If this is true, that means that his co-author on Shin Takarajima, Shichima Sakai, decided upon the original layout. So the B” edit was first invented by accident…? I wonder. []
  13. In a B” sequence, the characters are the same, but the time and place between each panel are disconnected from each other. The B”- sequence is comparable to a long take in film. []
  14. I’d like to sit down and analyze Slam Dunk one day. []
  15. Tezuka is Dead, Go Itou, NTT Publishing. While it is an excellent work, I found it very strange that he discusses “cinematic techniques” at length but never gives a definition for this term, nor is this term found in the index. []
  16. However, due to the dialogue, “Oh, sorry.” “Wait, I’m taking off the saddle.” being continuous, this sequence flows naturally. []
  17. Actually, I can think of one other way of doing this, with Ketcha leaving to go to the window as Kui goes to sit back down on her egg (exiting the frame here would not be needed but is preferable). As soon as this happens, we’d cut from 2 to 3, then Ketcha enters the frame (we see her peek out from the window). The only problem here is that you’d have to animate Kui sitting and Ketcha going to the window (at the same time, at that!), which would require extra labor. []
  18. Panel 1 to 2, where the focus of the panel goes from the Valley of the Wind fighter to the Tolmekian warplane might seem like a D’, but if we consider the bullets as the focus, then this would be an A’ in substance. 3 to 4 and 5 to 6 would be similar. 11 to 12 and 12 to 13 are D’s, but if we consider the pilot as a part of the airplane, then these too would become A’s. []
  19. Say that the magazine wasn’t slightly being held slightly above her stomach in panel 2. If that were the case, there’d be no shadow on her stomach, which would mean that her breasts were less emphasized than they are here. I’d also like you to notice that the edge of the spine is close to touching her nipple. []

Garo 1964 Title/Author Listing + Notes

Wednesday, May 20th, 2009

Last semester, I took advantage of the fact that a local library had the full run of the legendary underground manga magazine Garo and wrote a little paper on it. I’m not going to torture you with the paper here, but in the process of writing the paper, I found that there really was less than I had imagined about Garo. In order to remedy that in at least some small way, I figured I’d do a little romanized listing of the contents of Garo issues, mostly taken straight from the Monthly Manga Garo Index hosted on the Nagai Katsuichi Manga Museum‘s home page (Nagai Katsuichi was the first EIC of the magazine). A big thanks to Shiraishi-san, who maintains the website, for allowing me to basically copy the index wholesale into English. I’ll also be adding little notes here and there after the listing of each issue until 12/1970, if I have any jotted down in my notebook. I may also stop after 1970, since that’s where my experience with the magazine ends. Any comments or corrections are always greatly appreciated.

Also, I’m sorry that I’m terribly inconsistent about this on my blog, but names will be in the format of Lastname Firstname, and individual stories in each issue will be listed as Author, “Story”.

——-

September 1964 (First Issue)
Front Cover: Shirato Sanpei
Shirato Sanpei, “Zashikiwarashi”
Shirato Sanpei, “Akai Take”
Shirato Sanpei, “Younin”
Shirato Sanpei, “Kugutsu”
Mizuki Shigeru, “Furou Fushi no Jutsu”
Suwa Sakae, “Unabara no Ken”
Uchiyama Kenji, “Doubutsu Hyaku-Wa”
Ri Haruko, “Douwa, mo Kichi”
Sato Tadao, “Shirato Sanpei-san no Manga”
Kagemaru, “Dakyou Haisu Kokou no Shisouka”

Notes: Suwa Sakae was apparently a pen name for Kojima Goseki, who was then assisting Shirato Sanpei.
Despite being started in order to run Shirato’s Kamui-den, it does not begin running until the fourth issue, and the first three issues instead run collections of Shirato’s earlier short works. “Shirato Sanpei-san no Manga” is located behind the front cover of the magazine, and is an essay by a prominent film critic on the depth and complexity in Shirato’s works. Most, possibly all of the other manga in the issue is also manga about ninjas.

October 1964
Front Cover: Shirato Sanpei
Shirato Sanpei, “Kugutsugaeshi”
Shirato Sanpei, “Mumei”
Shirato Sanpei, “Musashi”
Suwa Sakae, “Unabara no Ken”
Mizuki Shigeru, “Ibo”
Kusunoki Shouhei, “Senmaru”
Uchiyama Kenji, “Doubutsu Hyaku-Wa”
Kagemaru, “Dakyou Haisu Kokou no Shisouka”

Notes: I believe that Sato’s introduction runs once again on the inside of the front cover for this issue. A reader’s corner where submitted letters are printed starts in this issue. Kusunoki Shouhei’s Garo debut. The magazine adopts the subtitle “Junior Magazine” in this issue.

November 1964
Front Cover: Shirato Sanpei
Shirato Sanpei, “Sugaru no Shi”
Shirato Sanpei, “Oni”
Shirato Sanpei, “Myoukatsu”
Shirato Sanpei, “Maboroshi no Inu”
Mizuki Shigeru, “Kunshou”
Suwa Sakae, “Unabara no Ken”
Kusunoki Shouhei, “Senmaru”
Uchiyama Kenji, “Doubutsu Hyaku-Wa”
Doya Ippei, “Jujitsu Kouryuu Hiwa: Tamasudare”
Mura Shigeru, “Manga no Kakikata”
Sanpei Shirato, “Jigou yori Hajimeru Sakuhin ni Tsuite”

I believe that the last title on this list is the back of the front cover of the magazine. In this article, Sanpei talks a little about his new work that will be starting in the next issue, “Kamui-den.” Mura Shigeru is Mizuki Shigeru’s birth name.

December 1964
Front cover: Shirato Sanpei
Shirato Sanpei, “Kamui-den”
Suwa Sakae, “Unabara no Ken”
Mizuki Shigeru, “Nekomaru”
Kusunoki Shouhei, “Senmaru”
Mura Shigeru, “Manga no Kakikata”
Kouyama Hideo, “Nega no Miryoku”
Fujikawa Chisui, “Shirato Manga no Omoshirosa”

Notes: Kamui-den‘s debut issue. Most issues of the manga are around 100 pages, and since the magazine is around 135 pages at this time, it takes up a very significant chunk of the magazine’s pages.

Japanese Lecture/Blog Post Translation: The Space Between Anime and Manga: #5: Katsuhiro Otomo, the Anti-”Story” Author by Kentaro Takekuma

Sunday, May 17th, 2009

Quick translator’s/blogger’s introduction, hopefully shorter than the one to the previous translation of the outline for the lecture given before this one, Why is the Manga Version of Nausicaa So Hard to Read by Kentaro Takekuma, best known in America for Even a Monkey can Draw Manga This lecture was originally given at Kyoto Seika University on 2008/12/18, and the blog post of these outlines can be found here and here.

Formatting for this one will probably be a little sloppier since this won’t be used as a translation/writing sample for school, but I’ll do my best to stay consistent with (Firstname) (Lastname) with names, no capitals this time. I don’t really have much else to add to this, other than that hearing this lecture got me to go down to Mandarake and buy up a bunch of Otomo’s short story collections, which were all engrossing.

———-

The Space Between Anime and Manga
Outline for the lecture series given at Kyoto Seika University
#5: Katsuhiro Otomo, the Anti-”Story” Author
Lecturer: Kentaro Takekuma

The State of Manga During the 70s and 80s

Katsuhiro Otomo debuted as an author in the early 1970s. I’d like to begin by trying to give some structure to the state of manga from his debut in the early 1970s to the early 1980s. The manga world during this time was going through an incredible period of change, which we may never see the likes of again. To try to sum it up briefly:

*Gekiga enjoys its period of full maturity thanks to the rise of Seinen magazines (Big Comic, Manga Action, Young Comic, etc)

*Circulation of Shonen Sunday and Shonen Magazine drops severely, due to the oil price shock, seinen magazines attracting their older readers, and emerging shonen magazines such as Shonen Champion, Shonen Jump and others taking their younger readers.
– The next generation of manga magazines begins at this time.

*The shoujo manga boom begins, attracting male readers alongside female.
– Central to this boom were the female authors in the “Year 24 Group” such as Keiko Takemiya-sensei.

*The first Comic Market is held in 1975.

*Magazines targeting a hardcore audience, such as Manga Shonen and Manga Kisoutengai begin to be launched one after the other, starting around 1977. (The anime boom starts during this period, as well.)

These trends in the manga world, from gekiga to shoujo manga, as well as the creation of fan-targeted magazines, which Comiket and the anime boom both tied into, all combined to form a base for the manga and otaku culture we have today.

Katsuhiro Otomo’s Traits as an Illustrator

As he didn’t attract much attention until relatively late in his career, it is often mistakenly thought that Otomo didn’t begin drawing until the end of the 1970s, but in fact, Otomo debuted in 1973. He began submitting works to Shonen Sunday and COM in the early 1970s, and his real debut work was “Juusei” (“Gunshot”), published in the August 1973 issue of Weekly Manga Action Zoukan. In the following years, he published more short works at a leisurely pace, and began to attract attention from other professional manga artists as well as manga fanatics in the mid-1970s.

The reason Otomo didn’t attract much attention at first was a combination of his extremely low output and a popular conception that his stories and art were plain. Of course, even these earliest works are of unusually high quality, clearly displaying his talent while deviating from the trends of mainstream manga of the time. However, Otomo’s scripts during this period very intentionally avoid and reject climaxes, which would understandably cause his works to be buried under the passionate, intense manga that was prevalent during the period.

We can view these early Otomo works, with their subdued art and scripts, as the antithesis to gekiga, which was at the height of its popularity during this time. Though gekiga can be seen as the antithesis to Tezuka-style manga itself, as it attempts to introduce a new level of realism to manga, Otomo’s manga does not attempt to return to a Tezuka-like style. Instead, it inherits the tradition of realistic art that the gekiga movement started, while boldly rejecting the expressionistic techniques that gekiga developed (panel frames extending beyond the page, super-dense motion lines, manga symbols (tl note: manpu, basically the sweatdrops and forehead veins we all know and love), standardized poses during action scenes, and so on).

I imagine that Otomo must have considered the realism of these techniques and concluded that they weren’t realistic at all. By removing all the conventions that readers had come to expect in manga, Otomo achieves his own level of realism, creating a feeling similar to that of, say, the one felt when watching Takeshi Kitano’s early films.

This aim towards realism extends to a large number of Otomo’s early works where he intentionally does not draw “money shots.” Such flashy scenes must have been thought of as unrealistic to him. Looking back on his work from a present-day standpoint, though, it’s shocking to now see how Otomo’s doctrinally anticlimactic output perfectly captured the mood of the 1970s.

If we look at the 60s as a period of politics and rebellion, as symbolized by the student movement, then the 1970s were a period of societal lethargy, born from the stall in the student movement and the end of the post-war economic miracle. Many young men and women during this period not only felt directionless, but had to worry about even having a roof over their heads from day to day. Whether it was Marxism, Free Love, or Indian spiritualism, young peoples’ values seemed to become more self-centered and introverted.

Finding himself in the center of this group, Otomo realistically drew the daily idleness of the lives of high school and college students. While on occasion he dealt with extraordinary themes like violence and rape, he drew these without traditionally-used “money shots” or a general eye towards making his manga as stylish as possible, but rather depicted these events from an extremely objective viewpoint. For example, when someone gets shot in Otomo’s manga, we don’t see the shooter in a generic pose, a closeup of the gun’s barrel, or the moment that the bullet is in flight. Instead, Otomo draws our attention to a man-shaped thing falling to the ground. Instead of drawing a cool, set pose after one person shoots another, Otomo prefers showing the uncertainty and shamefulness of the act, and it is this sort of realism that caused Otomo to go unnoticed and unacclaimed for so long.

Otomo began using a mapping pen fairly early in his career. In gekiga works of the time, characters were drawn with the dynamic lines of a G-pen, and the mapping pen was used in a supplementary fashion, drawing scenery and action lines. However, Otomo drew everything in the thin, lean lines of a mapping pen, giving equal weight to both character and scenery. While this is the source of the sense of objectivity seen in Otomo’s manga, this technique was an unthinkable one in the world of gekiga until this point, as drawing in this manner would normally just elicit the reaction that “the characters don’t stand out.”

While Otomo used a lot of filled inking in his earliest works, the darkness of his earlier works begins to fade as time goes on, and he begins to use large areas of white space in both character and setting shots. Again, his panel layout was very orthodox, avoiding overly formal techniques such as extending panel frames to beyond the page, and he used very few manpu. We could say that the defining characteristic of Otomo’s work during this period is that it was “anti-manga style,” and was instead similar to the real-life image.

otomo1It’s been said that Otomo’s 1970s manga were the first time that a Japanese person was drawn with an Asian face in manga. (“Okasu”, 1976)

One could say that another one of Otomo’s “inventions” was his way of depicting Japanese characters with Asian facial characteristics, such as almond-shaped eyes and a low nose. For example, in Takao Saito’s manga, a character like Golgo may be Asian according to the story, but looks nothing like an Asian man. Again, Otomo’s blunt objectivity brought about a new kind of realism to an aspect of manga that had previously been dominated by manga’s “lie” of characters depicted in a borderless way. This too is a kind of realism that could only have been established in the 70s.

The “Anti-Story” Seen in “NOTHING WILL BE AS IT WAS”

I’d like to present Otomo’s 1977 “NOTHING WILL BE AS IT WAS” as good example of a work that exhibits the defining characteristics of 70′s Otomo. This work is about a man who, after unthinkingly killing his friend during an argument in his room, is faced with the problem of disposing of his friend’s corpse, followed by his eventual dismembering and “disposal” of the body.

This work completely does without aspects of a murder case that a criminal drama would depict, such as the killer’s motive or methods. In the very first panel of the story, we see a closeup of a dead body lying on the floor of an apartment room, and from there all we see is the main character’s disposal of his friend’s corpse in a detailed but disinterested way. In the end, we don’t even see the consequences of the crime. The only thing we do see is the main character’s neighbors thinking that he’s acting suspicious, but not a single thing about the discovery of the crime or the character’s arrest.

otomo2“NOTHING WILL BE AS IT WAS”, from 1977. Unable to cut through fat, the main character has to keep heating his hand saw in order to dismember his friend. This seems so real you might begin to wonder if the author has had experience killing a man himself.

In other words, this work is like a simulation of what a person would do if they had inadvertently killed a person in their apartment. Otomo simply wanted to depict the difficulty in dismembering a corpse in one’s own apartment, and ethical themes such as how the murder came to happen, the protagonist’s feelings of guilt, or the main character’s fate after his crime is discovered are completely absent. The author simply does not seem interested in “typical stories” like that.

We can also see Otomo’s “anti-story tendencies” in the irregularities of the story in works such as his 1976 “Okasu” or the 1977 “Uchuu Patrol Shigema”. While the plots of these works would normally not be enough to base a manga on, Otomo’s artistic and directorial skills, based upon his thorough devotion to realism, make these works possible.

Otomo in the 1970s was able to use his exceptional artistic talent to demolish the idea of the “story”. By bringing his story down to the same level as his art, any sort of moral messages could be excluded. This could be called the defining element of the early Otomo’s style of realism.

Turning the “background” into the main character

otomo3The incredibly famous scene from “Fire Ball” (1979), where the main character, reduced to bones and organs, rises from the operating table. This one nightmarish panel fixed the path for all of Otomo’s later works.

Katsuhiro Otomo first gained public attention after the publication of his 1979 “Fire Ball.” This is the work where Otomo’s sci-fi side, which could only be seen in small glimpses in his previous short works, came into maturity. It was also the prototype for his later work AKIRA. The protagonists of the story are a pair of brothers living in a future world controlled by a computer. While each were living their own separate lives, the older brother a policeman and the younger brother an anti-establishment activist, the giant, society-domineering computer discovers that the older brother has psychic talents, and vivisects him for research purposes. Meanwhile, the younger brother attempts to destroy the computer, but is discovered shortly before he is able to, and is shot to death. At that moment, he telepathically calls out to his older brother, who is then being analyzed by the computer, causing his psychic abilities to manifest themselves. He rises off of the table, his body nothing but bones and organs, and begins to use his terrifyingly incredible powers to destroy the city.

The surreal image of the older brother rising from the operating table was sensual and overwhelming, and coupled with his outstanding art, was the topic of much discussion at the time. This work also marks the moment that Otomo, who had previously intentionally avoided climaxes, created a work with a flashy climax, and the mix of objectivity and visual flashiness that Otomo realized in this work was perfected in his later works such as Kibun wa Mou Sensou (written by Yahagi Toshihiko) and Domu.

While the plot of “Domu”, a work where a senile man and young girl have a psychic battle set in an enormous apartment complex, is certainly a unique one, Otomo’s successful depiction of the innate strange eeriness of the work’s urban setting is what elevates it to a masterpiece of modern horror. The inorganic way in which each individual within the apartments is implanted inside it is perfectly matched to Otomo’s objective style, and it could even be said that the real main character of this work is the apartment complex itself. Otomo’s manga gives its characters and its backgrounds equal prominence, and with Domu he successfully created an exceptionally unique work within manga where background (the scenery) is given the lead role. This style comes into full bloom in his later work AKIRA.

AKIRA, which began serialization in Young Magazine in 1982, along with its anime adaptation, brought worldwide fame to Otomo.

Katsuhiro Otomo, the Filmmaker

Looking at Otomo’s work through the lens of manga history, his works could be seen as ones which exemplify one style of “film-like manga”. (it could also be said that while his literary style differs from Tezuka’s, Otomo’s made a return to Tezuka’s cinematic style in other ways) His extreme attention to the “objectivity” of his drawings led to the restrained uniformity of the thickness of his pen strokes and the exclusion of mangaesque techniques such as manpu wherever possible. However, he ultimately expresses and treats time in paper 2d media in a very manga-like way.

You can get a good idea of Otomo’s orientation towards live action film in a manga such as “San Bergs Hill no Omoide”. In the work’s climactic shootout, you may be reminded of the action direction of one of Otomo’s favorite directors, Sam Peckinpah. Peckinpah’s frequent usage of many quick cuts, as well as slow motion during important scenes, can be seen beautifully expressed in Otomo’s onomatopoeia-free pages full of many small panels. Of course, while this technique is cinematic in a way, it is at the same time something that could only be expressed through manga. If you get a chance, compare this work to Peckinpah’s masterpiece The Wild Bunch. I think you’ll find it very interesting.

Eventually, the cinematically-inclined Otomo was naturally steered towards creating films himself. As a long-time movie fan, Otomo had made self-produced films since his school years, and had been still creating films such as Jiyuu wo Warera Ni while working as a manga-ka. What finally got him into animation was his being hired as the character designer for Rin Taro’s 1983 Harmageddon, produced by Kadokawa Pictures.

Otomo’s work on this movie stretched far beyond his given position of character designer, as he became a major contributor to many sides of the film’s production, submitting setting concept art and imageboards. He was also able to meet many talented staff while working on the film, and thus the door to becoming an anime creator was opened to him. Otomo’s maiden work was “The Order to Stop Construction” (written by Taku Mayumura, 1987), one part of Kadokawa’s omnibus Neo-Tokyo. This work is so incredibly well made that it’s shocking to think that it’s Otomo’s directorial debut. Otomo’s visual technique of the “background as main character” in this work slowly corroding the characters of the anime is perfected in his feature-length AKIRA, a film that stunned both live-action and animation filmmakers around the world.

Otomo has distanced himself from manga in recent years, and has been working primarily as a filmmaker since the late 80s, and while he’s made many exceptional films, I doubt that I’m the only one out there who hopes that Otomo will once again return to making manga.

Gallery of Fantastic Art and its Current Exhibit: HOKUTO-NO-KEN 25th CLIMAAAAAAAX!!!!!!

Thursday, March 5th, 2009

The Gallery of Fantastic Art is one of those places in Tokyo that I keep meaning to go by that I never actually bother taking the train to. Either they’ve been in between exhibits or I just plain forget about the place, which is really sad considering that I’ve been checking their website on and off ever since I started being interested in Range Murata.

As the name would suggest, GoFA is a small gallery that displays, well, fantastic art. If you go to AX, you may be familiar with them, because it seems like they run a gallery there every year. Anyway, “fantastic” basically means anime/manga illustrators, mostly from artists who you’re likely to see in Wanimagazine pubs (ROBOT, Gelatin) like Murata, Yoshitoshi ABe, Miggy, Okama, and Kei Toume, but also some older artists such as Go Nagai, Mizuki Shigeru, and, as you probably have guessed by now, Tetsuo Hara. More on that in a second.

The gallery is a bit tucked away, but still incredibly easy to get to. All you have to do is take the subway to Omotesando station and walk straight out the B2 exit until you hit the Aoyama Oval Building, which is a big oval-shaped building (surprise!) with a Citroen showroom on the first floor. Take the door on the left of the elevators and the door after that to get to the stairs, walk up one floor, and you’re there. Entry is only 500y, and the ticket is usable for a free coffee or tea at the cafe downstairs. (A 300 yen value!)

So yeah, Fist of the North Star art exhibit. It was basically everything I could have hoped for, though it’s a fairly small space. There’s a modest merchandising table at the entrance with a few dvds, magazines, and other goods for sale (I bought this), as well as some anime cels and some larger framed works for sale, including prints from the crazy “7 Artist Ten” (展) project. There’s also life-sized Ken and Yuria figures staring you down as you come in. Some pictures can be found here.

As far as the Tetsuo Hara part of the Tetsuo Hara exhibit, they have prints of the original manuscripts for the entire first chapter of the Fist of the North Star manga, as well as some manuscripts of later famous scenes. Some full color prints by Hara are also on display. All of it looks great, although staring at the famous spread of Raoh raising his fist to the sky made me realize that the proportions or maybe the perspective of the scene seems a little off. Oh well.

If you can make it this Sunday, they’re going to be giving away 3 A1-sized promo posters of the event, since it’s the last day of the exhibit. I’d totally show up, but Reitaisai. Future shows include Kei Toume from 3/20-4/5, Takada Akemi (char designer for KOR, UY ovas) from 4/29-5/10, Abyukyo from 5/16-5/24, and Range Murata from 5/29-6/14. It’s a really nice place to spend an hour or so, and the free drink is a great added bonus. I’d consider taking someone there if I had friends. Not to mention, it’s in the Shibuya area, so you can get some shopping done afterwards, at Mandarake of course. Maybe writing this post will remind me to actually go back next time they have an exhibit on and I’m in Tokyo!

Gensokyo Yakyuu Musume

Sunday, February 22nd, 2009

I saw Evirus’s post on Taishou Baseball Girls, about a girls’ school in 1925 which starts a baseball team because they heard about it on the radio, or something. So I went to read some of the manga, and found the main characters looked totally different; their moefication for the anime kind of reminds me of some people…

Noe:
-> -> ?

Koume:
-> koume-anime -> famed hatless touhou Akyu?????

Also no baseball has actually happened in the first 5 manga chapters, but the girls did say “gokigenyou” a lot, and that’s what counts. I think the manga artist might be adapting something else and trying to justify its plot holes – the backgrounds and stuff seem pretty period-accurate, but in chapter 3 the first girl up there invents aluminum baseball bats(!?!).

And like half of them are wearing clothes that weren’t popular or even invented yet…

Instant Manga Reviews: Nichijou 4, Mozuya-san 2, Moetan 3, Obaachan ga Shitai Kusai yo (Shintaro Kago), Itsumo no Hanashi (Akino Kondoh)

Saturday, February 14th, 2009

Nichijou, arawi keiichi. Kadokawa/Shonen Ace/Comptiq. Vol 4 published 1/26/2009.

nichijo

I’ve been following this one on the blog for a while, and while I really liked volumes 1 and 3, 2 wasn’t that hot and 4 isn’t as exceptional as 1/3, I have to say. keiichi still has absolute top notch gag manga chops (layout/framing/timing, etc), but a lot of the best material/neta were continuations of earlier gags like the Soccer Go club and the daifuku mascot mask. I also have to warn the sensitive that there is a “what’s the deal with the crazy size names at Starbucks” chapter in here, though keiichi’s ability to draw incredible character reactions paired with his sense of timing and tempo still made me laugh at a topic that is basically comic suicide in the states at this point. Longer stories really seem to be his forte, seeing as I don’t know if I’ve laughed at one of the professor/Nano 4koma strips yet. Still in my personal list of favorite gag manga, but maybe that’s because most of the rest of the list is Bonobono.

Mozuya-san Gyakujou Suru, Shinofusa Rokurou. Kodansha/Afternoon. Vol 2 published 1/23/2009.
mozuyasan

Volume 2 of this was pretty impressive for me since Shinofusa manages to take a pretty silly concept (tsundere as clinical disease) and actually make something other than cheap gags out of it. Volume 2 keeps the drama going strong as Kabashima tells Mozuya that he’s a masochist, which completely throws a wrench into Mozuya’s psychology of “I’m sick and hurt people when they’re nice to me -> people are still nice to me after i hurt them only because they know something’s wrong with me -> they’re looking down on me, thus i hate them more.” Of course, Mozuya also discovers someone she wants to feel bad for of her own, basically making a lot of the character interaction a look at the dynamics of the whole moe/amae thing. (has anyone talked about moe in relation to the concept of amae? I’d do it but I’m never writing a non-graded paper that has to do with psychoanalysis.) Of course there’s still some fanservice and even a weird reader stand-in Sexy Otaku Nurse character, but overall it’s shaping up to be a very interesting drama, kind of along the same thematic lines as NHK. Time to wait another 5 months for volume 3 :(

Moetan, illust. POP. Sansai Books. Vol 1 published 6/1/2006.
moetan
This was given to me as a birthday present from a fellow internet illuminatus who I met last semester, so I haven’t actually had the opportunity to read volumes 1 or 2, or watch the anime, so I’m not exactly an expert on lolicon English manuals. That said, this is a hilarious lolicon English manual. A little over half of the book is ostensibly an attempt to teach English to Japanese nerds through sentences and examples that they use in their daily lives! Thus, the example sentences are mostly nerd jokes (You said you don’t like crowds. But somehow you casually endure the crowd in Comiket. / She doesn’t recognize the existence of girls who dislike homosexuals.) and there are also some conversation examples, one that’s nothing but tsundere lines, and another that’s a conversation between an American and Japanese otaku in Japan. ( That’s the coolest thing ever! The maids out front of the station waiting to greet you! Let’s go into one of those places! Hey Sam, look at this picture of the dolphin! Is this also one of the “Moe”? Wow, Akihabara is really a cool place!), and so on. In between language examples is a story about Nijihara(虹原, o hoh hoh hoh) Inku’s attempts to bring her friend back from his secluded otaku world by shattering all of his silly nerd dreams and illusions by doing things such as showing him what the person who plays the cute female character in the dream-world MMO he’s addicted to really looks like, or calling the police on him for the books he’s selling at his dream-world Comiket shutter booth. (There’s a certain sense of hypocrisy in that one when you realize that POP illustrated this thing, but never mind that). Of course, the sentences all appear to be J->E translations, so I imagine that this would actually be more helpful as any sort of learning tool to an English speaker at an intermediate level of Japanese language experience than to a Japanese person trying to learn natural-sounding English. Either way, don’t take it so serious.

Obaachan ga Shitai Kusai Yo, Shintaro Kago. Kubo Shoten. Published 2/1/2009.
Cover (semi-nws)

I probably shouldn’t admit to buying Shintaro Kago comics since I am not writing for a blog called Same Hat!, nor do I read Vice, but I like living on the dangerous side. The volume is a collection of shorts by Kago, most of which were surprisingly non-pornographic. That is to say, there’s no real focus on sex, but, as in all good Kago stories, on pooping. To be honest, I was not aware that one could make so many poop jokes, some of which were laugh-out-loud funny. Of course, that probably says more about me than about this book, but I mean, these are really top-tier poop jokes that also reference old zombie movies, and classic rakugo skits while being painfully satirical of modern events. Beyond the Life is Poop and Die nihilism that’s fairly standard in Kago stories, there’s stories like one near the back of the volume, Mirai Eigyou-ki: Kinyuu Kaisha-Hen (Future Business Report: The Finance Industry) about investing in promising young criminals, who currently show signs of future criminal activity, which you can cash in on when they make it huge on the news media after committing terrible crimes! To be specific for this chapter, after running people over in a truck in Akiba and stabbing them! oh, wait. too soon, dude. :(

Itsumo no Hanashi, Akino Kondoh. Seirinkogeisha. Published 9/25/2008.
kondoh
I really should do a longer article on this since there’s a lot of blog buzz about the upcoming Ax anthology, which I believe Kondoh is doing the cover art for, but I really need to get to doing my homework, sorry! I first became interested in Kondoh after getting hooked on Nicovideo classic Densha Kamo Shirenai a while back (look at how low that sm number is!), but didn’t give Kondoh’s other works a whole lot more thought until this magically appeared in front of my face when I was looking around at Taco Che over the holidays. Itsumo no Hanashi is a collection of shorts from about the last decade by Kondoh, which range from somewhat light-hearted slice of life-ish stories about getting letters from old classmates (Itsumo no Hanashi) to seemingly drug-induced dream stories about talking to your legs and furniture (Kotatsu no Mawari de). Kondoh’s style is whimsical yet mysterious, but at the same time her art can get intensely unsettling and destabilizing. In terms of storytelling and overall effect, Kondoh reminds me a lot of Nekojiru at her best, using a very accessible style to get at some normally unaccessible feelings. Looking forward very much to getting her other collection as well as the English version of Ax (more info here, also here) once I get it through my head that buying one 1300y volume of absolutely beautiful manga is better than buying 13 volumes of fist of the north star at Book-Off. Well okay, maybe they’re about tied, but I ought to keep a good balance.

Manga Review: Film wa Ikiteiru (Tezuka, 1958)

Friday, February 13th, 2009

I wrote my last batch of manga reviews the night after starting my new WoW account, so I figured it’d only be appropriate to do a new batch now that I’m 80! Also, probably going to split these up for more post quantity.

Film wa Ikiteiru, Osamu Tezuka, 1958-1959 1 vol comp, 130pgs. Serialized in Chuugaku 1nen Course/2nen Course.

For the synopsis, I’m going to defer to the spoilerific one that shows up at the beginning of every Tezuka Osamu Manga Zenshuu:

  • The Film Lives On

    This is the story of two animators during the period of the dawn of animation films.
    Two boys named Musashi and Kojiro, respectively, who were very fond of drawing cartoons, left the countryside and journeyed to Tokyo where they eventually became cartoonists.
    But the dream of Musashi and Kojiro was to create animated films. The two vied with each other in the production of such films. Musashi first created a full-length animated film based on the Story of the Yearling while Kojiro followed suit by producing a film whose theme was centered on Tiny Black Sambo.
    During the process of producing the film, Musashi loses the sight of his eyes but his girl friend Otsu comes to his rescue and Musashi finally manages to complete the animated film on the Story of the Yearling which becomes more popular than the film produced by Kojiro.

If the summary makes the story sound fairly simple, that’s because it is. Not necessarily in a bad way (I mean, it’s 130 pages), but overall what interested me most when reading the manga is seeing the way that Tezuka intertwines a whole mess of obvious and disparate references that end up being fairly central to the story, which otherwise is a fairly standard shonen hard work -> success story: the Miyamoto Musashi/Sasaki Kojiro rivalry, the history of animation, the life of Beethoven, and his own experiences, including what could be read as a foreshadowing of his future experiences in the world of animation. Oh, also this manga editor who reminds me of SSJ2 Carl Horn for some reason.

If I were doing annotations or something on this manga, I’d probably elaborate on all of these, but I’m not, so I’m just going to talk about the ones that I find most interesting, specifically the stuff in here explicitly about animation.

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To begin with, there’s this graph, which shows up in the third chapter, which spends most of its time away from the action of the story in order to explain some basics of animation, like the phenomenon of persistence of vision, the phenakistoscope, and the animations of Emile Cohl. The graph was interesting to me because it shows that Tezuka is definitely familiar with the world of animation at the time, (for the katakana-challenged, some highlights: Norm Mclaren under Canada, Disney, Quimby, Bosustow, Terry, Lantz, Fleischer, Iwerks under America (I was hoping for some Harry Everett Smith myself), Trnka and Hoffmann(?) under Czech, and so on.) but he doesn’t seem to have much of an opinion on Japanese animation at the time, and doesn’t mention a single Japanese animator by name. In fact, just a few pages prior he mentions that domestic animated films (called manga eiga the whole work) never really took off in Japan.

There’s also the matter of Musashi and the old, grumpy anime director that he meets, who seem to foreshadow a lot of Tezuka’s own career in animation. I’m going to warn you that it’s been a while since I’ve actually read a book about this, so please correct my horrible mistakes. On one hand, there’s Musashi, who is young, talented, original, and able to produce drawings at an incredible speed, but there’s also the animation director who is constantly telling Musashi that the motion in his drawings is “dead”, and that, as the title of the work reminds us, film is alive. In sticking to this philosophy, the director ends up being ruined because he always goes over budget and can’t meet deadlines. I guess I won’t tell you how this problem is solved in the manga, only that it involves dream sequences and being in love with a horse from your home town.

Overall, I’d say that this is a very competent Tezuka shonen manga, with some pretty interesting subject matter, if you’re into animation and Tezuka in general. I know I’m not really in a position to say this, considering that the only Tezuka I’ve read other than this are the one-shots that Vertical put out so it’d be like me talking about a “average Hitchcock” film after just watching Rope or something, but while it doesn’t really blow me away, it certainly kept me entertained and reading. Not to mention that it’s a pretty easy read, and that you can find it at Book-Off for like 100 yen. Maybe next I can buy some Tezuka that people actually talk about…

Weekly Linkdumping

Tuesday, February 10th, 2009

in whatever order my firefox tabs are in! also pwi so forgive any spelling mistakes

A bunch of Japan bloggers also started writing about Comic LO, but I guess I won’t talk about that much here since I don’t want to get arrested or anything. Actually, at the very least, I’ll mention that they apparently managed to cut down P2P piracy by Appealing to the good nature of its buyers, asking them kindly in the afterword to cut it out. Treating your customers like normal people, what a bizarre way to do business. (Perhaps they should change their slogan to Yes! Lolita No! Download ww) Also, I’ll probably make a post in the near future about at least a few of the many things I’ve been buying and not reading in the past few weeks, once I get some of this homework out of the way. Spoilers: Gelatin wasn’t as good as I had hoped :(

Tonari no 801-Chan Spinoff Announced

Tuesday, February 3rd, 2009

Tamagomagogohan (say that five times fast) is reporting that the newest issue of Best Friend has a notice that a spinoff to Tonari no 801-chan about her younger sister, Tonari no Hana-chan (Kari) (“(Kari)” is inside the quotation marks for the title, so I assume that it means “Alias/Assumed name”, not “this title is provisional”), is in the works! Script by Furukawa Kou (Freedom Footmark Days), and art by Minakata Sunao. Maybe if we buy enough copies then an anime of it will get cancelled!

Nerd Web Roundup: Cure Maid Cafe does Macross, Kaiba Artworks posted, Jump/Magazine win Advertising Awards

Saturday, January 31st, 2009

As long as I’m logged out of wow, some more very quick links that I found interesting via katoyu–

Cure Maid Cafe is running a Macross event from 2/7-2/22. From what I understand, Cure Maid Cafe isn’t really the kind of place that has their maids dress up for events like this, so I think it’s going to be limited to the special menu (drink a Lynn Minmay (Blueberry syrup + calpis)! Or a Nekki Basara (Grenadine, soda, strawberry syrup, tabasco)!!) , special cookies, goods, and coasters. I have to admit that I still haven’t been to Cure, too busy filling out my schatzkiste point card ww

WEB Anime Style has just finished up their six part series of Kaiba artwork posts. The six parts:
1: Main Characters
2: Sub-characters
3: Misc Characters
4: Misc Characters 2
5: Backgrounds
6: Backgrounds 2

They also mention that they’ve received sample copies of the Kara no Kyoukai vol 5 storyboard book that they’re co-producing with Kodansha BOX. 670 pages!

*Finally, Shueisha won the December Asahi Shimbun award for advertising with a 4-part ad for Jump Festa, and Kodansha won the second place award in the Yomiuri awards for their ad celebrating 50 years of Shonen Magazine. Articles and pictures of the ads found here.