Signed copies of Summerworld are back in stock!
Go get 'em!
I know it's been a bit since I had any news, but here's what I've got. First of all, a HUGE thank you to Gloria Oliver for her feedback and support — she's a massively talented writer herself and deserves your support. I read In Service of Samurai last year and dug it quite a bit, so if you like Summerworld, check that one out as well.
Second: I'm in the process of prepping the next printing for release, but I've unfortunately been preoccupied with work and real-life issues, so I haven't been able to get to it in as timely a fashion as I'd like. Rest assured it will happen, though — I have to have copies in hand to bring with me to AnimeFest, where I'll have a table and will be hocking copies. With any luck it'll be alongside my friends Daniel Sanchez and Dan Fu, aka The Nine.
Third: I've got some tentative details about my next project, which has a working title of Vajra. Look for a whole separate blog for that in time, too! (Although over time I'll probably just consolidate all my projects into one ongoing blog, but we'll see...)
The fairy tales of yore were not sanitized little moral fables, but stories of dread and blood and fire. People have described Pan’s Labyrinth as “a fairytale for grown-ups”, and they are right in more ways than one. Yes, it’s a fairytale in the old-school sense of the word, and it’s aimed at adults, but mainly because it’s about how a child’s sense of fantasy can be used to transcend the cruelty — and moral ambivalence — of the adult world. This is not something a child may understand immediately, but then again, perhaps they will — although I’m guessing only an adult would have the perspective to see it the way it’s intended here.
Labyrinth spans two worlds: a subterranean fantasyland conjured up in the mind of a young girl, Ofelia (an outstanding Ivana Baquero) and the girl’s own world, which happens to be the violent landscape of Franco’s Spain in 1944. Ofelia and her mother, Carmen (Ariadna Gil), are sent to live with her stepfather, Captain Vidal (Sergi López), a high-ranking Army officer stationed in a strategically-positioned villa. Rebels in the forest wait to strike, but Ofelia’s mind is not on any of these things. She fears for her mother — pregnant with what is promised to be a brother, and ill enough that there is fear she may not survive the delivery. But she has her giant hoard of books, which she’s lugged with her to the villa, and she has her imagination to keep her mind from being lionized by the ugliness around her.Read more
You’ve probably had this happen a few times: you hear a song by an artist you’ve not heard much of (if anything); you buy the record the song is on; you get disappointed and throw the album back into the closet — and then months later you dig it out again and hear things you completely missed the first time. Chalk a lot of that up to misfired expectations: what you wanted was a whole record like that song, or something equally misguided. It took time for your ears to clear, to be able to hear the thing for what it is and nothing else.
As you can imagine by now, that’s more or less what happened with me and Mark Pistel’s self-titled solo album. Pistel I first encountered as one of the prime instigators behind Consolidated, a Bay Area rap outfit who leaned so far to the left they were in danger of falling right over. Consolidated were both dotty and spotty — they had politics that made Crass seem downright moderate — but when they were good they were outstanding, and I credit Pistel for being most of the reason why. He later became a producer in his own right and a frequent collaborator with Jack Dangers of Meat Beat Manifesto — and in fact that’s how I ended up discovering his solo disc, via the Dangers remix of one of its songs: “Skin Up, Rolled Material (Jack Dangers Remix)”. Read more
The plumber Keld has been sweating joints and replacing U-traps for decades, approaching his job in the same unthinking, plodding manner as his 25-year marriage. When his wife Rie (Charlotte Fich) can’t even draw his attention to a cruise brochure, she finally lets it all fall through: She’s moving in with her sister and applying for a divorce. His response to is to sell everything in the apartment, sleep on the floor and brood, and eat out every night at a local Chinese restaurant. The sum total of his knowledge of Chinese food is so meager that he figures the best thing to do is simply start with the first dish on the menu and work his way down. (What happens when he gets to the bottom? he’s asked. Probably start at the top again, what else?)
One night while he’s eating, the pipes burst in the restaurant kitchen, and his workman’s instincts kick in: he runs back there, shuts off the water, surveys the damage, and shakes his head in dismay. “My uncle did the plumbing,” Feng, the owner haplessly admits. “From what I can see,” Keld (Bjarne Henriksen, also of Festen) replies, “your uncle’s no plumber.” “No, he’s just Chinese.” Soon the two of them have set up a black-market deal of sorts — meals for badly-needed plumbing repairs. Read more
Here begins the greatest section in what is one of the greatest manga yet created — the story of how Guts, the Black Swordsman, came to be the man we were introduced to in volumes 1, 2 and 3 ofBerserk. This arc, which author and artist Kentaro Miura dubbed “The Golden Age,” was retrofitted into the TV adaptation, which ended abruptly but at the same time served the same purpose: to show us how Guts evolved into the killing machine we meet right at the start of it all. The comic version of the same arc has the advantage of being in its original context: if you’ve been curious about the TV show, start reading from volume 1 until I tell you otherwise, and then you’ll see what I mean.
(A side note: strictly speaking, this particular story arc started at the end of the last volume and continues into volume 4, but for the sake of convenience I’ll talk about it as if it were part of this book. Be sure to pick up volume 3 along with this one if you’re just joining in. The blurb quoted above from the back cover is horrendously inaccurate, since it completely ignores the flashback structure that kicks in at this point.)Read more
Most people think of an erotic story as something with explicit sex, or at least a great deal of skin. Apollo’s Song rarely shows anything more than a deep kiss (although it has plenty of skin) — but it’s one of the most profoundly erotic manga I’ve ever come across. It is not about sex alone, but love and lovelessness, and more importantly desire — about wanting to find that one other special person and melt into them and become one, whatever the cost or the challenge.
Books like this are why I read manga in the first place — to discover something as new and off the beaten path as possible, something that makes me want to rush out and collar all my friends and shout at them, “You must read this immediately!” Like Ode to Kirihito, another of Vertical, Inc.’s offerings from Tezuka’s back catalogue, Apollodefies easy comparison with other manga. It’s so fiercely and completely its own animal that I’m again tempted to tell people to just read it and catch up with me afterwards.Read more
The very first book I remember reading on my own was James and the Giant Peach, and according to my mother, she read me the first few chapters and I simply took it from there on my own. If a kid reads a book enough that it falls to pieces, he probably loves it, and I loved that book and a great many others completely to death in those years. Even at that age, though, I knew — however distantly — that people wrote books; they didn’t just manifest, like leaves from trees. Somewhere along the way I got it into my head that I, too, would one day write a book. Not just any old book, either, but something that would give other kids (and maybe some bigger people, too) something else to fall in love with. Read more
Gin’s a sleepy-eyed fellow with a shock of silver hair and a mouth that looks like it was designed to say nothing but insults, which is not far from the truth. The occupation on his business card reads Odd Jobs, and from what we can see, he does mean odd.
He works out of the second story of a ratty building where the rent goes perpetually unpaid in exchange for doing favors for his crabby landlady, like fixing her VCR (which, given the rest of his personality, he probably accomplished by smacking the thing against a doorframe). He’s a quintessential underdog: perpetually broke, always in one kind of trouble or another — and, worst of all, his blood sugar’s so dangerously high he can’t have more than one chocolate parfait a week. It's a small wonder why, in the opening scene, when a couple of clumsy aliensknocks over said dessert, he goes Viking on their faces with a (banned) wooden practice weapon.
Yes, folks, aliens — the “Amanto” who have blanketed Japan in Gin Tama’s alternate reality, crowding into every aspect of life and leaving the proud samurai of old feeling extremely out of place. It’s a parallel to a part of Japan’s own history, when centuries of Shogunate rule ended and “aliens” from the outside world flooded in to do business. And, in a way, it’s also a parallel for the changing Japan of today, where everyone from Americans teaching English to Portuguese day laborers and Korean professionals are doing their best to fit into a nominally insular society that looks askance at outsiders. Read more