The None May Say blog, by a fellow who "[spends his] free time searching out POD ("Personal Outlay Developed" or, more traditionally, "Publish On Demand") books, movies and music", has just published a rave review of Summerworld.
With no nudging from me at all, he really nails what I wanted to bring across with the book.
Summerworld ... takes place in the world of magic, warriors and dreams that emerges after our modern society has been pushed aside. But the novel also is grounded in reality. On a literal level, remnants of our present world linger. More importantly, many of the characters carry the baggage of their prior lives. As a result, Summerworld's characters feel completely genuine and of this world, notwithstanding their larger-than-life fantasy trappings. On the outside they may be heroes, but on the inside they're people.
Thank you, Devon. Thank you, man.
[Footnote: Apparently the sidebar link to the .PDF sample was not working. It should be fixed now, or you can go right here to read it.]
New Line (via Warner) is releasing a Dark City: Director's Cut on DVD and Blu-ray Disc on 7/29 (SRP $19.97 and $34.99). According to the studio's press information, both discs will feature "enhanced picture and sound, never-before-seen footage and three commentary tracks that take you deeper than ever before into the world of one of sci-fis most exciting and revered tales." The Blu-ray will be a BD-50 disc, but we don't know what the audio format will be yet. Director Alex Proyas' new cut of the film runs 111 minutes (the original version was 96 minutes).I saw this in the theater when it first appeared. I ought to do a writeup for it when the director's cut drops. There was evidence everywhere of serious post-production tampering, and it was still a terrific movie ... which is really saying something.[Edit: More coverage at Blu-ray.com.]
The more I see of Nightmare Inspector, the more I hope it doesn’t just slip through the cracks and go unnoticed. This has to be one of Viz’s better mainstream acquisitions, a title that satisfies both me the critic and me the fan — and while I can often make one or the other happy, you know how hard it is to get both of them to smile?
The first volume introduced us to Hiruko, a baku or dream-eater in human form who holds court in the Silver Star Tea House. Those with nightmares come seeking to dispel them with Hiruko’s aid, and discover things about themselves, not always good, in the process. The unconscious, as Hiruko knows well, is more than just a feeding ground for a baku — it’s a place where the strangest demons can come to life without warning. What’s more, just when you think you’ve plumbed the meaning of what you’ve experienced, it turns out there’s yet another layer to it all.Read more
Mega Star, one of the bigger DVD producers in Hong Kong, has released some information about new and forthcoming Blu-ray titles. The Asian DVD Guide site has an image, but it might disappear at some point in the future. Days of Being Wild and As Tears Go By (two early Kar-Wai Wong titles) are two of the best-looking titles of the bunch.
YesAsia also has the A-regon Blu-ray of Miike's Sukiyaki Western: Django, for those of you crazy enough to drop $50 on this thing when it's almost certain to come to the U.S. before long.
I feel as though I am condemned to write nothing but lamentations
for Osamu Tezuka whenever I read a new translation of one of his manga.
It’s heartbreaking to know that the man responsible for so many
brilliant productions has been dead almost twenty years now. Worse, in
lieu of seeing anything “new” by him, those of us in the
English-speaking world have to settle for catching up with his life’s
work as it’s gradually licensed and released here.
The fifth volume of Lunar Legend Tsukihime is a slowing-down and a summing-up, a way for both the creators and the audience to catch their collective breaths. There’s nowhere nearly the level of action found in the previous volumes, but now that I think about it, LLT’s action has always been relatively sparse. A series this dark under the skin benefits from being slowly paced; a lot of bang-bang back-to-back action would just make it rushed.
To that end, the only real action in the whole of this volume is right at the end, with most of the book taken up by two things: Tohno delving into a key portion of his childhood, and he and Arcueid spending a day together and growing that much more … well, if not close, then certainly empathetic. If it weren’t for the fact that one of them (Tohno) carried inhuman powers courtesy of his bloodline and the other (Arcueid) was a centuries-old vampire, they’d be out on a date — something Arcueid and Tohno both realize during the course of things. Maybe it wouldn’t be all that hard for either of them to pretend everything was normal, and just live as if nothing was different …Read more
I goofed and forgot to report Criterion's reissuing Akira Kurosawa's High and Low in a newly-remastered edition, along with a slew of other new titles. Carl Theodore Dreyer's Vampyr, another of the new arrivals, looks like something else I'll try to stake out some time for.
I haven't checked in for a while, but that's only because I've been running around like mad in the best possible way. I spent the weekend at New York Comic-Con, talking to publishers, creators and fans alike.
Big Highlight #1: A totally accidental meeting with Phil Yeh, creator of the comic treasure The Winged Tiger (available through the site; go get it). I sat down in one of the beanbag chairs near his booth without even realizing he was there — and realized I was within twenty feet of an idol of mine. He was beyond overjoyed to have an American fan actually recognize him: while he's immensely popular in Asia and Europe, he's virtually unknown in the U.S., which is absolutely insane. I know I have a review of Tiger floating around somewhere, but if I can't find it I'll just rewrite it from scratch and bring it up to date.
Big Highlight #2: Dinner (although not a movie) with Stephen Vrattos of Vertical, Inc., purveyors of finer Japanese popular culture for almost a decade now. I've had great things to say about their books ever since they started falling into my lap (Guin Saga, Dororo, and so many more), and the catalog they have lined up for the rest of '08 looks terrific: Black Jack, por ejemplo. Turns out their biggest sellers have been the Aranzi Aronzo series — crafts and fun-activities books as if written by wickedly smart high school kids who do things like make thermite in the chemistry lab.
(Apparently the syringe pens they had made up to promote Black Jack were freaking some people out. Jessica [at right in the photo] almost scared the starch out of me when she leaped out from behind the table and poked me with one ... but then again, all it takes is a car backfiring outside to get me to climb walls.)
At the VIZ panel Saturday morning, I ended up with a Japanese copy of the first volume of Black Lagoon, a title they've licensed for the U.S. later this year and one I've been looking forward to ever since the way-too-over-the-top-to-even-be-called-over-the-top anime appeared here. The moderators asked everyone over 18 and interested in winning the book to stand up; about ten people, myself included, pushed themselves out of their chairs. "Okay, show of hands — Chuck Norris or Bruce Lee?" Everyone who voted "Chuck Norris" got a withering stare and stern orders to sit back down. I, being a staunch Bruce Lee man, was one of the few left standing. When they asked who the author was, my hand was first in the air, and I galloped up to the front to claim my prize. I'll be using this copy as a reference to check the quality of the translation, but I was surprised at how much of it I was able to make out when I read it on the bus back home.
There comes a certain point after which being extreme for its own sake stops becoming interesting, and you have to actually be creative. This was the problem I had with Masonna, and why I lost interest with them in favor of Merzbow: the former was pure overkill to the point of redundancy, while the latter was (and is) more artful and adventurous. In the same vein, that’s probably why grindcore bands like Carcass and Napalm Death, despite being completely over-the-top, managed to remain interesting — they tried to be at least somewhat evolutionary instead of just beating the same dead (rotting, bloated, stinking) horse.
Which brings me to Agoraphobic Nosebleed, brainchild of Scott Hull, founder of the far more maliciously creative X-core band Pig Destroyer. Over the course of the two CDs and 136 (!) tracks of Bestial Machinery, there’s almost no evolution or refinement to speak of save for minor changes in production style or levels of sound quality. And I think that’s probably the idea: ANb isn’t out to evolve, just to survive and succeed, Klingon-style, and from the sound of it also take out as much of the competition as possible along the way. If grindcore is the music you play to clear a room, this is the music you play to clear a room of grindcore fans … or maybe to make them into new ANb fans.Read more
I’m going to use an adjective to describe the fourth Guin Saga book, Prisoner of the Lagon, which might seem completely out of place for this most fast-moving and hard-hitting of adventures: introspective. After the full-bore action extravaganzas of the first three volumes, book four slows things down just a bit — but a slowdown here is akin to downgrading to “only” a Lexus from a Lamborghini. There’s still a lot happening between the covers, just in new realms.
Lagon gives us two parallel plots: Guin traversing the far reaches of the Nospherus wastes to enlist the aid of the barbaric Lagon in his fight against the Gohran armies; and intrigue within the ranks of the Gohran forces themselves. Each one ends up a fair distance from where it starts. The former storyline begins with Guin struggling against the elements and enemies of nature, but transforms into a vision quest within Guin’s memory and spirit. The latter presents us with what sounds like a sure-fire formula for gleeful mayhem: the cutthroat and cutpurse Istavan sneaks into the Mongaul army and masquerades as one of their number. But that story, too, evolves from one of subterfuge into something more unexpected and even touching. Read more
After the psychological / mythological head-rush of Apollo’s Song, the strange and compelling Ode to Kirihito, the gut-wrenching nihilism of MW, and the epic Buddha, what could Vertical, Inc. possibly be bringing us next from Osamu Tezuka? When you’re dealing with a guy whose worst work was still better than most other people’s best, anything they cull from his encyclopedic back catalog is likely to be fascinating.
And so now Vertical has brought us Dororo, a story that at first doesn’t seem to have a lot in common with the other Tezuka works listed here, if only because on first glimpse it looks almost light-hearted in comparison. It’s a rollicking adventure in ancient Japan, abounding with denizens of the supernatural and feats of the superhuman — in short, a story that seems to have a lot more in common with your average Shonen Jump action title than anything with Tezuka’s name on it. Look closer, though, and you’ll quickly realize that the adventure and action is just a wrapper for all the big things Tezuka addressed in all of his stories, big and small. Read more
Disaster movies tend to follow a pretty standard formula. Take a group of otherwise-normal people, put them smack in the middle of a catastrophe, and watch them become as much a danger to each other as the earthquake / fire / alien invasion around them is to them. Throw in some social commentary and some emotional stacking-of-the-deck (kids in danger, pining for loved ones, etc), and you’re good to go.
Metro Survive was put together from the above list of ingredients, but there’s a few things about it that keep it consistently interesting and readable. For one, the mere fact that it’s set in Japan — where earthquakes can be unbelievably devastating, as the Kanto Earthquake of 1923 and the Hanshin / Kobe earthquake of 1995 demonstrated — gives the social-commentary part of the story a bit more bite than usual. That’s in fact one of the biggest angles that author and artist Yuki Fujisawa takes on the whole thing: do people grow complacent if they don’t have disaster hanging over their heads? Or do they just find new ways to be lazy no matter what the circumstances?Read more
Between work and ... well, work, I haven't had much time to post. Time to fix that with a quick rundown of interesting stuff.
And now for some links!
Let’s face it. Goody-two-shoes heroes are no fun. There’s nothing more boring than someone who’s right all the time. Small wonder some of our favorite heroes are anti-heroes, or maybe non-heroes. They’re the folks who leave behind at least as big a mess as they came to clean up, but darn it all, we want to see what they do next.
Such is the appeal of Kei and Yuri, the “Lovely Angels” — or The Dirty Pair, depending on whether or not you’ve benefited from their (cough) help. As agents of the Worlds Welfare Work Association, or W3A for short, they’re dispatched to lend a hand throughout the universe wherever there’s trouble. Unfortunately, after most people have a taste of their assistance — which usually means massive property damage at the very least — they tend to try and get by without it after that. Read more
It was a good Friday, a very good Friday — one that featured a trip into the city, time spent with loved ones, and a meal at a terrific Chinese noodle restaurant that we more or less blundered across by accident. And what good would a trip into the city be without a visit to Book-Off and a load of nifty swag?
Unnatural History was the second of many Coil albums that compiled a slew of non-album tracks in one central form, if only as a footnote for the completists. Before this was the “stopgap / breathing space” of Gold is the Metal (with the Broadest Shoulders), a closetful of outtakes from the Horse Rotorvator days or earlier. History pulls together pieces from as far back as 1984, but doesn’t attempt to make any kind of chronology or narrative out of them. Not that we really need one: if you’re a Coil fan, it’s almost certainly on your to-do list anyway, and if you’re only a casual listener then you should only come here after listening to the actual album material.
That said, there’s some genuinely intriguing material here that might well appeal to even non-fanatics. One of the biggest pluses is the inclusion of several tracks from an earlier release, Nightmare Culture, where Balance and Christopherson paired up with Boyd Rice under the moniker Sickness of Snakes. (The flipside, with Current 93, is on Nurse With Wound’s In Menstrual Night CD and is absolutely worth seeking out.) “Various Hands”, “The Swelling of Leeches”, “The Pope Held Upside Down” and “His Body Was a Playground for the Nazi Elite” are all wonderfully nightmarish and unsettling. This was back when Coil had gotten their hands on an Emulator III and were using it with gruesome, creative flair — it took me forever to figure out that the noises in “Pope” were pig’s squeals, with a good deal of LFO and other processing applied to them. Read more
Well, what did you expect? Rick Astley?
Actually, I'd already Rickrolled several friends of mine elsewhere — and was tied up with work in general, so I didn't really have the wherewithal to come up with any kind of April Fools joke. Oh, but it was tempting, let me tell you. Devastatingly tempting.
Tags: comedy gold