All posts for July 2008


Books: Kujibiki Unbalance Graphic Novel 1

The manga of Kujibiki Unbalance may well be one of the strangest in-jokes ever perpetrated on any fandom. It didn’t exist as an actual product for a long time—in fact, a part of me wishes it didn’t exist, period. But...

By Serdar Yegulalp on 2008/07/30 09:49

The manga of Kujibiki Unbalance may well be one of thestrangest in-jokes ever perpetrated on any fandom. It didn’t exist asan actual product for a long time—in fact, a part of me wishes itdidn’t exist, period. But here it is all the same: a manga spun offfrom an anime derived in turn from an anime that only existed as ashow-within-a-show. If your head’s hurting at that, think about how Ifeel.

The source of the in-joke behind all this should be automatically familiar to anyone who’s read or watched Genshiken (either the manga or the TV series; the joke’s the same in either one). Kujian, as it’s called for short, is the show-within-the-show that the characters were fans of. Part of the joke was that Kujian didn’t actually exist—theglimpses we were given of it made it look like an amalgam of everyanime/manga cliché imaginable, plus a few we forgot about along theway. It worked wonderfully in the context of the show, because youdidn’t need to see the whole show to know how it worked. Anyonewho’d done any decent amount of time in otaku-dom could fill in theblanks on their own.

Read more


Tags: Japan manga review


Vocabulary Dept.

The other day someone used the word "sheeple" in response to a blog post. The original post was about someone who had used an unconventional bit of formatting in their book, and the reply was ... well, the fact that...

By Serdar Yegulalp on 2008/07/28 16:34

The other day someone used the word "sheeple" in response to a blog post. The original post was about someone who had used an unconventional bit of formatting in their book, and the reply was ... well, the fact that the word "sheeple" was involved should tell you something about where they were coming from and what their view was. (Out of politeness to everyone involved, I won't link the post and response; I've tried to be as accurate as possible in my rendition of what was going on.)

Many years ago, I used to know someone who used the word "sheeple" a great deal, and that person's use of it was almost inevitably fulsome and elitist. The not-so-unspoken insinuation was: All those people out there are mindless stumbling herds of morons, present company excepted of course. The more I learned about this person, the more I realized he had no right to such unearned contempt for "the masses", especially when he hadn't done a thing in his life to elevate himself above them ... except grouse about how his genius had gone unrecognized by the sheeple.

As I put it to a friend the other day, the only person you should worry about or angst over feeling superior to is the guy you were yesterday.

Read more


Tags: dharma


Books: Zaregoto 1: Book 1: The Kubikiri Cycle

Reading Zaregoto is a little like watching someone doing one of those wild juggling acts where they swap clubs for flaming torches for bowling balls for chainsaws, all without dropping anything on the floor. It’s a slick, addictive Japanese pop-literary...

By Serdar Yegulalp on 2008/07/27 23:32

Reading Zaregoto is a little like watching someone doing oneof those wild juggling acts where they swap clubs for flaming torchesfor bowling balls for chainsaws, all without dropping anything on thefloor. It’s a slick, addictive Japanese pop-literary confection, anamalgam of mystery thriller, psychological suspense, philosophicalpondering, and all-out weirdness. At first you’re reading it for thewho-why-and-how-dunit aspects of the story, but by the end you’reseeing it as a portrait of the oddball mentality of the genius.

“Genius”is a word I now hate, no thanks to being bled dry of meaning afterdecades of unthinking abuse. When Apple has a “Genius Bar” in theirstores (staffed, for the most part, by people who are not whole ordersof magnitude smarter than the rest of us, just better trainedin things Apple) and the word itself is used as a sit-com insult,there’s not much room left to sink, is there? Zaregoto, though,understands all this and uses it as a starting point. Those with geniusexpress it narrowly—through one skill, one insight, one idea—and eventhe smartest of people can be undone by the simplest and mostunderhanded behaviors and motives.

Read more


Tags: Japan review


*Phut* Dept.

It's possible to be exhausted and happy at the same time, but I think I've discovered new prolongations of each this time around. I got back from OSCON way early this morning -- my flight lapsed over into the a.m.,...

By Serdar Yegulalp on 2008/07/26 22:54

It's possible to be exhausted and happy at the same time, but I think I've discovered new prolongations of each this time around. I got back from OSCON way early this morning -- my flight lapsed over into the a.m., but after catching some sleep on the plane and a nap after arriving home I think my clock is about back to normal. I found it funny that Louis Suarez-Potts doesn't believe in jet lag, or so he told me at the con - maybe he's just found a way to cope with it that's so seamless it gets dialed down to near-invisibility?

I didn't manage to visit Powell's -- but I did visit the "satellite" stores at PDX, and between that and the Barnes & Noble at the mall directly behind the hotel (shame on me, I know), I came away with a good deal of material that kept me awake on the plane:

  • Joseph Mitchell, My Ears Are Bent. I have the feeling Piet would love this book -- it's a collection of 1930s-era reportage by the titular author, a time where Chesterfields in the mug, fedoras, endless cups of black coffee and jiggling the phone hook for the operator were the stock-in-trade of reporters all around. Every time I read something like this, I get a grudging nostalgia for rattletrap Underwood typewriters.
  • Crime and Punishment. Yes, this old chestnut, but this is a more recent and far more vigorous translation than the one we were force-fed in college. I started reading it without expecting to get past the first few pages and devoured nearly half the book on the plane ride.
  • Natsuo Kirino, Grotesque. I still need to write a review of this woman's jaw-rattling Out -- that book, like this one, doesn't deserve an easy category like "crime fiction" or even the "feminist noir" label that's been plastered rather . Out was made (badly) into a movie in Japan, and is evidently being re-made domestically in a version that hews closer to the book's original heart-as-black-as-ink of darkness. Grotesque takes a technique only used towards the end of Out -- a multiple-POV trick used to fully document an incident in all of its aberrant ugliness -- but does it bookwide, and the end result is not gimmicky but chilling as all hell. Kirono's new novel Real World is also on my to-read list.
  • Robert Greene, The 33 Strategies of War. Jury's out for now on whether this is insightful or just tripe-ful. The strategies themselves are not the problem -- it's Greene's examples (e.g., Thatcher's administration in Britain being bolstered by her handling of the Falklands campaign) that seem like a case of regressively fitting an interpretation of facts to support his theses. I suspect Greene is a far better student of strategy than history or politics.

Read more


Tags: books loot travel


Forty-Two Dept.

After a bit more tire-kicking I've upgraded to the newest pre-release beta of Movable Type 4.2, which fixed some issues I was having with cached templates not rebuilding correctly. I'm still tweaking some of the template layouts as well,...

By Serdar Yegulalp on 2008/07/18 21:53
  1. After a bit more tire-kicking I've upgraded to the newest pre-release beta of Movable Type 4.2, which fixed some issues I was having with cached templates not rebuilding correctly. I'm still tweaking some of the template layouts as well, so you might see some minor shifting-around of things in the weeks to come.
  2. OSCON is next week in Portland, OR. I'll be attending in my official work capacity and covering the show in depth. And checking out Powell's Books, time permitting!
  3. An excerpt or two from Four-Day Weekend, along with a FAQ page for same, should be going up by the end of July. I'm also trying to knock together some cover art for it as well, and put up links and notes about the other books that are available from my back catalog. A lot of this was incumbent on MT 4.2 getting stable, and now I think I've reached a point where there will be no more really major architectural changes in my setup. (A man can dream.)
  4. You've probably seen the trailer for Watchmen by now. If you haven't, get your butt over to the Apple Quicktime site and get excited. The Dark Knight will have to wait until I get back from my trip, but it's on the list of things to do, trust me (along with Hellboy 2, and WALL·E and Kung Fu Panda, and...)
  5. The kind folks at Vertical sent me a number of books I'm trying to get caught up on: Lala Pipo and Parasite Eve are the two biggest, and I'm hoping having a five-hour flight will give me a chance to get caught up on my review material.
  6. Back earlier in the week when I was with my folks to celebrate Mom's 64th birthday, I stopped on through The Strand and found some goodies cheap: Yoshihiro Tatsumi, Goodbye (third anthology of manga from this master, courtesy of American "serious comics" publishers Drawn & Quarterly); Peter Biskind, Gods and Monsters (anthology of writing about film); Complete Writings of Mencius (includes Chinese text and English translation); Claymore 1-3; and Yukio Mishima's Madame de Sade.

Read more


Tags: Movable Type Vertical Inc. books family links loot movies travel


Books: Parasyte Graphic Novel 3

When I was younger I used to play creepy games with myself where I’d pretend that everyone else except me was an alien. Eventually the fun wore off and I turned to reading SF and comics to get my share...

By Serdar Yegulalp on 2008/07/17 23:02

When I was younger I used to play creepy games with myself where I’dpretend that everyone else except me was an alien. Eventually the funwore off and I turned to reading SF and comics to get my share of thosekinds of thrills, but the idea stayed with me: What if I am not likeeveryone else? Worse, what if that guy over there isn’t like anyoneelse except me?

This is a big part of the appeal Parasyte has held for me through its first twovolumes—the idea that something can look like a human, behave like ahuman, and yet somehow be completely alien underneath. Rather than stopthere, though, each successive installment of Parasyte hasexpanded on the idea. Assume that there are humans among us who havebeen invaded with alien beings—what then? How do they mingle among usundetected? What happens when some of them merge incompletely withtheir hosts?

Read more


Tags: review


Taste Less, Pt. 2 Dept.

I think I got more responses -- and more good ones -- about yesterday's post than I've received about nearly anything I've posted lately. I went back and took another look at it, and realized a lot of what I...

By Serdar Yegulalp on 2008/07/17 09:38

I think I got more responses -- and more good ones -- about yesterday's post than I've received about nearly anything I've posted lately. I went back and took another look at it, and realized a lot of what I was talking about were not things that were inherent in the quote itself but things which I brought to it on my own, and that was a bad thing to do.

First, to me, the idea that there's just "stuff you like" and "stuff you don't like" is self-limiting, because once you consciously embrace that as a way to define your tastes, a whole galaxy of other possibilities get knocked out of the box. It sounds like an argument from ignorance, and that's why I felt like the mounted attack on it seemed on target.

But that doesn't excuse all the other things that were wrong with the attack: its mean-spiritedness, for one -- and now that I look at it again, the way the responder uses the premise to put words in the other person's mouth, which pretty much invalidates the whole enterprise. It may well be true that "There's just music you like and music you don't like" is a prelude to warding off any objective criticism, as was claimed, but the original posted didn't actually do that -- that was something the other guy pre-emptively accused him of. (Assuming that such a thing wasn't snipped out due to my own ham-handedness with preserving the quote.)

I don't like the idea of not subjecting one's own tastes to a little analysis, but it's not much good if you come to that conclusion by steamrolling and logic-chopping, is it?

Read more


Tags: criticism dharma


Taste Less Dept.

Not long ago I was a member of a mailing list that talked about avant-garde music, and one of the posts to the list made it into my clippings file. I stupidly deleted the original message, so I am not...

By Serdar Yegulalp on 2008/07/16 16:58

Not long ago I was a member of a mailing list that talked about avant-garde music, and one of the posts to the list made it into my clippings file. I stupidly deleted the original message, so I am not sure who is on either side of the conversation. But with an exchange like this it scarcely matters. (Original spelling and punctuation preserved.)


as i've said many times, there is no good music or bad music - just music you like or music you don't like

that opinion is banal, false and mistaken at the same time.

you are probably right that 'good' and 'bad' won't take you very far critically. to that extent it seems a banal observation.

then you conclude that there is 'just music you like or music you don't like', which seems patently false. there is just as obviously music that is more or less complex, music that has strict tempo and music that doesn't, tonal and atonal music, etc., etc., and many more critical categories that can be applied that tell you alot about music.

finally, i think it is mistaken, in the sense of being an opinion that should be opposed. it sounds liberal but it is arrogant: it pretends to be democratic (admitting that everyone has their own opinion), but it is self-serving because it implies that no one can criticise *your* taste.

i am not trolling - i just don't think that such banalities should pass without comment

This could apply to a critical appraisal of just about anything, when you get down to it. As it stands, it's one of the better arguments I've heard for being willing to examine and refine your own tastes without falling back on know-nothing arguments like "I don't know what 'good' art/literature/music is, but I know what I like."

Plenty of people use this formula to justify what they like. I know I used to do it, but after a while I realized something: If you don't do any actual thinking about what you like and don't like, if you shun trying to make deeper connections, in a way you're damaging your future ability to determine what you're going to like and not like. The problem with saying "I don't know what's 'good', but I know what I like" is that it's an argument in favor of your own continued ignorance about your tastes. And that means, as I see it, enduring a lot more crap than you have to.

Most folks aren't critics and don't want to become critics. For them, it's completely beside the point. They don't want to analyze what they like, they want to enjoy it -- and the analysis, for them, ruins the enjoyment by turning the whole thing into a boring homework exercise. They're not worried that their justification is a circular argument -- I like what I know, and I know what I like -- because none of this requires logic to work.

The flipside of this, though, is that if they're in the company of people who analyze what they like as a way to deepen their enjoyment of it and find perspectives on it that they might not have found on their own, it isn't a homework assignment; it's fun.

Read more


Tags: criticism dharma


Black Magic

There’s no question in my mind that Dark Horse is doing the right thing by remastering and reissuing their back catalog of Masamune Shirow titles: Orion, Dominion, Ghost in the Shell. There’s also no question in my mind that Shirow’s...

By Serdar Yegulalp on 2008/07/15 20:10

There’s no question in my mind that Dark Horse is doing the rightthing by remastering and reissuing their back catalog of MasamuneShirow titles: Orion, Dominion, Ghost in the Shell.There’s also no question in my mind that Shirow’s books are a wildlyuneven lot, and that’s why Dark Horse’s recent reissue of Shirow’s Black Magic is only of value to those who want every single one of his titles in a row on their shelf.

Magic isprobably the earliest of Shirow’s works to be released in English, andits primordiality shows in every respect—artwork, storytelling,conceptualization, humor, the whole tamale. If nothing else it’sinteresting because it shows how even in his earliest stages as acreator, Shirow suffered from the same limitations that also inhibitedhis later and more polished works. He spun out nigh-incomprehensibleplots that seemed to be used more for atmosphere than actualstorytelling; he created characters who were little more thanmouthpieces of one variety or another; and he never met a whacked-outtheory he didn’t like.

Read more


Tags: Masamune Shirow manga


Books: Blade of the Immortal Vol. #3: Dreamsong

“Beautiful” and “deadly” are two words that seem fated to go hand-in-hand in most manga. They certainly apply to Makie the geisha, a woman of both uncommon loveliness and unearthly skill with her choice of weapons. A woman that gorgeous...

By Serdar Yegulalp on 2008/07/13 21:12

“Beautiful” and “deadly” are two words that seem fated to gohand-in-hand in most manga. They certainly apply to Makie the geisha, awoman of both uncommon loveliness and unearthly skill with her choiceof weapons. A woman that gorgeous and with so many talents, though,shouldn’t have such a desolate expression all the time—but that’s onlybecause she knows firsthand how all things, herself included, areterribly impermanent. And now she has been commanded by her loverAnotsu to seek out and kill Manji, the ronin condemned to take athousand evil lives before he himself will be permitted to die.

Welcome to Dreamsong, the third volume of Hiroaki Samura’s Blade of the Immortal, for my money the best comic running apart from one of Dark Horse’s other titles, Berserk (whichI need to get caught back up with one of these days). It’s not just theunmistakable art style or the show-stopping characters or the gut-levelstorytelling—it’s the fact that you’ve got all this side by side in thesame book, and none of them comes at the expense of the other. It’s allof a piece.

Read more


Tags: manga review samurai


Genji Press: Projects: 4DW: Phase Two

The edits for The Four-Day Weekend (formerly The New Golden Age) began in earnest this past week. 50 out of 300 pages is 1/6th of the manuscript -- not bad for only a couple days' work! That said, this is...

By Serdar Yegulalp on 2008/07/13 18:36

The edits for The Four-Day Weekend (formerly The New Golden Age) began in earnest this past week. 50 out of 300 pages is 1/6th of the manuscript -- not bad for only a couple days' work!

That said, this is only the first of two or three editing passes -- the first is for major cleanup (moving blocks of text around, rewriting sections that need it), and the second is for line-by-line cleanup, something I'll probably have a little third-party help with. This is actually not something I do well by default, so the more additional help I have the better.

I've noticed that I typically have a fairly clean first draft -- a lot of the most aggressive, "I don't think I need this at all" editing tends to happen before I ever sit down at the computer. Most of what happens at this stage is organizational: figuring out what to emphasize or put into the background, that kind of thing.

Another thing I'm trying to figure out is how much to excerpt. I'm actually thinking of doing something slightly unorthodox -- chapters 1 and 2, and then a later chapter about Henry and Winthrop's early life, which is actually chapter 5 or 6 (I'm still dithering with the chapter order early on).

My drop-dead day for getting the ms. to the printer's is August 15th. If I keep up my current pace I could well have a first pass done by early next week, and some early-draft samples after that. Look for another progress report in a few days.

Read more


Tags: writing


DTRT Dept.

The July 2008 edition of Dean Sluyter's Questions column provides two answers to the old standby "How can I get enlightened?" The first answer has one graf I particularly liked: The Eightfold Path is not a program of accumulating merit...

By Serdar Yegulalp on 2008/07/11 14:35

The July 2008 edition of Dean Sluyter's Questions column provides two answers to the old standby "How can I get enlightened?" The first answer has one graf I particularly liked:

The Eightfold Path is not a program of accumulating merit (or merit badges) so that someday the Big Buddha in the Sky will open the gates of nirvana to you. Yes, some of the old texts can make it sound that way, but today sophisticated Buddhists generally give that language a more inward and immediate application. ... [I]t's pretty hard for most people to get their minds quiet and clear enough to recognize [that nirvana is right here in the ordinary world of samsara] if they're busy killing or stealing or coveting their neighbors' wives. Virtue is its own reward. ... [I]t helps release your consciousness from complicated patterns of aggression and consequences so that it's free to recognize its own inherent heavenliness. [Emphasis mine.]

We've all heard that one before: "virtue is its own reward." So much so, I suspect, that it's been drained of meaning and has no more real weight than a PSA about seatbelts. But reading that article helped click it into place, and allowed me to put into words a good deal of what has been floating around in my head on the subject for ages.

Most of us are probably familiar with the gamut of arguments about altruism -- whether or not there is such a thing as a truly selfless act, etc. My take is that there probably isn't, but it doesn't matter -- that there is a threshold of selflessness for a given act that once crossed makes it effectively selfless as far as others are concerned. A friend of mine once put it this way: "Yes, it is selfish of me to do good things for other people, because I enjoy watching them smile and be happy. That is very selfish of me!"

The more you do the right thing, the easier it becomes to cross that threshold without making yourself feel uncomfortable, because over time you lean more towards your desires and everyone else's being in sync. There will always be some level of conflict between what you want and what everyone else wants. You can't get rid of them entirely, but you can lean towards harmonizing them as much as possible. Even if that form of harmony consists of avoiding something entirely, it's better than inspiring further conflict with it.

The other part of how virtue winds up being its own reward is hinted at in the above excerpt. By doing the right thing, you're forced less and less to extricate yourself from the aftermath of having done the wrong thing. I'm reminded of people I used to know who would dream up huge, elaborate and quite physically and mentally tiring plans to defraud other people so they wouldn't have to work a straight job -- and yet somehow never realized that it would probably be less work overall just to get and hold down a straight job. (Although, obviously, a lot less exciting -- but again, their idea of "exciting" just sounds like unending hassle to me.)

This has implications on both the outside and the inside. When you're not making trouble for yourself outwardly, it's easier to learn how to not make trouble for yourself inwardly. I'm again reminded of people I knew who would encounter something negative in their daily lives, and then compulsively reinforce the badness by venting about it with others: "Look! This bad thing happened! Doesn't it suck? Don't you feel bad for me? Come on, let's commiserate about this terrible thing. -- No! I don't want to hear about the fact that you had fun today. Nobody else deserves to have fun when I'm suffering like this." It's hard for me to see this serving any other function than to convince yourself that you're going to be miserable no matter what.

Virtue is its own reward because it makes the inside of your head a much more livable place. And at the end of the day, when your eyes are closed and your head's hitting the pillow, where else is there left to go?

Read more


Tags: dharma links


Books: The Guin Saga: Book 5: The Marches King

The best thing about the fifth book in the Guin Saga is, in a way, also the worst thing. At last, the five-volume “Marches Episode”—the first five of the hundred-plus Guin novels—has come to the smashing conclusion it deserves. But...

By Serdar Yegulalp on 2008/07/11 00:44

The best thing about the fifth book in the Guin Saga is, in a way, also the worst thing. At last, the five-volume “Marches Episode”—the first five of the hundred-plus Guin novels—has come to the smashing conclusion it deserves. But while it ends with a bang (and a roar, anda whoosh), it also leaves behind so many tantalizing hints and so manyas-yet-unanswered questions that it’s not so much an ending as a pausefor breath. We know there’s more … just not here, and not inEnglish. I could lament that fact until they carted me off, but I’drather celebrate the fact that we got this far at all.

Over thecourse of the previous volumes we’ve followed Guin, he of the body of agladiator and the head of a leopard, out of the forbidding Roodwood andinto the wastes of the Nospherus. He’s become self-appointed guardiansof the royal twins Rinda and Remus, been chased by the armies of theMongaul empire, made tentative allies out of the simian Sem to protecttheir lands against invasion, and headed ever deeper into the wastelandto find and enlist the fabled (many would say fictional) Lagon in theirongoing fight.

Read more


Tags: Alexander O. Smith Guin Saga Japan Kaoru Kurimoto Vertical Inc. review


External Movie Reviews: Vexille - 2077: Isolation Of Japan

Vexille is a CGI demo reel that didn’t know when to call it quits. Sure, anyone with even a passing interest in digital filmmaking will be absorbed by it, and there are countless frames that more than pass the Desktop...

By Serdar Yegulalp on 2008/07/10 16:52

Vexille is a CGI demo reel that didn’t know when to call itquits. Sure, anyone with even a passing interest in digital filmmakingwill be absorbed by it, and there are countless frames that more thanpass the Desktop Wallpaper Test. But for all the countless CPU cyclesthey burned up to generate those yummy texture maps and volumetriclighting sources and particle effects, you think they could have alsospared a couple of brain cells to bash together for a decent script.

Isthis doomed to happen whenever Japan pumps up the visuals for one oftheir prestige projects? Probably not all the time, but enough for itto be annoying. For every Casshern or Tekkonkinkreet that comes out of Japan—movies that are full of wild, uninhibited invention and more than a little soul—there’s three or four Vexilles or Appleseeds.It’s impossible to look this movie in the eye and deny they sweatedblood over it, but it makes the mistake of thinking it has more on itsmind when it just doesn’t.

Read more


Tags: anime cgi review


Books: Cowa!

“From the creator of Dragon Ball Z!” proudly proclaims the blurb on the cover of Cowa!. Not being a DBZ fan, I wasn’t sure how much of a selling point this was going to be for me. But what a...

By Serdar Yegulalp on 2008/07/09 01:03

“From the creator of Dragon Ball Z!” proudly proclaims the blurb on the cover of Cowa!. Not being a DBZ fan, I wasn’t sure how much of a selling point this was going to be for me. But what a pleasure and a surprise—Cowa! (asin, maybe, “Cowabunga!”?) is a downright charming story, asingle-volume standalone adventure that’s nothing like the work AkiraToriyama’s more famous for. It’s billed on the back cover as a“spooktacular manga for kids”, the sort of thing you can snap up as aHalloween-themed goodie, but this is one of those cases where all agesreally does mean all ages. Adults who’re in the know can savor this one right along with the young ‘uns, and not feel guilty about it.

Cowa! reminded me a bit of the kind of cheerfully jumbled, mix-and-match mythology of Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas—or, closer to home, Toriyama’s own good-natured and often royally funny series Dr. Slump, also for a relatively young audience. The story’s hero is Paifu, a kid who’s half-vampire and half-were-koala (yes, half-were-koala),whose hobbies include every conceivable variety of mischief. Thatincludes everything from blowing off school to boosting neighbor’swatermelons to sneaking into un-haunted houses with his buddyJosé the ghost. They also end up making an enemy out of a grumpy humanin the area, Mr. Maruyama—an ex-sumo wrestler with a troubled past, acigarette always in his mouth and a perennially foul attitude,especially where children are involved. (I suspect a prerequisite forgrowing up in any culture is the presence of a Grouchy Neighbor Who Hates Kids.)

Read more


Tags: manga review


On Wings At Last Dept.

Thomas M. Disch is dead. The author of _Camp Concentration_, _On Wings of Song_ and, yes, _The Brave Little Toaster_ committed suicide at the age of 68 after life dealt him a few too many blows: an apartment fire, deaths...

By Serdar Yegulalp on 2008/07/08 11:25
Thomas M. Disch is dead. The author of _Camp Concentration_, _On Wings of Song_ and, yes, _The Brave Little Toaster_ committed suicide at the age of 68 after life dealt him a few too many blows: an apartment fire, deaths in the family, illness, you name it. Go read his books if you haven't already -- he sits comfortably on the shelf next to Phil Dick, and was probably that much more accessible as well.

Read more


Tags: links writing


Books: Dance in the Vampire Bund Volume #1

Nozomu Tamaki’s Dance in the Vampire Bund (I know, whatta title) is one of those books where a manga-ka normally known for adult material turns around and creates something for—gasp—relatively mainstream audiences. In fact, given the nature of this story...

By Serdar Yegulalp on 2008/07/07 22:17

Nozomu Tamaki’s Dance in the Vampire Bund (I know, whattatitle) is one of those books where a manga-ka normally known for adultmaterial turns around and creates something for—gasp—relativelymainstream audiences. In fact, given the nature of this story and theprevious work Tamaki’s signed his name to in both English and Japanese,such as Femme Kabuki,I’m stupefied this has only been labeled with the “OT16+” rating andisn’t sold in shinkwrap. A story about vampire princess who only lookslike a pre-teen girl but still shows off a dismaying amount of skinisn’t exactly something you want to be seen reading on the bus. Thatsaid, what’s between the rather racy covers is actually pretty good.

Saidprincess is Mina Ţepeş, queen of all vampirekind and entirely an adultnow despite her underage appearance. The age/appearance issue is aconvenient loophole through which the story manages to avoid veeringinto complete tastelessness, especially since there are a couple ofmoments—one, predictably enough, involving the application ofsunblock—where Tamaki’s wink-wink-nudge-nudge approach to that materialreally pushes the boundaries of taste. Put those questionable elementsaside, though, and what’s left is actually quite readable: a nifty premisethat has the potential to go places, provided Tamaki’s predilection forfemale curves doesn’t turn the whole thing into a mere flesh parade.

Read more


Tags: manga review


External Movie Reviews: Basilisk: Box Set

Once again, I’m fighting the urge to collapse into complete blathering fandom. Basilisk is as grand and glorious an anime as anyone could ask for, violent and beautiful and heartbreaking all at once. I love most any show that taps...

By Serdar Yegulalp on 2008/07/06 00:59

Once again, I’m fighting the urge to collapse into complete blathering fandom. Basiliskis as grand and glorious an anime as anyone could ask for, violent andbeautiful and heartbreaking all at once. I love most any show that tapsinto Japan’s feudal past (read: ninja and samurai), and they generallyhave a good track record: Hakkenden, Requiem from the Darkness, Shura no Toki, Otogi-Zoshi. Basilisk sits comfortably among the very best of the bunch.

Theshow also works a roots lesson in popular Japanese culture, sort of.The source material is Masaki Segawa’s manga of the same name, but thatin turn is an adaptation of Fūtaro Yamada’s 1959 novel The Kouga Ninja Scrolls.Yamada pretty much created the mythology of the ninja in fiction as weknow it right now, paving the way for everything from Buichi Terasawa’sKabuto to (what else?) Naruto itself. They could havejust slavishly followed the plot of the book, which would have workeddecently well since the original novel’s two tons of fun all by itself.But the creators of the anime used the original material as aspringboard to add backstory and characterization, and turned whatcould have been a merely fun show into an outstanding one.

Read more


Tags: Fūtaro Yamada Japan anime review samurai


Books: Mushi-shi Vol. 1

Miranda: O, wonder!How many goodly creatures are there here!How beauteous mankind is! O brave new world,That has such people in’t! Prospero: ’Tis new to thee. —Shakespeare, The Tempest, Act V, Scene 1 One of the creepier epiphanies I had in...

By Serdar Yegulalp on 2008/07/03 13:30

Miranda: O, wonder!
How many goodly creatures are there here!
How beauteous mankind is! O brave new world,
That has such people in’t!

Prospero: ’Tis new to thee.

—Shakespeare, The Tempest, Act V, Scene 1

Oneof the creepier epiphanies I had in science class was when I learnedabout the bacteria that live in our digestive tracts. The idea thatthere was something else alive inside me was eerie enough, butthen I read about the organisms that flourish in the volcanic vents onthe ocean floor. Compared to that, the inside of my gut was relativelyeasy territory. Life flourishes wherever it finds a toe-hold, and it’seasy to forget that human beings are only one leaf of a much largerbiological tree.

Mushi-shi is one of the few manga Ihave read that that does justice to that sense of wonder. It is notabout a plot or a problem or even really a character, although itsindividual episodes may contain all of those things. What it is mostabout is an ecology, a cycle of life and death and rebirth, andhow the world of men is only a tiny dot on the face of things. The onlyother comic I can think of that comes even close to the same territoryis Larry Marder’s amazing (and criminally underappreciated) Beanworld, but while Beanworld was about whimsy and wit, Mushi-shi is about overwhelming awe.

Read more


Tags: Japan manga review


External Movie Reviews: Witchblade Vol. #5

You know a series has been more than worth the time when you come to a volume that’s almost entirely character development—almost no action worth speaking of—and at the same time you’re not the slightest bit bored. That’s the latest...

By Serdar Yegulalp on 2008/07/03 13:28

You know a series has been more than worth the time when you come toa volume that’s almost entirely character development—almost no actionworth speaking of—and at the same time you’re not the slightest bitbored. That’s the latest surprise Witchblade has had to offerup on its fifth disc: there’s very little knock-down-drag-out-style eyecandy, but because the writing and characterization have been so strongthroughout this series, it’s episodes like these that feel more like areturn to true form.

Disc 5 pushes several key plot elementsforward, the first and most important being Masane and Rihoko, motherand daughter, now closer than ever but at the same time also that muchmore troubled about each other. Rihoko’s spent so much time being amother-of-sorts to Masane that when it comes time for her to be adaughter, she hardly knows how. To that end she does what she can tomake things feel halfway normal—mainly, playing Cupid between Masaneand Doji Group director Takayama.

Read more


Tags: review


External Movie Reviews: Shinobi: Heart Under Blade [Blu-ray]

Shinobi: Heart Under Blade is a live-action adaptation of Fûtaro Yamada’s ninja-adventure novel The Kouga Ninja Scrolls, which in turn inspired the manga and anime Basilisk—so with a pedigree like that it ought to be a knockout. It’s stuffed with...

By Serdar Yegulalp on 2008/07/03 13:26

Shinobi: Heart Under Blade is a live-action adaptation of Fûtaro Yamada’s ninja-adventure novel The Kouga Ninja Scrolls, which in turn inspired the manga and anime Basilisk—sowith a pedigree like that it ought to be a knockout. It’s stuffed withoutlandish costumes, lush scenery, savage fights and bizarreadversaries. But it’s strangely unengaging as a story, and anyone who’sfamiliar with the original material (like me) will squirm at how muchhas been thrown out.

Back when the original DVD edition of itappeared I wrote a review for my own site where I panned it roundly.Now having seen it again on Blu-ray Disc, I’m inclined to be a littlekinder to it, if only because it really does look spectacular on allcounts—and because anime/manga fans will almost certainly get a bangout of it. The cliché that this is a “manga come to life” completelyapplies here, but sadly, that’s pretty much all it is.

Read more


Tags: Blu-ray Disc Fūtaro Yamada review samurai


Movie Reviews: Machine Girl

Machine Girl is all the proof you need that low-budget exploitation cinema is alive and well. Instead of looking for it in the now-demolished fleapit theaters of Times Square, it’s coming to you in the comfort of one’s own living...

By Serdar Yegulalp on 2008/07/03 13:16

Machine Girl is all the proof you need that low-budget exploitation cinema is alive and well. Instead of looking for it in the now-demolished fleapit theaters of Times Square, it’s coming to you in the comfort of one’s own living room, by way of Japan. This is not a bad thing. Exploitation movies are designed to go over the top, and Machine Girl not only goes over the top, it tears the top off, sets it on fire, and throws it back at you.

We are, after all, talking about a movie where a teenaged girl gets one arm amputated by gangsters, then attaches a super-tommy gun to the stump and goes to town on her tormentors. Heads gets blown apart. Limbs are hacked off. Holes are blown through torsos and weapons fired through the holes. Gorehounds won’t just be delighted; they’ll be smacking their foreheads and laughing in disbelief at some of the stuff the filmmakers pull here. But it’s all more surreal and hallucinatory than anything else, and after a while you’re not so much grossed out as amazed at how much they’re able to jam into a mere ninety minutes of running time.

Read more


Tags: Japan movies review


Metropolitan Dept.

Hell just froze over _again_. bq. Film archivists at the Museo del Cine (Cinema Museum) in Buenos Aires have recently uncovered the lost footage from Fritz Lang's original 1927 version of Metropolis in 16mm negatives! ... Apparently a copy of...

By Serdar Yegulalp on 2008/07/03 11:39
Hell just froze over _again_.bq. Film archivists at the Museo del Cine (Cinema Museum) in Buenos Aires have recently uncovered the lost footage from Fritz Lang's original 1927 version of Metropolis in 16mm negatives! ... Apparently a copy of the long version of the film was set to Argentina in 1928 for a theatre screening. Shortly thereafter, a local film critic came into possession of the film reels and added them to his private collection. They were later sold to Argentina's National Art Fund, and were eventually donated to the Museo del Cine, where they were eventually rediscovered by the museum's curator this past January. [from _The Digital Bits_]Kino had plans for a Blu-ray edition of the film in 2009, but it looks like they're going to have to _significantly_ revise that.This definitely goes into the permanent collection.

Read more


Tags: Blu-ray Disc hell freezes over movies


Jack. Black Jack. -- Dept.

Gloryowsky and praise be! "Vertical, Inc.":http://www.vertical-inc.com's site now has a web page for their edition of Osamu Tezuka's "Black Jack":http://vertical-inc.com/blackjack/index.html. Be sure to check out the free preview as well, which is drawn from a story that has never been...

By Serdar Yegulalp on 2008/07/01 15:52
Gloryowsky and praise be! "Vertical, Inc.":http://www.vertical-inc.com's site now has a web page for their edition of Osamu Tezuka's "Black Jack":http://vertical-inc.com/blackjack/index.html. Be sure to check out the free preview as well, which is drawn from a story that has never been in English before.

Read more


Tags: Osamu Tezuka Vertical Inc. manga


Genji Press

Science fiction, rebooted.

Find recent content on the main index or look in the archives to find all content.

About Me

I'm an independent SF and fantasy author, technology journalist, and freelance contemplator for how SF can be made into something more than just a way to blow stuff up.

My Goodreads author profile.

Learn some more about me.

My Books

Out Now

Coming Soon

Previously Released

More about my books

Search This Site

Archives