Del Rey loves us. By “us”, I mean fans who take the completist approach. People who don’t just watch the show or read the comic, but want all the ancillary goodies — the art books, the character guides, the bric-a-brac that used to never show up in English at all. Or when they did, they showed up in editions so trashy they made people wonder why anyone had bothered.
But they love us, especially us Tsubasa fans, and so Del Rey has graciously consented to present us with a domestic printing of the original art collection for the series, ALBuM De REProDUCTioNS (funny caps theirs; my Shift key works fine) as part of a flood of 20th anniversary CLAMP merchandise. The book is long on art and short on under-the-hood or behind-the-scenes stuff, which is actually at least as interesting to me as the pictures themselves. But Tsubasa fans will have very little to complain about.Read more
Once again, Del Rey loves us. By “us”, I mean ×××HOLiC fans, who have been rewarded for their fidelity with The Official ×××HOLiC Guide, a deep-dive into CLAMP’s moody and amused meditation on the nature of fate and the cost of having your wishes come true. It’s a mix of art book, trivia compendium, interview compilation, author’s commentary and various kinds of peeks under the hood — exactly the sort of thing I love to see about any series.
Most of the time, with any body of work, you only see the finished product — the book itself, the show. Any time I’m offered the opportunity to find out more, to hear directly from the creators about why they made the choices they did or how they feel things tie together, I jump for it. Doubly so for a series as rich in detail and as idiosyncratic as ×××HOLiC, and this book’s loaded with such details. It’s like a variety bentō box: there’s a little of just about everything. What’s more, Del Rey has taken the trouble to present this in its original right-to-left formatting, with a translation that’s precise and cleanly-rendered enough to make me think this book was originally commissioned for the U.S. market and isn’t an import. Read more
Back when Mangajin was still in print, they ran regular installments of a 4-koma comic named A Visual Glossary of Modern Terms (Zusetsu Gendai Yōgo Benran), which mercilessly dissected all those quirky little aspects of modern life, and with great visual flair. E.g., here’s a gallery of people you’d meet in a dark alley, ranked and rendered like monsters in a console RPG. (Hint: Button-mashing will not help you here.)
I suspect most people reading this have never read, let alone heard of, Visual Glossary, which is a big part of why I held off paralleling it to Sayonara, Zetsubo-sensei for so long. But here we are, five volumes in, and a better parallel has yet to suggest itself. Others have described Zetsubo as a harem story (sure, maybe a harem story on heroin), but the harem stuff is there mostly to provide Koji Kumeta for a container into which to pour his jaundiced observations about modern Japan being a den of duplicity, cowardice, back-stabbing, insincerity and buck-passing. Still others, me included, have simply described Zetsubo-sensei as really freakin’ funny. That also works. Read more
Ian’s a drifter who looks like he could be any age between twenty and fifty, with hollowed-out eyes that have seen entirely too much. And yet he has a oddly naïve, wide-eyed approach to life — naïve enough that one day when he’s crashed out on a street somewhere, he says yes when a teenage girl approaches him and asks him to be a stand-in for her boyfriend to distract her crazy father. Then before either of them quite realize how tangled things have just become, Ian’s lying on the floor of a public restroom, dying from a stab wound to the stomach.
not simple begins with Ian’s lurid death and then leaps backwards across decades to show us how he fell this far through life. He’s been the victim of bad luck, says his friend Jim — a reporter-turned-novelist whose life has intersected with Ian’s on and off for years. Jim’s hatched the idea of turning the other man’s life story into a novel, the sort of thing no one would believe if it were fiction. And yet not simple, which is that story itself, is entirely credible from beginning to end — not because of what happens but because of how it’s told, and how the people it all happens to respond to it. It’s to most manga what intelligent indie films like You Can Count On Me or Chop Shop are to gaudy digital kitsch like Transformers or Avatar. Read more
The Ghost in the Shell TV series had two kinds of episodes. The “Stand-Alone” episodes were just that: self-contained adventures. The “Complex” episodes were meta-plot — the story that arched over and wove through the whole show, and which touched on everyone’s reason for being there.
Twin-Shadowed Knight, the thirteenth Vampire Hunter D book released in English, is the closest thing we’ve gotten to a “Complex” episode so far. It gives us all of the gloriously outlandish things we’ve come to expect from the series: the physics-defying derring-do of the heroes and villains alike, the absurdly Gothic extremes of D’s far-flung future world.
It also mates all those things with major insights into — at last! — D’s origins. We don’t just get a giant underground factory where clones were stamped out by the tens of thousands; we get one where clones of D himself were manufactured uncountable thousands of years ago. And, most immediately, it is one of those very clones that is the story’s main nemesis. “D vs. D”, as the flap copy might put it. Read more
For most of us, it’s Akira the anime, not Akira the manga. Some of that can be chalked up to logistics and finances: Wouldn’t you rather rent a two-hour movie, instead of spending upwards of $125 for six volumes of manga which have not been all that reliably available in the first place? Yeah, so would I — especially if it means getting substantially the same story and being just as confused (boggled, mind-blown) by it.
Well, you now have one less excuse. The rights to Akira in English have reverted from Dark Horse back to Kodansha, and the Big K has since set up its own publishing arm in the U.S. Ghost in the Shell and several other Masamune Shirow titles are among the first titles in the new catalog. And, of course, Akira — since a world of manga and anime without Akira is a little like a diner that doesn’t serve hamburgers or milkshakes. Read more
The cynic in me wants to call Jormungand a poor man’s Black Lagoon. The realist in me says that’s not all that far removed from the truth anyway. Jormungand plays like a spinoff title, where two minor Lagoon characters were given a book of their own — one which only copied some of the most obvious aspects of Lagoon. Some crucial spark went missing in the process.
I hate drawing such overt comparisons to someone else’s work, because deep down I know that’s not fair. Someone sweated blood to make this book happen, and I should at least try to meet them halfway. But every time I turned the pages, I kept getting smacked in the face with more similarities than differences between Jormungand and Lagoon, and all they did was remind me of how much better Lagoon was in every appreciable way. Read more