The timing of this book could not be more, well, timely. I spent most of last week, from the Sunday of the 7th through the following Sunday, nursemaiding my missus and her broken ankle. Despite that, she was determined to make as much use as possible of her three remaining limbs even if she ended up breaking them, too. Her nerve (the psychic kind) and determination were enough at one point to make me blurt out: “Black Jack would have loved you as a patient.”
I had to explain that one to her.
Some of you in the back of the class already know this, I’m sure. I shall repeat myself, as it bears repeating. What Black Jack loves more than almost anything else (save maybe suitcases fulla yen bills) is a patient who meets him halfway — someone whose will to live and determination to be healed is as strong as his own will to save their sorry ass. It’s something common to many people I’ve known who stand out so far in their field or are so far at the top of their respective game that they don’t feel like there’s anyone else around. When you have someone, anyone sharing your slice of stratosphere, however fleetingly, you feel that much less like an aberration and a … well, a freak. Read more
The tattoo on Shoko Tendo’s back reaches all the way down both her legs, right to her ankles. It wasn’t always like that: when she had been embroiled in the yakuza lifestyle, it had only covered her back. Only after she left that world did she extend the inkwork that most people would have gone to no small lengths to hide. Here it is, she seemed to be saying. Take me as I really am.
Yakuza Moon is the sort of autobiography that no woman should ever have to write. Not simply because the yakuza is a male world, where women are accessories at best and chattel at worst, but because Tendo was born too close to that world to say no to it from the beginning. The damage that was inflicted on her became damage she in turn inflicted on herself. If half of what’s in the book is true, she is seven kinds of lucky to have escaped all of that — and many more kinds of strong, too. The book is also evidence of how most people’s greatest strengths are invisible to them, because they embody them naturally and don’t seek them out. She may not have felt strong, but she was. Read more
Most of us have at some point in our lives a heartbreaking revelation. There are the things we want to do, and the things we do well. Worse, the two often have nothing in common. Such is Soichi Negishi’s lot: he wants to be a fixture of the hip turtleneck-sweater-wearing Tokyo scene, but he’s best at donning facepaint, assuming the alter ego of Krauser II and tearing it up on stage with his diabolical band Detroit Metal City. As Agent Smith once said, one of these lives has a future … and the other does not.
Over the course of three-and-then-some volumes of Detroit Metal City, we’ve seen how to play this dichotomy for laughs. The downside is that there only seem to be a finite number of ways to do this: as long as the basic gag is that almost nobody knows Negishi is Krauser (and vice versa), DMC’s going to be doomed to repeat itself. That doesn’t mean it’s doomed to not be funny, though, and some of the stuff that goes down in the third book is funny enough that you risk spit-laughing out your coffee on the guy in front of you if you read this on the bus. Read more
The hardest thing about being ridiculous is keeping some semblance of ground rules. It’s OK to blow up the world on a whim in something like BoBoBo-Bo Bo-BoBo or even South Park, but less easy to get away with it in Seinfeld (or Lucky Star). There, it wouldn’t be funny, just a distraction.
That’s in part what’s been a little startling about Detroit Metal City. They could have, at any time, turned the whole thing into a merry-go-round of absurdity where Krauser fights aliens and slices UFOs in half with his guitar. As crazy as things become in volume four, they all unfold according to a few basic ground rules: all that is funny in DMC must revolve around the fundamental absurdity, outlandishness, and lordly might of death metal. It does. Read more
Tsutomu Nihei creates spectacular manga about giant, rotting, manmade landscapes where stern-looking men and bizarre-looking monsters stalk about and do their best to blow each other up.
That’s about all his previous Big Thing, Blame!, amounted to in my eyes, which showed up in English in both its manga and animated incarnations. I awarded it plenty of points for sheer visual exhilaration, and took away about as many for having only as much story as might be needed to hustle everyone from one act of violence to the next.
From what I can make of Biomega so far, it’s more of the same. Bad thing? Good thing? A good thing, I guess: many people I know are perfectly happy with manga that aims no higher than the part of the cerebral cortex that gets happy when things go boom. In Biomega, many things do indeed go boom, from a giant crumbling castle leaning out of the side of a cliff face to a whole fleet of ICBMs. The missiles, by the way, go boom in a way that had me gibbering “No … no … no,” long before I ever turned the page and confirmed that the hero was indeed going to make them go boom in the single craziest way imaginable. I suspect I would have been disappointed if he hadn’t done it that way.Read more