Let us say in life:
No earthquakes are permissible.
What happens then?
— John Cage
Some stories are all about the story — the mechanics, the details, the thing that happens. The guy gets the girl, the dog turns up safely, the bad guy is bisected from top to bottom, the planet blows up. Happy story, sad story, strange story. Beginning, middle, end. The end.
Some stories are not about the story. They’re about the fact that “the story” has been going on for some time now. This is just where we came in. When we enter and leave the first volume of What A Wonderful World! or any of its attendant chapters, the one thing artist and author Inio Asano makes us feel most is how all this could still be going on somewhere. Go out your door and walk far enough and you might run into all the people you just read about, still doing their thing. I don’t get that feeling often from a book, or a manga. When I do, it’s worth celebrating. Read more
I demand two things from a composer: invention, and that he astonish me. — Karlheinz Stockhausen
This is the third time, or maybe the fourth time, I have tried to write a review of Genichiro Takahashi’s Sayonara Gangsters. The first time, I couldn’t even think of anything coherent to say, and ended up with a thousand words of sub-Lester Bangs drivel that wasn’t even worth laughing at. The second time (and maybe the third as well), the document vanished completely from both computers where I had a copy. Either I’d stupidly never saved it in the first place, or Amanojaku had come along and talked my PC into dumping the drafts into the memory hole.
Each time I’ve sat down to write this thing, I run into the same issue anew: How does one talk about a book that is both quite cheerful and flabbergastingly strange, often right in the same sentences? It’s tempting to call the book critic-proof, but that’s an adjective usually reserved for works with a built-in fanbase who will buy the book no matter how savagely the critics treat it. It doesn’t really apply to something so merrily bonkers in its own way that a review threatens to not do it justice. And yet I suspect the mere fact that I can’t pigeonhole the book or even figure out where to begin describing it is, in its own way, praise. Few books resist classification that defiantly and come out the other side not only unscathed but all the more readable for it.Read more
Something inexplicable is happening on the surface of the planet Mercury. At first it looks like nothing more than a spire growing outwards into space, a mere hair on the lens of high-school student and amateur astronomer Aki Shiraishi’s telescope. But soon the spire has become a filament encircling the sun, and soon that thread in space becomes a wall that threatens to completely block out the sun and exterminate all life.
Studying the ring becomes Aki’s purpose in the world, even as global cooling takes its toll and civilization begins to implode. Her hard work pays off: she’s selected to become part of a mission to venture out there, study the ring, and if possible stop its relentless growth. What they don’t expect is to discover the ring’s real purpose, and that destroying the ring may well mean condemning another intelligent species somewhere else in the universe to death. What’s more, Aki realizes she feels a great and painful empathy for the aliens — even before she’s ever met them — something which compels her to reach out to them, to rebuild the Ring in a way that will allow mankind and this as-yet-unknown other to live.Read more