When I lived in New York City, I was within walking distance of no less than two major Japanese bookstore chains, Asahiya and Kinokuniya. Stepping into either one of those stores was both exhilarating and depressing. I looked at all those labyrinthine shelves of books — manga and literature alike, a whole continent’s worth of popular culture churned out furiously over the course of decades — and realized I’d never read more than the tiniest fraction of it in my lifetime no thanks to the language barrier. It was like being told I would never in the whole of my lifetime travel more than ten miles from my hometown.
Then the manga explosion came, and now we seem to be on the verge of a similar explosion in the light-novel space as well. Vampire Hunter D, Dirty Pair, Guin Saga, and many other series are all showing up in good-to-outstanding English translations — and all of it is material I would never have staked any odds on them ever showing up on these shores. And now we can add Moribito to that list, the first in a cycle of ten novels and counting by Nahoko Uehashi, and it’s one I hope they give us the rest of the volumes for. Even if they don’t, I now feel like I have traveled that much further from home.Read more
I don’t think I’ve yet used the term “by the fans, for the fans” to describe anything I’ve reviewed here, but Maid Machinegun cries out for that label. It’s a novel set in one of the stranger corners of anime sub-sub-culture — the world of the maid café, where folks (typically male fans) can pay for the privilege of being catered to by compulsively sweet-natured hostesses in uniform.
If you read that last paragraph and perked right up at the idea of a comedic story set against a backdrop of frilly aprons and elegant china, you don’t need my recommendation. If, on the other hand, that sounds just plain weird to your ears — well, let’s be fair: is there any part of anime fandom, or any fandom at all, that doesn’t draw long, uncomprehending stares from the uninitiated?Read more
First, an admission of prejudice. I bought and read Orion back when it was in a much earlier trade paperback printing, and had many unkind things to say about it. It was, I claimed then, the embodiment of all Masamune Shirow’s worst tendencies writ large — the worst being how he substituted technological gobbledygook for storytelling, mostly to cover up the fact that he didn’t have much of a story. He had one heck of a setting, a crazy fusion of future technology and shamanistic magic, and Orion was almost worth it for that alone. Almost.
Time went by, and this week Dark Horse sent along a newly-remastered edition of Orion, with the art restored to its original right-to-left format along with a number of other cleanups. I didn’t want to just recycle my original impressions — a person’s opinions can change a great deal in several years — so I brewed coffee and sat down to take my time with it with it like I would any other book in my review pile. And while I still got hung up about all the things I disliked, I found almost as much to savor, and to recommend. Yes, there’s still reams of technological gobbledygook instead of a story, but I’ve grudgingly accepted that as part of Shirow’s overall style. I may not like it, but hey, it’s his. It’s sort of like Quentin Tarantino’s dialogue about cheeseburgers and foot massage: if you’ve already bought into his style of filmmaking, then that self-consciously arch dialogue is just par for the course.Read more
Kakashi, or “Scarecrow”, is aptly named. He’s a scrawny little tyke with an unruly bush of pale hair, a ragged suit of clothes and a head stuffed full of dreams. One day he’s going to cut loose from his little seaside town and go around the world — fulfill all the fantasies that his father’s adventure diary touched off in him. The only problem is his total lack of a plan. A bicycle-driven propeller screw does not a seagoing vessel make, and Kakashi and his two (increasingly disgruntled) friends find this out the hard way.
Then Kakashi’s luck takes a turn, when a luxury airship — a rare and eye-popping spectacle — puts in to port at their town’s airfield. So desperate is Kakashi to see the world that he risks life and limb to stow away on board the airship in the cargo hold, where he quickly makes friends with another stowaway — a puppy. And in another part of the hold is yet another bunch of stowaways, the “Man Chicken Gang”, hijackers who ransack the passengers at gunpoint and toss them overboard into the ocean. (Well, they did give them life rafts…)Read more
Dark Nocturne may be one of the best bargains in the whole of the Vampire Hunter D series so far: it’s three D adventures for the price of one. What’s most interesting is that any one of these novellas feels like it has at least as much detail and incident as any one of the previous full-length books in the series. It’s a hallmark of Hideyuki Kikuchi’s writing: he can make one sentence do the work of ten, and he has that economy of style and storytelling racked up to “11” through this whole volume. And, as always, it features those wonderful Yoshitaka Amano illustrations and cover designs.Read more
One of the first Hong Kong movies I ever saw was a totally mad production named Savior of the Soul (co-written by none other than HK indie-film maverick Kar-Wai Wong). Any five minutes of that movie have more back-to-back action than most any Western film — at least until Western movies started catching up with productions like Crank and Shoot ‘Em Up. But hey, the HK moviemakers got their firstest with the mostest, and that stuff is still golden even after all these years.
From what I’ve seen of Chinese Hero so far, the HK comics scene has also featured the same kind of incredibly compressed, everything-including-the-kitchen-sink and-the-contents-of-the-fridge-too storytelling. There’s more going on in any one volume of Chinese Hero than there is in any three or four (or five, or ten) volumes of most other comics, and it’s all thrown at you with a gusto that’s irresistible.Read more