Wednesday, March 03, 2004


A while ago, I remarked that the European clear-line style was about as far from the "typical" manga style as you could get. Well, at the SF Kinokuniya I purchased Nanjamonja Hakase: dokidokihen ("hakase" means "learned man" or "doctor"; "dokidokihen" is not found in my dictionary, but would mean something like "exciting volume" or "exciting collection") by Shinta Cho, which reminds me of Ft. Thunder. Not that there is a single Ft. Thunder style, of course; but Cho's approach to comics storytelling strikes me as similar to those of Ron Rege, Jr., Matt Brinkman and even Brian Chippendale. (But the first of the strips collected in this volume first appeared in 1993, before Ft. Thunder got started; and this is apparently the second collection.)

The book contains one hundred two-page strips, each of which contains sixteen rectangular panels, all the same size and shape (the first of which is always a title panel, and the second of which always contains the same caption). There are two regular characters, a man called Hakase and a large animal with a human-like face called Zooazarashi. These two appear in nearly every panel, and are always shown in extreme long shot, with Hakase's height never more than a third of the panel's height, and usually less. They are constantly travelling from right to left, and are usually shown facing that way; at any rate, they're always shown in profile, except for the last panel of each strip, in which they are shown from behind, exiting the scene. On their travels, they encounter such characters as a whale, a giant clam, a fish with legs, and an ambulatory bed. There are a lot of inanimate objects that turn out to be alive, or more generally, things that transform into other things. The art itself is simple and sketchy, with a line of constant width, eschewing shading or solid blacks completely: of the artists I mentioned above, it most resembles Rege's art, though the "geometric" quality of Rege's art is absent. Here's a page from the publisher's website with a sample strip. It's not clear to me what Cho's aim is with these strips; but if you're into Ft. Thunder-style experimentation, you should definitely check this out, even if you can't read Japanese.

The price is 1000 yen ($14 at Kinokuniya), the ISBN is 4-8340-0661-1, and the publisher is Fukuinkan Shoten (which seems from their webpage to be a children's publisher).

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