Saturday, June 11, 2005


A quick one this time, because there's other stuff I really should be working on. Cynical Hysterie Hour (or "Shinikaru Histerii Awaa," as it's written in Japanese), by Kiriko Kubo is another realistic, low-key, gently humorous comic, like Chibi Maruko-chan, about ordinary children just being themselves. But Tsuneko, the main character, is less likable than Maruko-chan: she rarely smiles, and her main interest is food. (Two of the chapters revolve around her scheming to acquire goodies.) Nor is her appearance particularly cute. In fact, as she's drawn she's downright ugly: her eyes are shaped like slits, and she appears to be bald except for nine hairs sticking out from her scalp (though the cover illustration, which is in color, makes it clear that she isn't actually bald). Despite Tsuneko's lack of cuteness, the book has a certain charm and even sweetness. One two-part story delves into fantasy, as Tsuneko finds herself on a planet where elephants are intelligent and humans aren't; the other stories deal with everyday life. (There's no explanation of the title's significance; perhaps the first volume explained it.)

The main reason I bought the book was because of Kubo's art style, which is quite unlike what's thought of as "manga style." It's very simple, and a bit reminiscent of Charles Schulz. You can see the cover of Cynical Hysterie Hour vol. 7 here, the covers of other volumes here (click the numbers on top), and other comics and illustrations here.

The stories about Tsuneko occupy a little more than half the book. They're followed by a sixteen-page fable set on the Planet of the Elephants, and then by a series of strips entitled "Hanky Panky" ("Hankii Pankii"), which are humorous stories about an OL (or "office lady," as female office workers are called in Japan) who is as self-centered as Tsuneko, if better-looking.

The book is 192 pp., was published by Hakusensha, and its ISBN is 4-592-11787-5. It sold for 360 yen.

(Bizarrely, there's a connection between Cynical Hysterie Hour and John Zorn, whose tastes in manga imagery generally run more towards Suehiro Maruo. Zorn was hired to compose the soundtracks to four episodes of the anime based on the manga, and this music is currently available on CD as part of the "Filmworks" series on Zorn's own Tzadik label. Kubo even sings a bit on the CD. (There's a little more info here.))

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