Tuesday, November 28, 2006


The most recent issue of The New Yorker, the "cartoon issue," has a two-page strip by Roz Chast on her encounter with Japanese-language manga, which is reproduced here (via Dirk Deppey. It's not particularly insightful, but it's an amusing portrayal of the disorientation people who are only familiar with Western visual and storytelling conventions may feel when encountering manga for the first time. Though Chast presents herself as completely mystified, she evidently did some research. The kana displayed are accurate, as are the kanji for "book store"; and Tohru, and Yuki's mouse form, are clearly recognizable in the first manga she looks at (though she's taken the artistic license of drawing the interior art in color).

Chast devotes the most attention to one manga, which she indentifies as "Step Up Love Story" and describes as "like a children's comic book, a sex manual from the fifties, and a raunchy movie all mashed up together." This manga actually exists, though its title isn't "Step Up Love Story." While those words are displayed prominently on the cover (in English), the actual title is Futari Etchi (sometimes romanized Futari Ecchi), which might be translated as "Two-person Sex" or "Sex for Two". And as with Fruits Basket, the characters are recognizable from Chast's drawings. In fact, you can even tell from her drawing of the cover which volume she's looking at: it's volume 32, the most recent one out so far. And the Engrish blurb on Chast's cover is also on the real cover, though again Chast has taken artistic license in making it a lot larger than it actually is. I own volume 5, which has a different English blurb: "Are you as sexually able as you'd like to be? This comic is high quality 'love' fiction. The effects of this comic are both amazing and permanent. Thank you, everyone".

Futari Etchi is an erotic comedy by Katsu Aki about a couple who are virgins when they marry, and strive to improve their sex life with the help of advice -- not always accurate -- from friends and relatives. (For more details, see the Wikipedia entry and this review.) In the volume I own, there are plenty of sex scenes and nudity, but no genitals (except in a few cross-sectional diagrams): in scenes where genitals ought to be visible they're simply not drawn, leading to a couple of panels showing a character apparently performing fellatio on nothing.

The manga seems to be very popular in Japan: not only are there thirty-two volumes out so far, plus two volumes of Futari Etchi for Ladies, but the volume I own went through thirty printings in less than three years.

Only two pages?It seems to me that is to little.
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