Wednesday, October 25, 2006


Back in August, I linked to an interview with Makoto Tateno, creator of CUTExGUY and Yellow. At least I intended to, but I screwed up the HTML. I've belatedly fixed it.

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I recently watched The End of Evangelion for about the fourth or fifth time, and I have to say that its second half in particular is a bigger mindfuck than any other film or anime I've seen, and I've seen a lot of weird films and anime. And when I hear the first notes of the piano intro to "Tumbling Down," it still makes me shiver.

Speaking of "Tumbling Down" (whose official name is "Komm, Suesser Tod"), I own the soundtrack to EoE, and listening to that song with the lyrics in front of you, and without the visuals distracting you, is really depressing.

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Friday, October 20, 2006


I made a day trip to Chicago two days ago, and discovered that the Japanese-language bookstore Asahiya, in the Mitsuwa shopping center in Arlington Heights, is shutting down. Its last day of operation will be Oct. 29. The situation isn't as dire as it could be: a new Japanese bookstore, Sanseido, has opened in another part of the shopping center, and they will special order books. But the new bookstore is much smaller than Asahiya, and its manga section is proportionately smaller, which means you're much less likely to discover new series browsing the shelves. It's at times like these that I really wish I was still living in New York City, or at least could afford to take frequent trips there.

The silver lining is that Asahiya is having a going-out-of-business sale. Through Oct. 22, books (not magazines), CDs, and DVDs are 40% off. (I asked the cashier if prices would be lowered further after the 22nd, and she said "probably.") I scored some manga at that price, including Fruits Basket vol. 21, a collection of short stories by Usamaru Furuya called Happiness, and the eighth and ninth (and final, as it turns out) volumes of Furuya's comedy about breast obsession, Pi.

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Saturday, October 14, 2006


I'm not a fan of the single-named Norwegian cartoonist Jason, and when I saw his most recent work The Left Bank Gang in bookstores a few months ago, it didn't look at all interesting. The other day, though, my local public library got in a copy, and since the book had gotten such critical acclaim, I figured I'd give it a try. But if you're expecting me to declare that I've now seen the light about Jason, you haven't been reading this blog very long.

The Left Bank Gang is set in 1920s Paris, among the circle of expatriate writers that included Hemingway, Fitzgerald, Ezra Pound and others. The book's high concept is that instead of being writers, they're all comic book creators. But the only difference this turns out to make is that instead of Man Ray giving Hemingway advice on writing, he gives him advice on making comics. Halfway through the book, Hemingway, Fitzgerald, Pound, and James Joyce decide to rob the cash office at a prize fight. From here the story turns into a straight heist drama, like Kubrick's The Killing or Reservoir Dogs (but without any cut-off ears). As far as I can see, the fact that the crooks are famous writers makes no difference to this half of the book: they might as well be called A, B, C and D. Perhaps someone who knows the biographies of Hemingway et al. during this period in detail would find the book hilarious, but I don't and I didn't.

And then there's the art. I've griped about Jason's art before. This time my first impulse was to say that his inexpressive style is totally unsuited for this story. But in fact, it's unsuited for almost any story. The only exceptions are stories in which the characters have no emotions, or have totally suppressed their emotions. This applies to Hey...Wait, the work that first brought him attention over here, but not to any of his other works that I've seen, iirc. To make things worse, his figures are stiff and undynamic, even in action scenes. Reading The Left Bank Gang is like listening to someone tell a long story in a dull monotone.

On the plus side, Jason's page composition and use of colors are good. Perhaps the best way to approach this book is to ignore the dialogue and story, and just "read" the pages as abstract compositions.

Seriously, I'm puzzled. Why would anyone choose a totally inexpressive style as their regular style? Why did Jason think that this story was worth writing at all? And why do so many people seem to love it?

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