Tuesday, August 21, 2007


Some thoughtful -- and spoilery -- posts on Fruits Basket vol. 17 from umadoshi, flamika and merr0w. (Flamika's post also has spoilers to Pet Shop of Horrors vol. 10.) In the first comment to umadoshi's post, the translators explain why they made the choice I criticized in my previous post.

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Sunday, August 19, 2007


It's been too long since I've done one of these posts. This, though, as the title says, is just a brief note. I can't do a full set of notes for vol. 17 until I can borrow a copy from the library, but flipping through a copy at my local bookstore I noticed one important difference between the original and the translation. I can't discuss it without revealing a major spoiler involving Akito; so don't proceed unless you've read at least through Chapter 98 (the third chapter in vol. 17).

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Thursday, August 16, 2007


I worry about doing too many posts about weird (from an American perspective, at least) manga. Aside from promoting the "freak show" view of Japan in general and manga in particular, they distract from the much better manga I've written about. But it's a lot harder, and requires a lot more thought, to do justice to a great manga than to a weird one. And lets face it: the reviews of weird manga probably provide more enjoyment to more readers. And since I recently read a manga that's both weird and good, here goes.

At the Mercy of the Waves (Nami no mani mani) is by Shungicu Uchida, whom I've written about before (see the sidebar). It's strange, not so much for the events depicted (though there is that), as because of the way it's told and its peculiar tone. In brief, it's about a young woman named Konoha who works at an inn and is regularly tortured by her older sister Tomiko.* Most of the chapters follow a rigid formula. Konoha falls in love with a guest and has sex with him. He offers to help her escape. Tomiko catches them, immobilizes the guest somehow and sadistically punishes Konoha. The guest disappears and is never seen again. Plot details, and even much of the dialogue, are also repeated over and over: for instance, when the guest offers to help Konoha escape, she regularly replies "I was waiting for a gentleman who would say that!" The formula is so rigid that when one chapter's panels are displayed in reverse order, I had no trouble following.

Most shockingly, Tomiko brands Konoha on both buttocks with a large brand reading "baita," or "whore." Tomiko also forces one of Konoha's lovers to tattoo "inbai," meaning "prostitution," prominently below her breasts. Reversing the usual sequence in S & M novels or manga, the worst tortures are dealt out in the first chapters, so in later chapters Tomiko has to resort to less permanent but still unpleasant punishments, such as suspending Konoha by her hair and dribbling mashed yams (which are apparently itchy) upon her nude body. Until the last chapter I could only think that the manga was intended as a parody of S & M porn. The last chapter, however, brings everything together in a way that makes sense.

At the Mercy of the Waves is an early work of Uchida's, originally published in 1985 (though my copy is a reprint published in 2001), but her art is already fully accomplished. Her compositions are good, and she creates interesting textures with the vertical stripes of the two sisters' kimonos and with occasional abstract patterns in the background. (Here's a computer-translated version of the book's page on Amazon.co.jp, so you can see the cover.**) Overall, while this isn't the best thing Uchida's done, I recommend it if the S & M theme doesn't put you off.

If you're wondering about the title, it has the connotation of drifting aimlessly, which certainly seems to apply to Konoha.

Publishing info: at 232 pages, At the Mercy of the Waves is somewhat longer than the usual single-volume manga. In my edition it's bound with a collection of unrelated short manga horror stories (which I haven't read), making 384 pages in total. It's published by Bunshun Bunko, it cost 705 yen, and its ISBN is 4-16-726712.

*Another possible reading for the older sister's name is Fuko, but going by their respective hits on Google, Tomiko is the more likely reading.

**You can order it from this page, but unless you live in Japan it's probably a lot cheaper to special order it from a Japanese-language bookstore, if you have access to one.

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Wednesday, August 08, 2007


If you have followed Triangle and Robert based upon my recommendation, or have clicked on the link in the sidebar recently, you'll have noticed that the strip has been on hiatus for several months. The good news is that it's back. The bad news is that it'll end in four weeks. As I've said before, it's a very funny webcomic, so if you had been reading it, go read it, and if you haven't read it yet, read the archives. (The ending won't make much sense if you don't; the strip's first week isn't that hot, but starting with the second week it picks up.)

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Saturday, August 04, 2007


In my last post I said that I had hated the Christopher Nolan-directed movie The Prestige but that was a story for another day. Today is that day. Like a SF monster that takes on the form of what it devours, the film superficially resembles Christopher Priest's novel, but on the inside it's pure Hollywood: the sets, the acting, and above all the dialogue, which is full of confrontations staged to make a point and fake "emotional moments."

That alone would be enough to make me dislike the film, but I have other problems with it as well. They're spoilery, so I'll post them on my other blog.

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Wednesday, August 01, 2007


I recently watched the film The Prestige on DVD, and while I hated it (but that's another story), it did prompt me to go back and reread the book. After finishing it, I suddenly realized for the first time what the point of the present-day ending is. Undoubtedly I'm not the first one to do so, but there are also people who haven't seen it. For example, Abigail Nussbaum, an intelligent critic, states that the present-day frame "ultimately serves no narrative purpose," and this very good review by Nic at Eve's Alexandria also misses the point of the present-day frame. (The first two links are full of spoilers for both the book and movie.) So, for anyone who hasn't yet grasped the point and doesn't want to work it out for themselves, I've provided the answer on my other blog, linked to by the fake cut below. Spoilers, obviously.

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