Sunday, October 26, 2008

MANGA CORNER: FLOWERS BY USAMARU FURUYA (following up on Thursday's post)

In my last post, I wrote that the copy of Flowers I had ordered from Sanseidoh was unlikely to arrive in time for me to report on it by the deadline for this month's Diamond ordering cycle, which is tomorrow (Monday), at least at my local comics store. Well, it did arrive, and yesterday I picked it up, and here I am. I was anticipating being able to tell everyone to go out and order it, from Diamond or elsewhere. Unfortunately, I can't. I don't regret buying it, exactly; but it's not what I expected. When reading what follows, bear in mind that I've only owned the book for a day, so any judgments I make are very preliminary.

As I've said before, there's some gorgeous fantasy art in The Music of Marie and Garden, and I was hoping to see more of that in Flowers. Instead, what we mainly get is girls. The longest section is "BUBKA Girls": thirty-eight full-page full-color illustrations of high school age (and occasionally younger) girls, which first appeared in a magazine called Ura BUBKA. The girls are usually fully clothed and not in conventionally seductive poses. Nevertheless there's an unsettling, and sometimes downright disturbing, current of eroticism running through all these illustrations. One image in particular renders the book as a whole unsuitable for sale to children. Some of the illustrations are reminiscent of the works of Trevor Brown and Romain Slocombe, with their subjects being bruised, bandaged, etc. All the works in this section, as throughout the book, are technically accomplished, but some of them strike me as rather soulless.

Apart from these illustrations, there are more full-page color illustrations, and a few black-and-white ones, from various sources. Again, these are mostly of girls, though very few of them are as sexually charged as the "BUBKA girls." All the illustrations in the book are annotated by Furuya.. There's also a twenty-page interview in Japanese covering Furuya's entire career, and two full-color manga totalling twenty-four pages, which won't mean much if you don't read Japanese. Let me stress that there is no English text in the book: everything is in untranslated Japanese.

Since I'm unsure about the book myself, I can't make a recommendation to buy or not to buy it. I can certainly understand if after reading the description above you want to pass. But please don't let my description of the book (or the book itself, if you buy it and don't like it) put you off Furuya in general. His best work -- The Music of Marie, Plastic Girl, some of the stories in Garden -- is better than anything here. (There are links to my reviews of these on the sidebar.) The Music of Marie in particular is free from the obsession with adolescent girls which is so evident in Flowers.

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