Sunday, June 03, 2012


One of the original purposes of this blog was to be a source of information about Japanese-language manga. In line with this, each time I've come back from a trip with a bunch of Japanese-language manga, I've planned to post descriptions of them. And each time I never get around to it. This time, I was determined that things would be different. Thus, here are brief descriptions of some of the manga I bought on my most recent trip to Sanseido. These aren't reviews; I even haven't read any of these yet, except for a quick reading of the first chapter of one manga (because otherwise I would have had no idea what it was about). I've included links to the books' amazon.co.jp pages.

Billy Bat vol. 9 by Naoki Urasawa: I haven't glanced at the interior yet, for fear of spoilers. I haven't even removed the shrink-wrap, and I'm doing my best to not look closely at the covers. All I can tell you is that the front cover has a striking image: the artist with the bushy white hair and beard whom I mentioned in my review of the last two volumes is painting a large outline of the Bat in red, which seems to be between the artist and the viewer, as if he was painting on a transparent glass sheet placed between himself and the viewer.

In Wonderland (vol. 1) by Takahiro Yabauchi: This pastoral fantasy manga is another variation of Alice in Wonderland. Its protagonist is a girl named Elise who is not visiting, but lives in Wonderland along with many of Lewis Carroll's characters. Thankfully, there's no attempt to make Wonderland grim and gritty. In fact, this Wonderland is a happier, more peaceful place than the original, in which there was a lot of shouting and people being rude. I bought this mainly because of the artwork, which does have much of the flavor of John Tenniel's original illustrations, though Yabauchi's line, unlike Tenniel's, is thin and fragile. (I put "vol. 1" in parentheses because there's no indication in the volume that the story is not complete, but in fact it continues beyond this volume and as far as I know is still ongoing.)

The Night Has A Thousand Eyes [Yoru wa Sen no Me o Motsu] by Kentaro Ueno: This is a hefty (478 pp.) collection of 4- to 8-page gag stories. It's pretty meta stuff, with Ueno obviously parodying a wide variety of artists, though I'm not familiar enough with manga to recognize more than a few of the artists parodied, and of these the only one I've read is Shiriagari Kotobuki. Also of note is a single-page adaptation of Les Miserables in 175 tiny panels. The stories here all appeared between 1998 and 2003, but the series is still running in Comic Beam.

R - Chuugakusei vol. 1 [R - Middle Schooler] by Yukiko Gotoh: Unlike the previous two manga, it's not easy to tell what kind of manga this is without reading it. But it appears to be a romantic comedy with a rather weird premise. The male protagonist, a second-year middle schooler, is a self-proclaimed "smell fetishist" who is especially turned on by dirty articles that girls have discarded. When he meets a girl who is willing to give him her used sanitary napkin, he's in heaven. Despite the premise, there's no sex in the manga (or at least none that I noticed when I skimmed it) and virtually no nudity. Again, I picked this up mainly for the art: Gotoh has an unusual style, and her used of solid blacks is striking.

Naniwadora Ihon vol. 1 by Takashi Morimoto: Again, it's hard to tell what kind of manga this is without reading it, but it appears to be a drama set in Edo-period Japan about an elegant but ferocious woman and her young daughter. To be honest, I don't remember why I special-ordered this. Maybe I was just in an expansive mood. But it turns out, just like the two previous manga, to have a distinctive style influenced by Edo-period prints, the faces in particular. It won a Tezuka Osamu Cultural Award in 2004.

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