Sky Hawk by Jiro Taniguchi

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I loved this book, and this story. It is a wonderful homage to both bandes dessinées “westerns” and also western films that were popular in the 1960s. Westerns are one of my favourite film genres (bet you didn’t know that). I think Taniguchi is really successful at capturing the feel of these types of films. Even in the introduction Moebius says we don’t need Hollywood when we have books like this… I completely agree.

But the type of western that Taniguchi is trying to portray is all but extinct in Hollywood. This isn’t just because the western world would rather watch action films set in different worlds and futures, but also that the attitudes of those films is antiquated and overtly racist. Unfortunately, that undesirable element is also captured in Taniguchi’s book.

I’m not blaming Tanguchi for this inclusion. How was he to know? He didn’t live on this side of the world. But, I do somewhat blame the publisher (or even a tiny bit the translator). It’s their job to eke out the correct language to use. And because it has been included, even reviewers here are repeating this language, as though it’s the most okay-est thing in the world. It’s not.

I wouldn’t even have cared as much if this was originally written back 20 years, but this was written in the 21st century, and translated in 2019. The dialogue about antiquated language has been ongoing in the West for at least this long.

I think the translation could use a bit of finesse. What could have been done?

1. Leave the dialogue as is. As unpretty as the language is, it’s trying to capture the attitudes of the white settlers and invaders in the West in the 1870s. It’s ugly. But history is ugly.
2. Change all of the narrative and descriptive text to reflect more sensitive and appropriate modern language. If this text is supposed to be told from a so-called omniscient narrative perspective, that means they know about the history, but they can tell it in the context of appropriate language usage.

My second objection to this comic is that it ends with this sense that this history that has no baring on the present. That Indigenous Peoples were scourged from this earth. And though, while brutal, it’s all in the past. This is a dangerous sentiment people. Please inform yourself on these issues by reading up on Indigenous history (as told by Indigenous peoples). And if reading prose isn’t your favourite, there are several comics histories written by Indigenous artists that are worth your time.

But, is this comic worth reading? Yes. Of course. I loved the humanity of the people. I loved the landscapes, Taniguchi was truly a master at drawing setting. I loved the storytelling.

And my favourite was the way Taniguchi drew parallels toward his Japanese and Indigenous characters. That there was something more than personality that drew them together. I’ve read a few comics by Indigenous creators which have reached the same conclusions. I’ve always wondered if a Japanese artist would do the same. Here’s my answer.

Quick Thoughts On : Ajin Demi-Human (vol. 1-8) / story by Tsuina Miura, art by Gamon Sakurai

ajinAjin Demi-Human, volume 1-8 (ongoing) / story by Tsuina Miura, art by Gamon Sakurai.

Translated from the Japanese by Ko Ransom.

Published by Vertical, 2014

Originally published as Ajin, in good! Afternoon magazine (Kodansha, Ltd.), 2012-

9781939130846 (volume 1)


From GoodReads:

High school student Kei Nagai is struck dead in a grisly traffic accident, but immediately revives to learn that he may not be like every other human. Instead, he may be a mysterious, almost immortal being, granted not only the powers of rejuvenation, but the abilities to see supernatural beings. Scared, he runs away, and is aided in his escape from society by his friend. Unfortunately for Kei, the manhunt is on and he will soon be caught within a conflict between mankind and others like him as they prepare to fight a new war based on terror.  Continue reading

Manga Review : Alice 19th / by Yuu Watase

alice 19Alice 19th, Volumes 1-7 (complete) / by Yuu Watase

Translated from the Japanese by Lance Caselman

Viz, 2003-2004.

Originally published as “Alice 19th”
by Shogakukan, Inc., 2001

9781591162155 (volume 1)


Verso (volume 1):

Alice Seno is a seemingly shy and meek girl who always seems to be outshined by her older sister Mayura. One day, Alice has an encounter with a mysterious and magical rabbit girl, and her life is turned upside down. Alice discovers that certain words have power, and that she has the potential to be master of a set of sublimely powerful words called the Lotis Words. But power always comes with a price, and the price may turn out to be Alice’s sister Mayura.

*also, I copied this image off of GoodReads. My copy has the correct spelling of “story” (not “sroty”) on the cover. If you’ve got a first edition of this manga, I’d love to know if it was sent out with this spelling error… because that’d be hilarious! Continue reading

Manga Review: Flying Witch, Volume 1 by Chihiro Ishizuka

31172294Flying Witch, volume 1 by Chihiro Ishizuka

Translated by Melissa Tanaka

Published by Vertical Comics, ©2017

Originally Published in Bessatsu Shonen Magazine, Kodansha Ltd., ©2013-

978-1-945054-09-9 

Stars: ★★ / 5

 

Flying Witch is a slice-of-life shounen manga about a 15-year-old witch, Makoto Kowata, who has left her home (with her black cat familiar); as is the “right-of-passage” custom to become a fully-fledged witch (think Kiki’s Delivery Service). I loved the characters in this series – they are so fun, quirky and just like-able. I particularly love the way the characters react to Kowata upon learning she is a witch and even more so, Kowata’s naivety in adjusting to her new surroundings. I think a lot of people will really love this cute, calm, and cheerful slice-of-life manga.

BUT… there are some major issues with it for me.

Continue reading

Manga Review: The Walking Man / by Jiro Taniguchi

The Walking ManThe Walking Man

by Jirō Taniguchi

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The walking man encourages you to forget the pressures of life and enjoy every step of the journey; to appreciate every experience and meeting. This is less a story and more an expression of feelings told through beautifully rendered, compact illustrations. And, can we just appreciate Taniguchi’s mastery over screen tones…. this is how it should be done!

The only issues I had are with the publication: flipped pages were entirely unnecessary; and it would have been wonderful seeing some of the watercolour spreads printed in colour. Disappointing, but hardly deal breakers.

I have never felt more calm while reading a manga. I loved this. I would recommend reading this outdoors on a comfortably warm Summer evening as far from city noises as possible.

Manga Review: Times Two by Shouko Akira

Times TwoTimes Two

by Shouko Akira

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I’d read this before and didn’t remember it being so cute. Basically a series of 5 unconnected stories about the agony of falling in love in high school. I especially enjoyed the story “Second Impression”. There’s something about ESP in shoujo manga that I absolutely love. Maybe because it’s an easy way for one of the characters to really find out how the other feels and removes that annoying ‘trope’ of tension created through miscommunication. If you like innocent pure love shoujo, or are a fan of the authors other title, Monkey High, you should consider giving this a try.

Manga Review: GoGo Monster by Taiyo Matsumoto

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This is seriously one of the most beautiful manga publications in my collection. It has a full color cardboard sleeve, a full color wrap-around image, and the page edges are painted red with further designs. It’s gorgeous. And, for that alone, I think it’s worth collecting.

But, then you have the story… and “my god!” my brain feels like it’s melting. (that’s a good thing) Like most of Matsumoto’s works the protagonists are children working out their reality/trying to figure out their place in the world. It primarily surrounds two boys.

The first has been going to this school for a long time. He’s a loner. And has been ostracized by the entire class because of his strange behaviour and talk of the supernatural. His only friend is the school caretaker who listens quietly and intently in his stories, but rarely comments or encourages the behaviour. Throughout the story the boy begins to get agitated as the voices he’s been relying on have started to go quiet.

The second boy is new to the school. And as much as he’s been warned to stay away from the first boy, he finds his behaviour intriguing, if not bewildering, and makes friends with him. He also asks questions and listens to the stories, but is of course doubtful as to their validity.

DGRmue-UQAELy4yThe whole thing feels like a metaphor for growing up. There is constant concern over the other side, of adulthood, of breaking the rules, of death… all of these discussions between the characters seem to be markers of that pivotal moment in a child’s life when they’re no longer a child. They take a step into a limbo where they’re still children, but not children at the same time.

It’s a brilliant reading experience – delving deep into the psyche of children. But, I think is best understood intrinsically. I think if you’re trying to figure out what is going on during every panel, you’ll only wind yourself into knots.

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Manga Review: Descending Stories, volume 1 / by Haruko Kumota

DGeQ-dKUIAAEvuuI’ve been pretty hyped to read this after hearing so many great things about the anime; many people touting this story as a “masterpiece”.

I’m less enthused after reading it than I was expecting. It has one major flaw in my eyes and that is it is written by a yaoi author. i.e. she brings with it a lack of character development. Because most yaoi series tend to be on the shorter side (at least what has been released here) authors have to develop their characters quickly. And they can do this because they are working with stock characters. The uke and seme are the most common character types complete with defining relationship roles, personality (both private and public), and even artistic design. If you’re a regular reader of the genre, you will instantly pick out which character belongs to which static character type and can enjoy the quick-ride which is the story.

But this is not yaoi (it might have some gay characters, but that doesn’t define the genre). So, it’s quick character development isn’t enough to engender an emotional response from readers. It falls flat. And this is my primary issue with this story.

It could make a recovery though. The way the story is structured could indicate that the two male character’s will get more focus throughout the story as Kumota unveils their intentions and feelings. But other characters, like the lead female character doesn’t have much left to give. Her character has been laid bare, and her intentions/motivations clear.

But the story! The story! The story could save this for me. It is one of the most unique subjects I’ve read about. It’s about a young man recently released from prison. While he was in prison he heard the comedic storytelling (rakugo) of the legendary master Yakumo Yurakutei and decided to become his apprentice. He persuades Yakumo to take him on, and is eager to get started to learn the art of rakugo.

This is the first time I’ve read anything about rakugo. I’ve had a little exposure to it through watching Japanese television. But, this purely Japanese art-form is fascinating to me to read about.

Now all Kumota needs is to develop her characters a bit more and this will be a great manga…I’ll wait!

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Manga Review: We Were There, vol 1-16 / Yuuki Obata

We Were There, Vol. 1We Were There, Vol. 1

by Yuuki Obata

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I read this series because I’d been recommended it so often, and also because I own the series, and I owe it to my money to read the manga I buy.

Unfortunately it’s not the series I had hoped it could be. Every time you were left with a hanging question about where the story would go, I predicted the outcome. It was NEVER the outcome I’d hoped for. The outcome was always convenient. Always expected. And never profound.

The characters are weak. I think this is the overall problem I have with the series. Not weak in character, but just weak characters. They weren’t developed enough — and their relationship wasn’t believable enough for me to buy into it. Actually I was thinking their relationship was more toxic than romantic, there were moments where I thought the author was aware of it too — but if she was, she certainly didn’t do anything about it!

The story itself is fine, if a little slow and predictable. The art in it is suitable (if occasionally inconsistent).

There was a surprise thrown into this series that made the beginning worth reading. It comes at the middle of the series, around volume 11. High school is over. Yano is gone. And, Nanami hasn’t seen him in 5 years.

It’s from this point onward that the series gets interesting. And it’s at this point onward that you get SOME of the much desired character development. I’m not going to say it’s a lot — and I’m not going to say it isn’t completely predictable, but I will say that you do start to have some feelings for Yano and Nanami as characters.

Unfortunately these feelings didn’t come soon enough. I’m a person who is normally easily moved. I felt stone cold-hearted reading to the end.

But, do I recommend this series?!

Maybe. I would say try the series. If you don’t buy into the characters relationship right at the beginning it’s probably not worth reading until the end. But, if you completely get behind Yano and Nanami’s relationship (if their love moves you), this will probably be one of the best shoujo dramas you’ll ever read!

It all boils down to the characters…