cyphomandra: fractured brooding landscape (FMA)
I have been having problems with movies, in that they have all been a) not that good and b) too long and c) just not theatre, but tonight I saw I'm Not There (the Bob Dylan movie) and loved it. Even the bits with Richard Gere, who normally annoys the heck out of me - obviously what I needed to enjoy Pretty Woman was escaped zoo animals and a semi-apocalyptic Western setting (well, that and extensive feminist rewrites).

Anyway. My manga log for this year has gone over 100 volumes and, frankly, the chances of detailed updates on all of them are slim. This seemed like a reasonable compromise. I have included multiple links to Shaenon Garrity's overlooked manga festival entries, which are funny and have scans and are where I got a number of recs from anyway. I'll start with current reads, and then post finished series and those I am currently stalled on.

Currently reading:

My current favourite series are Naoki Urasawa’s Monster, The Kurosagi Corpse Delivery Service and After School Nightmare, only one of which (ASN) I’ve actually posted about on here, because a) I keep lending out The Kurosagi Corpse Delivery Service, and b) to do justice to Monster I really need to re-read it, but all three of these are excellent and all strongly recommended. I skew towards shonen/seinen and have stalled on a number of shojo series, as apparently I am just not girly enough for them; I’m also not mad keen on BL stuff unless there's a really strong nonrelationship storyline, and I get very twitchy about fixed sex/gender roles.

After School Nightmare, Mizushiro Setona, v1-6. )

Battle Royale, Takami Koushun & Taguchi Masayuki,v1-6. )

Black Sun, Silver Moon, Tomo Maeda, v1-3. )

Flower of Life, Fumi Yoshinaga, v1-3. )

Hands Off! Kasane Katsumoto, v1-4. )

Kekkaishi, Yellow Tanabe, v1-11. )

Kurosagi Corpse Delivery Service, Eiji Otsuka, Housui Yamazaki, v1-6. )

Legal Drug, CLAMP, v1-2. )

Loveless, Yun Kouga, v1-8 (scanlation), v1-7 (Tokyopop). )

Monster, Naoki Urasawa, v1-13. )

Mushishi, Yuki Urushibara, v1-3. )

Parasyte, Hitoshi Iwaaki, v1-2. )

Pumpkin Scissors, Ryotaro Iwanga, v1. )

X/1999, CLAMP, v1-2. )

X-Day, Setona Mizushiro, v1. )

Yotsuba&!, Kiyohiko Azuma, V1-4. )

The Young Magician, Yuri Narushima, v1-2. )
cyphomandra: fractured brooding landscape (Default)
I was intending to come up with something more analytical and have instead pretty much just summarised the volume (ie, massive SPOILERS), but this continues to be excellent in unexpected ways. Highly recommended, plus if you start now there are, I think, only two volumes left to come out in translation (ETA: 4 volumes. I have counting problems).

Setona Mizushiro, After School Nightmare, v6. )
cyphomandra: fractured brooding landscape (Default)
Town of Evening Calm, Country of Cherry Blossoms. Fumiyo Kouno (jaPRESS).

This is such a nice story, sweet and warming, but it’s also terribly, terribly sad. And also very worthwhile reading – it’s taken me a while to write this because this is one of those books that you immediately press on people (friends, family, passing strangers) and I’ve only just gotten it back.

The first story – Town of Evening Calm – is about Minami Hirano, who lives with her mother in Hiroshima ten years after the bomb. The cover has her walking home by the river, looking up at the sky, and holding her shoes in one hand so she won’t wear them out too quickly, which is as good a shorthand for her character as any description I could come up with; she and her mother are saving up to go and see her little brother, Asahi, sent away for safety and now adopted by his aunt and uncle. Minami has, on the face of it, a very ordinary life, right down to there being a nice young man who wants a relationship with her – but Minami was there when the bomb fell, and it’s a part of her life that can never be erased.

The second, longer piece (Country of Cherry Blossom) is about Asahi’s daughter, Nanami, impulsive and obsessed with baseball. It’s in two parts, the first in 1987 and the second in 2004; the main plot thread is about a friend of Nanami’s, Toko, who she loses touch with and then meets again, but the broader story works through all of Nanami’s family and friends as well, continuing to trace out the consequences of the bomb. In Minami’s story, the guilt she feels for those she left helpless is always with her; years later, it’s more the shadow of doubt and fear over survivors and their children, the social stigma insidious and difficult to contest or even confront.

The art is gorgeous, and the presentation of the manga – by jaPRESS – is one of the best I’ve seen. It took me a while to even find this, despite there being a lot of enthusiasm for it on the net; it deserves much more attention than it’s gotten anywhere near I am, anyway. It’s excellent, it’s subtle and it’s heart-breaking.

Shaenon Garrity’s OMF entry, which you should look at because it has scans and no spoilers and is much more articulate than mine, is here.

I was also trying to find a review I read that talked about the art style, particularly in the flashback panels that deal directly with the immediate aftermath of the bomb – the panels skew sideways while the text keeps its normal orientation, so as Minami struggles away from the dead and dying she is moving, almost impossibly, directly up the page – but it currently eludes me. A selection of other reviews is here.
cyphomandra: fractured brooding landscape (Default)
After School Nightmare, Setona Mizushiro. v1-3 (scanlations), v 1-5 (Go!Comi)

Mashiro Ichijo, a student at an elite boarding school, is told he must attend a mysterious class required for graduation – a class that takes place in the shared dreamworld of those students involved. Each of the attendees appears in the dreamworld in a form that reflects their true self and wears a cord with three beads on them. Each bead can be shattered by physical or emotional violence, and when the last bead shatters they wake up; if, before that, they can find a key – usually hidden inside the altered body of one of the students – they can instead graduate, leaving the dreamworld behind them. But the classes are terrifying, bloody and cruel, and the students who graduate fade from everyone’s memories, leaving behind empty desks and nameless lockers.

Ichijo’s participation is triggered by his own carefully guarded secret – he is not entirely male (he describes his body as only male “from the waist up”), and he’s just started menstruating; when he appears in his dream form, he is (unlike the other students) identical in appearance to his everyday self, but wearing the girls’ version of the school uniform. His fellow students, however, are less recognisable, their forms often horrific reflections of their own secrets, and their motives unclear.

This is beautifully disturbing and very very good: revolving (possibly unavoidably) around issues of identity, particularly gender, it’s hard not to sympathise with almost all of the characters, and yet impossible to see how they can all get what they want. I also like the art, which is recognisably shojo without being annoyingly frilly, and the Go!Comi editions are very nice. V1-4 have the colour opening pages, as well, although they're missing from 5.

More specific discussion, assumes knowledge of series while failing to actually usefully summarise events. )

I was hoping writing this would result in the arrival of volume 6, but although it is out the place I ordered it from ordered me volume 5 instead, thus dropping them to the bottom of my list of the three suppliers I'm currently experimenting with. The Go!Comi website has a sort of trailer thing here (for some reason, I can't link to the series page - look for the list on the right) to give an idea of the series and checking release dates with one hand over the screen to avoid accidentally reading any of the blurbs has a relatively quick schedule, with volume 8 (possibly the final? I’m pretty sure it’s finished in Japan) out in August.

Brief note

Nov. 17th, 2007 09:31 pm
cyphomandra: fractured brooding landscape (hare by durer)
I have a ridiculous number of half-written posts about manga (covering Saiyuki, After School Nightmare, Please Save My Earth, Silver Diamond, Loveless, Yotsuba&! and Flower of Life, amongst others) and one major work deadline, but I also, finally, have an internet connection back again. This is, therefore, just to remind myself that Monster volume 10 has the most physically discomforting scene I've ever had to force myself to read in any comic ever. I am still all twitchy and convinced that I may have missed major plot info, but I'm not flicking back to it to check (also, end of chapter 8? Arrgh arrgh arrgh).
cyphomandra: fractured brooding landscape (FMA)
In a tenuous connection to actual work I’ve been reading back issues of the journal Children’s Literature, which turned up a useful article on Robert Cormier’s The Chocolate War that explains much of why I found it so discomfortingly repellent by viewing it as a book in which there is no moral agency held by any of the characters, rather than as the more conventional interpretation of “rebel versus corrupt system”. Another essay on Lurlene McDaniel’s dying teens series focusing on death/illness as an alternative to adulthood, specifically female adulthood that made me think about the physicalities of illness in fiction. And this, from an essay on Maurice Sendak’s “Higglety Pigglety Pop! Or, there must be more to life”, a quote from Sendak:

“You must not ever be doing the same thing. Must not ever be illustrating exactly what you've written. You must leave a space in the text so the picture can do the work. Then you must come back with the word, and the word does it best and now the picture beats time. . . . [The pictures and text] become so supple, that there's this interchangeableness between them and the words, and they're both telling two stories at the same time.”


which leads me, inevitably, to all the manga I’ve been reading. The more I’m enjoying it the slower I go, and the more I fall into these spaces between text and image, these areas of tension where the story happens.

Hikaru no Go, v1-23. Obata Takeshi, Hotta Yumi. An irresponsible school kid is possessed by the ghost of a former Go instructor, who only wants a chance to play again. I have accepted that it is impossible to describe the concept for this series without making it sound wildly unappealing (or else dramatically re-enacting the entire plot and, really, this entry is going to be way too long anyway) so I’ll just say here that it’s extremely good and I love it, far, far more than I was expecting to after reading the first few chapters. It’s also the first manga to make me cry (and only the second ever comic) and every time I try and check something in it (for example, trying to work out where I got hooked – I think I decided Shindo was not a complete lost cause in chapter 3 of v1, and realised I was completely hooked during the tournament in v3) I end up either reading large chunks or just beaming at (most of – I will never gaze fondly at Ogata, and I’m okay with that) the characters, neither of which has made this entry any easier to finish. It is, basically, a sports manga about a board game, complete with passion and knowledge about the game (ever since I’ve finished I’ve been having urges to re-read Walter Tevis’ The Queen’s Gambit, which is a favourite book of mine with a similar passion for chess, although it is equally about self-destruction and addiction), as well as excellent art, and a large and organic cast of characters that I cannot help describing as well-drawn.

Lengthy babbling, complete with series-wide spoilers. )
cyphomandra: fractured brooding landscape (FMA)
I am feverish (a well-timed cold) and irritable and surrounded by notecards, with another six days of studying to go. At least shifting to notecards has done away with some of the low level confusion that results from picking up multudinous pieces of paper with tiny handwriting all over them and then squinting at them to work out if they’re vitally important topics or episode notes for Fullmetal Alchemist (I was about to write that fortunately I am unlikely to be examined on the creation of chimeras, thus making it easier to sort notes, but technically this is not entirely true). So. I am also behind by about 6 weeks on this booklog and scheduling a small break. Brief manga notes:

Death Note vol 4, Obata Takeshi, Ohba Tsugumi. )

Death Note vol 5. )

Hikaru no Go, Obata Takeshi, Hotta Yumi. )

Gokusen, Kozueko Morimoto. )
cyphomandra: fractured brooding landscape (FMA)
At some stage I will actually start making posts more imminently relevant to this particular icon, but not yet. In the meantime -

Fruits Basket, Natsuki Takaya, v1-3. )

Death Note. Tsugumi Ohba & Takeshi Obata. v1-3. )
cyphomandra: fractured brooding landscape (FMA)
The Hour of the Mice/Hatsukanezumi no jikan (Kotonoha scanlation, available here) by Kei TÔme. Vol 1.

An elite boarding school claims to be training its students for future leadership – but since arriving at the age of 3, none of them have been allowed to leave. And when a new girl, Kiriko, starts at the school Maki thinks he’s seen her before, but no-one else remembers her, and his own memories are scanty and unreliable.

The Hour of the Mice. )
cyphomandra: fractured brooding landscape (FMA)
Chobits, v1-8 (complete). Technical problems meant I read volume 2 last, but the others in order. I did like this, for all that I go on for the next few paragraphs about some of my issues with sex and gender in it; I liked the art, I liked the characters and I liked the worldbuilding, actually, which managed to do an excellent job of supporting a plot which really is rather shaky if you’re callous enough to look at it objectively.

Chobits is in the venerable tradition of electronic significant others for the slightly geeky )

I do want to read more CLAMP manga. The art in RG Veda does my head in, and I’ve yet to find anything earlier than volume 7 in X/1999. I’m circling round xxxHolic and Tsubasa at the moment – xxxHolic looks more interesting, but reviews etc suggest Tsubasa may work better in the long run. What I really want to do is track down Clover.
cyphomandra: fractured brooding landscape (FMA)
I’ve been hovering around the edges of manga for a while now, wanting to read it without quite knowing where to start. Or how – reading backwards? Just getting through the initial learning curve put me off. (My personal analogy was shifting between driving an automatic and driving a manual; I switched cars a lot a couple of years back, and for a while I had to consciously remind myself what I was driving, how hill starts worked etc and it all took so much effort; and then, one day, the whole thing just clicked into place, and I could swap between them (a more literary reference might be Laura learning to switch directions in William Sleator’s The Boy Who Reversed Himself)).

Anyway. So I picked up random volumes (and put most of them down again), and read reviews in a fairly unplanned fashion, and finally something stuck. The first series I finished was CLAMP’s Chobits, which, yes, has what could be politely described as gender issues (review up soon - I just need to look up all the character names), but was also well-paced and interesting, and got me hooked on the storyline enough to drag me through all my attempts to misread it, which results from mechanical confusion (see below) as well as a tendency to get characters mixed up. This is particularly bad if I’m trying to read manga in which everyone has flowing long hair and refined angular features, which astute readers will realise does not narrow it down a lot, and my attempts to read more CLAMP are suffering a bit because of this.

Mechanical misreading – my brain initially seized on the reading backwards concept as a *complete* reversal of my normal reading process, which means I read not just right to left, but bottom to top as well, particularly when the right hand panel was a full length vertical strip. What’s helped with that is reading online – having one page at a time rather than a two page spread makes me read vertically rather than horizontally, and I get less distracted by following speech bubbles regardless of the attached art. Using a manga viewer (I’ve got FFView, which is for the Mac) has made this a lot easier than just opening up twenty-seven oddly sized windows in Preview. Reading [livejournal.com profile] telophase's posts on the visual structure and vocabulary of manga ( - listed here) has also been massively helpful, and I now actually notice some of the visual cues. And becoming totally obsessed with Full Metal Alchemist, which I’m watching and reading (I’m ahead on anime, at the moment, but disc 9 is corrupt and I’m going to have to order another one, so I may catch up on manga) has also helped, in the sense that if there’s anything else like that out there I want to find it.

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