Books on Japan: Japanese Manga
Japanese Manga 1
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Lupin III, Volume I
by Monkey Punch
Inspired by Maurice LeBlanc's Arsene Lupin, Lupin III made its debut in Japan in 1967 and has become an icon in the world of Japanese manga and animation. To broaden its appeal, TokyoPop has put out an English version of the original manga. It is printed in the Japanese right-to-left fashion, and some of the Japanese sound effects have been left in to maintain the feel of the original comic. The eponymous lead character, Lupin, is an odd combination of personalities: part James Bond, part klutz, part action hero, part Robin Hood, all ladies man. Master of disguise and escape, Lupin killls remorsely and slays women with equal abandon. (On the cover, the book has been rated "OT: older teen, age 16+.") Even for those put off by the occasional puerile digressions of the hero--or the often politically incorrect content--Lupin III is a visual feast. In places Mad Magazine, in others Ralph Steadman, the series features jumpcuts, close-ups, multiple arrangements of the panels, and witty drawings. Also, irony abounds. In the chapter "To Catch a Weasel," a thuggish character begins undressing a drugged and unwilling woman who has already told him what he wanted to know--keeping up her end of the bargain--but he brushes her off her plea to stop saying, "Come on, Luv. This is a Monkey Punch manga. He likes this sort of thing." In the next panel, the woman replies to the clearly distressed-looking thug seen only from the front, "Yeah..."--cut to the next panel, which is now seen from a side angle so that the knife in the thug's back becomes visible--"But he likes this sort of thing, too." The original manga spawned a television series that ran from 1971-84. It also gave birth to eight feature films, one of which was directed by Oscar-winning director Hayao Miyazaki. Recently, a US film producer has bought the rights to make an action film of Lupin III. This is a great introduction to the wild world of Japanese manga.
Hayao Miyazaki: Master Of Japanese Animation
With the notable exception of Tezuka Osamu, no one has done more than
Miyazaki Hayao to take Japanese animation to a worldwide audience. The
celebrated writer, animator and director's Sen to Chihiro no Kamikakushi
(Spirited Away) smashed box office records in Japan when it was
released earlier this year, though it didn't do as well as expected in
the United States. After grossing 0.4 billion at the Japanese box
office, Spirited Away went on to win an Oscar for Best Animated Feature.
This review was originally published in Kansai Time Out magazine
Kapilavastu: (Buddha Vol. 1)
by Osamu Tezuka
In Buddha Volume One: Kapilavastu, the legendary "Godfather"
of Japanese manga Osamu Tezuka builds around the birth of the historical
Buddha Siddhartha, but doesn't focus on the future enlightened one himself.
The story's protagonist is instead the slave boy Chapra, possessor of
a lighting-fast, super-powered arm that allows him to play David against
the Goliaths of oppression, Spartacus to the historical Indian caste system,
and even protector of the baby Buddha from would-be invading marauders.
He doesn't do this alone, of course: Tatta the Urchin, a mischievous street
youth with the handy ability to possess the bodies of animals, becomes
Chapra's loyal sidekick. Together they combat injustice, outwit the enemy,
and lend a humorous tone to Tezuka's romp through the realm of Kapilavastu.
Adult Manga: Culture and Power in Contemporary Japanese Society (Consumasian Book Series)
by Sharon Kinsella
Japan's literacy rate and high number of books and newspapers published
are oft-touted figures showing Japan's highly educated populace, however
over half the "books" published in Japan are in fact Manga - comic books.
Manga have also become one of Japan's top cultural exports, gaining increasing
popularity in the west. Sharon Kinsella's book is a history of, and more
importantly, a detailed analysis of manga for adults. Following a brief
history of the medium, she then examines how manga has changed since its
boom in the 1960's.
Dreamland Japan: Writings on Modern Manga
Stone Bridge Press
The dean of English-language work on Japanese manga, Frederik Schodt
has followed up his classic, Manga! Manga! The World of Japanese Comics,
in brilliant form. Dreamland is a series of essays that outline
just what manga is, the otaku phenomenon, notable magazines, a
who's who of individual artists and their work, and a lengthy chapter
Manga! Manga! The World of Japanese Comics
Originally published in 1983, Fred Schodt's re-released Manga!
Manga! is an improvement on an already stellar work. Schodt is a translator,
writer, and critic on things Japanese - in particular manga. He writes
in a fluent, articulate style that will persuade even the conservative
high culture guardians that manga (and anime) belongs along with Kabuki
and Noh and flower arrangement in the pantheon of great Japanese cultural
gifts to the world. Manga! Manga! is meticulously researched and
leavened with anecdotes from Schodt's many years in Japan.
Draw Your Own Manga: All The Basics
In this book, a girl and her stuffed animal help us to explore the delightful world of manga. Interviews with Takao Yaguchi and Toru Fujisawa serve as inspiration. These two famous manga artists provide insight into their lives and work. This is followed by an in depth description of needed materials.
Drawing instructions begin in the second half of the book. Your first lesson begins with drawing the human body. Helpful illustrations about head-to-body ratio are included. After tackling correct body proportions you move on to drawing faces. Correct face proportions are discussed and diagrammed. Although manga uses exaggeration, the importance of knowing how to draw realistically is explained. This section is well done. When eyes and hair are examined you are given many examples and inspired to create your own unique manga character. Frustration may begin to rise as you begin working with special effects. One of my favorite chapters entitled "background" has some good tips on drawing perspective. Included are some helpful diagrams that review steps and the "Tips from a Pro" pages are particularly invaluable. My older students who enjoy drawing manga have been thrilled to read Nagatomo's instructions. For the artist looking to advance or possibly publish their manga this book is a good find.
Dragonball Graphic Novel 1
Story & Art by Akira Toriyama
In their mythic quest for the Dragon Balls, what adventures/troubles
will Goku and Bulma have? One ball is owned by the Turtle Hermit, an old
lecher - an old respected lecher - who is also a martial
artist who is perfectly willing to sell the ball to the highest bidder.
Another ball is held in a poor village, but to get their hands on it,
they will have to save the village from Oolong, an awe-inspiring terror!
Story & Art by Akira Toriyama
Akira Toriyama's epic, which is currently enjoying great popularity on
the Cartoon Network, is now available in English in its original manga
form - reading in "reverse" order. After years of training
and adventure, Son Goku has become the world's greatest martial
artist. He will face off against all sorts of devious and powerful aliens
and villains and all around bad-guys. The fight over the fate of the globe
has never been so precarious - and so much fun.
Akira: Vol. 1
Story & Art by Katsuhiro Otomo
This is a "cine-Manga treatment" of the 1988 anime classic,
Akira. The film was adapted from Otomo's eponymous comic book series.
The format "consists of animation cells cut up and arranged with
word balloons in order to resemble comic book panels." The story
takes place in 2019, and involves a group of young thugs set in a Blade
Runner-like Tokyo (which in some ways wouldn't be all that disorienting
for anyone in Tokyo circa 2004). The gang, which is led by Kaneda, becomes
involved with a mysterious child with powerful psychic powers. The result
is that they become entangled in the top-secret Akira project - which
leaves the fate of the universe hanging in the balance.
Story & Art by Masamune Shirow
This is the first work by Ghost in the Shell author Masamune Shirow.
The time is sometime in the future. It is a time when "the creation
of life itself has evolved to include biodroids" and cyborg warriors
that are programmed to kill. The power struggle between the above life-forms
and humans could spell the end of life as it is known. However, the aptly
named Typhon may just be the one with the power to stop them.
The Official Pokemon Handbook
This is the perfect gift for any young Pokemon fan. The book describes the background and concept of the Pokemon battle, and it presents descriptions of 150 characters. The language is simple and clear. It is the ideal reference book for children (or, perhaps even more so, for clueless parents trying to figure out what is SO obvious, Mom! to anyone under 10). Also, from an educational point of view, the pictures will help build memory. A great gift.
Flesh Colored Horror
by Junji Ito
Junji Ito's Flesh-Colored Horror is a collection of creepy tales based on people who, at first blush, seem utterly ordinary. These are stories of love, longing, beauty, and the perversities of nature. Not recommended for late-night reading (or, perhaps, that is exactly when Flesh Colored Horror should be read). Set in modern bourgeois Japan, the impact of the horror is all the more compelling couched as it is in normality. Absolute terror awaits. Nightmares in print.
Attack of the Black Flame (Ironfist Chinmi Kung Fu Boy)
This is the third in the "Ironfist" series. The series follows
the growth of our hero, who hones his mental and physical and spiritual
skills to defeat his more one-dimensional - i.e., all fist, no brains - enemies.
The text is printed in Japanese cartoon style, which means it reads from
back to front, with numbered boxes. (Once you get used to the format,
you will probably find the numbering redundant; however, at the beginning,
it is helpful.)
Battle Royale, Book 1
This is the manga adaptation of the violent and controversial Japanese film by Beat Takeshi. Forty-two ninth graders set off on what they assume is a graduation camping trip. However, they have actually been shipped out to the deserted island of Okishima to serve as contestants on The Program, a state-sponsored reality tv show. The premise of the show is simple and horrifying: within three days only one student shall remain alive. On top of this, all of the students have high-tech collars implanted in their collars to monitor their vital signs. If no one has died in the first twenty-four hours, a bomb will be set off to kill them all. Each student gets a survival kit - and then takes off. The kids come from all types of backgrounds. The main character Suuya fights to stay alive and to protect the girl he likes; others go at it Lord of the Flies style. Human nature at its basest. Manga at its best.
Gravitation, Vol. 1
Gravitation is a romantic comedy about a nae young man trying to make it in the music industry. Shuichi Shindo is determined to be a rock star. He has, however, a few small problems. He can't play, and, according to the book description: "has no experience, no talent, and no band." After finding a rock-star caliber guitarist and getting a gig, he is now set to show the world he has what it takes - and, in particular, that his lyrics are world class. At this point, however, a writer named Yuki Eiri hears the gibberish-like lyrics and excoriates him and the drivel he has produced. Shuichi can't get the vitriolic criticism out of his head and forces his way into Yuki's life - eventually falling in love with her. A wonderful tale with one caveat: the English translation is only fair.
Barefoot Gen: A Cartoon Story Vol 1
"Hadashi no Gen" (Barefoot Gen) is a Japanese comic book series about a boy who has survived the atomic bombing of Hiroshima. The book begins as Japan is in the midst of the war. Gen is a normal, active boy who is more preoccupied with his own friends and life than that of the larger world around him. This world, however, is turned upside-down by the horror of what happens on a clear day in August 1945. Gen is a strong boy who manages to maintain his sense of humor in the face of the most trying situations. You will cheer along with him. Whatever your take on the use of the bomb, this is a compelling read. Barefoot Gen nearly brought a tear to the eye of this often cynical reviewer.
The Wonderful World of Sazae-san
Machiko Hasegawa was the author and artiste behind the most popular cartoon
in modern Japanese history: Sazae-san. Her series was serialized
in the Asahi Shinbun newspaper from 1949 until 1974. Kicking off
in the dark and impoverished days following defeat in World War II, Sazae-san
was a light and witty daily ray of sunshine for a Japan struggling to rebuild.
In the course of its three decade run, it sold 62 million copies in book
form; moreover, it has been made into radio programs and an animated television
Best known for her Sazae-san series, Machiko Hasegawa's Granny
Mischief was in many ways a polar opposite to the cheerful Sazae-san.
Debuting in 1966, Granny Mischief is a cartoon series about one tough
little old woman. The image of a "grandmother" is in most cultures
that of a smiling, comforting, forgiving, and giving figure. Hasegawa's
Granny could not be more different. She is cruel and mischievous - in
particular to her family, friends, neighbors, and even the odd stranger.
Especially horrible (and deliciously funny) is her bullying of her daughter-in-law.
This is a perennial and favorite theme in Japanese tv, film, stage - and
real life. In one cartoon, Granny consoles and then helps a woman put up
a poster advertising a 1,000 yen reward for the woman's missing cat,
even going so far as to bring glue. In the next panel, the woman replaces
the poster with another now offering 2,000 in reward money. In the last
panel, though, we see Granny alone at home saying to a caged cat, "She'll
go even higher." She appeals to that side in all of us that is dying
to do this or that, but of course would never dream of actually carrying
out. Granny however gleefully acts out the evil fantasies we all nurture.
You will laugh along in recognition.
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