Archive for July, 2011
Artist/Writer: Keiji Nakazawa
Published in: 1973–1985 (Japan), 2004–2010 (America)
American Publisher: Last Gasp
Genres: Shounen, war, documentary
Premise: Gen is a young boy unlucky enough to live in Hiroshima in 1945. And the bomb drops.
Show x Show: It’s Grave of the Fireflies meets Maus
What’s it about? It’s primarily an anti-war story, focusing on the trials of working-class Japanese families during World War II. The bomb doesn’t drop until the very end of the book, so the book focuses mostly on pro-war and anti-war sentiment among working-class people during World War II.
How obvious are the themes? Very. This isn’t subtle, to the point that it feels almost like the diametric opposite of Japanese pro-war propaganda. Pro-war characters are closed-minded and evil, while the protagonist’s family is righteous and just trying to live in peace. Granted, Gen was published in Shonen Jump in the 1970′s (more on that later), so one shouldn’t expect delicate subtlety.
What’s the plot? Gen’s father takes a strongly anti-war stance, and the family suffers for it with hazings, unfavorable business deals, etc. Meanwhile, Gen’s older brother goes off to war and discovers that the reality isn’t nearly as honorable as he thought. Gen and his younger brother just try to cheer everyone up.
What does the art look like? Very, very 1970′s. This is the era of the gekiga movement, where cartoony art was used to tell dark, horrifying stories in the name of ”realism.” However, there are still strong shonen elements, so for example, boys get bonked on the head when they say stupid things. The juxtaposition just doesn’t feel right, though that could be a jaded future talking. I’m used to serious war comics like Maus.
Can I show it to my Mom? Sure.
Can I show it to my kid brother? It’s probably too intense for him.
Can I show it to a non-manga fan? Yes; in fact I think this might appeal more to non-fans than regular manga readers. The art has an indie comics feel.
How’s the dialogue? Impressively, each character has a distinct way of speaking. That said, this is a shonen title, so there’s a lot of moralizing and speeches.
Does it have any memorable moments? Plenty, particularly at the end of the book. This is mostly a story of everyday cruelty, though.
Bunny Drop, volume 3
Artist/Writer: Yumi Unita
Published in: 2005–2011 (Japan), 2010–present (America)
American Publisher: Yen Press
Genres: Josei, domestic dramedy
Premise: 30-year-old Daikichi adopts 6-year-old illegitimate family member Rin. In this volume, Rin continues to grow up as she attends school.
Volumes: 9, still being released in America
What’s it about? Raising a young child.
What’s new in this volume? Rin is growing up, and this is explicitly contrasted with what she was like in volume 1. She’s much more normalized now, happy and able to socialize.
What happens? Not much, really. We move a little further into dealing with Rin’s past, especially with Rin’s, er, paternal father.
Is it boring? No, because this is a more elegiac volume, dealing with metaphor and more abstract themes about growing up. Also, this volume feels like build-up.
Can I show it to my Mom? Sure.
Can I show it to my kid brother? Yep.
Can I show it to a non-manga fan? Please do. This is a perfect manga for non-fans, though you’d probably want to start with volume 1.
How’s the comedy? This has fewer goofy moments than earlier volumes, mainly because of that quiet, almost reminiscent feel to the story.
Does it have any memorable moments? Several.