Here’s a new blog feature. The nifty manga blogger, Kethylia, has agreed to let me post her weely reviews every Monday here on the blog, to share with you good folks. Here is a link to her site, which she describes as “an informal brain-dumping ground for off-the-cuff book and manga reviews, news commentary, leftist political rants, half-baked pretensions of intellectualism, and lots, lots more!”
Here is a description of her rating scale.
Otsuka, Eiji and Sho-U Tajima. MPD-Psycho. Vol. 1. Trans. Kumar Sivasubramanian. Milwaukee: Dark Horse, 2007.
Summary: An ex-police detective afflicted with multiple personalities gets out of jail and joins a private agency as Amamiya Kazuhiko. Soon, his embroiling in an investigation of serial killers of assorted varieties who all have one thing in common–a barcode on their left eyeball. Seems that Amamiya’s got one too…
Comments: Who would have thought that the overblown, “dark” fantasy shounen silliness of the 80s (a la Madara) would lead to the aesthetic cruelty of MPD-Psycho in the 90s? Though I suppose this was a time when male artists were being encouraged to beautify their art and their protagonists in order to appeal more widely (a.k.a. to women). Not to mention that it comes in the wake of things like, oh, Silence of the Lambs (also popular with women). Unlike Hannibal, however, who was an equal-opportunity killer, I can’t help but notice that everyone who gets graphically and creatively killed (or kills oneself) on-page anywhere is female. The only way we can get nudity in this manga is through the gross violation of the female body, you say? Color me delighted. I’m sure, that, for its intended readers, the ongoing eye bank/eyeball barcode mystery pales in comparison to, oh, the “artistic” rendering of three voluptuous, naked women on their knees in bondage gear with plants growing out of their exposed brains. No one is going to convince me that this manga is not profoundly misogynistic until I see mutilated male bodies on display in a similar fashion.
Notes: paperback, 1st American edition; first published in Japan by Kadokawa Shoten in 1997
Rating: 4.5/10> – You know, I’m sure there are people out there who adore and worship this manga. But I can’t help but wonder what it says about you if you’re one of their number.
Tamaki, Chihiro. Walkin’ Butterfly. Vol. 1. Aurora Publishing, 2007.
Summary: One day, the awkward and super-tall tomboy Michiko mistakenly walks into a fashion show and is mistaken for one of the models. She is soon humiliated, however, by the show’s designer, Mihara Ko. Enraged, she decides to exact “revenge” upon him by becoming the best runway model ever. It will be long, hard road to the catwalk…
Comments: Is professional modeling a competitive sport? If it is, then this is a sports manga. And if it weren’t drawn in an artstyle reminiscent of Anno Moyocco’s and serialized in a josei publication, I would go so far as to call it a shounen sports manga. Michiko is cookie-cutter shounen hero material, right down to her brashness, untapped potential, and passion for motorcycles. She even soliloquizes with classic shounen declarations along the arduous path to victory: “Now I’m one step closer to that guy!! I’m closing the distance between us!!” (Echoes of Hikaru no Go!, anyone?) Anyway, it’s an entertaining and genuinely funny book, with high production values and translation quality all around. THIS is how you do it, people! Worth pursuing for at least one more volume if I can.
Notes: paperback, 1st American edition; first published in Japan by Ohzora Shuppan in 2005
Rating: 6/10 – A solid title overall and an excellent selection for American release from Ohzora’s backlist.
Ikezawa, Satomi. Guru Guru Pon-chan. Vol. 9. Trans. Doug Varenas, Nunzio DeFilippis, and Christina Weir. New York: Del Rey, 2007.
Summary: Transforming with the Guru Guru Bone has prematurely aged Ponta, and her life is in danger. Though her friends conspire to prevent her from killing herself, she cannot bear to be parted from Mirai. And so, after a romantic night at the firefly river, Ponta appears to die. Fortunately, she’s just sleeping, and she awakens at the last possible second to a life lived happily ever after, married to her beloved Mirai.
Comments: This was mangaka Ikezawa’s longest series to date, and unfortunately, it shows. Guru Guru Pon-chan gradually loses its momentum as it progresses and virtually grinds to a halt in the final three volumes; I suppose I should have stopped reading after volume five, before it lost its halo of goodness. After all, a happy ending is obligatory, and once the shoujo heroine and her lover are firmly united in their mutual passion, there’s no story left to tell. The rest is afterburn. (You REALLY know it’s over when they have sex for the first time. Man on dog/girl sex, in this manga’s case…)
As such, the final plot twist was an utter waste of time. No way would Ikezawa kill Ponta off for good! (Ponta’s based on her real-life dog, and I’ve yet to meet a dog lover who would write the death of her own dog into a work of popular fiction.) I found it to be emotionally barren, and the funeral scene, a convenient device to reintroduce and bid farewell to all of the supporting characters met along the way, just tried my patience. My patience was even further tried by a blackened Ponta’s unlikely emergence from the cremation oven. And what was that? If she sleeps all the time, she’ll keep regenerating and live as long as a human? Is that what the ending is supposed to imply? Or is their love still on dog years? That would be just too depressing.
When it comes to keeping animals as pets, people are willing to accept the pain of loss for the comparatively brief pleasure of companionship. I suppose one could make the same argument for love of any sort…I could especially see a Japanese person doing that, especially in an uber-idealistic genre like mainstream shoujo manga. And, in a way, reading this series was much the same as having a dog: The abundant pleasures of its presence in my life more than compensate for its later precipitous decline and painful departure.
Notes: paperback, 1st American edition; first published in Japan by Kodansha in 2000
Rating: 4.5/10 – One of Del Rey’s best licenses to date concludes with a whimper…or should I say “pathetic doggie whine”?
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