Sumi and Water

For the most part, I do my best to do the best job I can with the opportunities I’m given.  Verify sources, keep things cordial, keep my inner fangirl in check, make the deadline.  No bashing books, no love-ins; insightful critique and clean copy (steer clear of terms like “spanked” and “panties” – or at least try to); resort to writing about the punk stylish clothing in Shugo Chara and sweeping upsy-downsy hair styles in Parakiss only when necessary.  Be professional, take nothing personally, it’s just business.

But as far as this blog is concerned, business can’t wait to get personal.  I can’t always keep the inner fangirl in check – nor do I always want to.  I love comics and I love manga.  Or rather, for the sake of professionalism, I have developed certain….feelings for comics and manga.  But not everyone shares the love – er, feelings that I have towards both – manga is still a niche within graphic novels, a niche within publishing.  So it doesn’t take much for me to feel like the manga crasher at the comics party.

But every once in a while, a creator comes along that has me putting on my good shoes and my nice dress and throwing a little party of my own – one that typically includes me.  And Ed.  IM-ing me.  From Japan.  And that’s okay.

But this month, that changes.  Viz Media has launched a gigantic Takehiko Inoue campaign – Slam Dunk, his quintessential work, REAL, a series that, in my opinion, challenged him the most while allowing him to fuse two aesthetics in a storyline that further combines his two loves of basketball and drawing; Vagabond omnibus editions, and two books that I’ve been waiting for, gritting my teeth with anticipation, Sumi and Water.

It’s no secret that I harbor certain…feelings about Inoue-sensei’s work.  He is one of  my favorite creators for so many reasons.  Manga can be mass-produced and formulaic – either for the sake of the genre or the story (although often for both) – to the extent that both artwork and narrative start to feel old, stale, with characters looking the same, stories sounding the same.

But everything about Inoue-sensei’s work stands out in a fresh, lively way.  Not all that many creators have the range that he has – visually or narratively.  It’s common to see creators in Japan do series after series that are basically variations of the same thing.  Tsutomu Nihei is another creator whose work I feel strongly about, but BLAME!, ABARA, his Woverine: SNKT! comic for Marvel – were all in the same vein.  He does it incredibly well, but he pretty much does only one thing.  Inoue-sensei, on the other hand, does basketball and samurai.  And he does them both very, very well.

(from Water)

Sumi and Water are both artbooks that collect Inoue‘s lush Vagabond illustrations.  If you’ve only read Slam Dunk, you wouldn’t necessarily guess that he’d progress to this.  One of the many things that I love about his work is the inherent movement and life that spreads over the page.  Each picture tells a story.  Each picture conveys a certain emotion.  The energy of his lines is balanced by the stillness of his characters.  Inoue’s story of Miyamoto “I-don’t-bathe-but-I’m-still-damn-fine” Musashi isn’t just one of bushido, but one of becoming a man.

(from Sumi)

But the best part is that anyone who loves art or comics will want to get their mitts on these books.  Knowledge of Vagabond or manga isn’t a requisite.  Sumi and Water stand alone as the gateways to the rest of Inoue’s work.  And gateways ain’t a bad thing.

So this month, I’m having the party.  Everyone is invited, as always, I’ll be wearing my good shoes and my party dress.  But here’s the big bonus: people may actually show up.

(from Water)

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