Archive for December, 2008

Yoshitomo Nara!

Will be at Blum&Poe in LA from now ’til Jan. 31st. (link via Eric Nakamura/Giant Robot)

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One last thing before we go….

Ed posted a couple of interesting stories on MangaCast over the weekend.  (We, of course, were too busy eatin cheeseburgers with milkshakes, chewy-gooey macncheese, steak smothered in horseradish, and downing caviar by the spoonful while shoving fistfuls of geld into our pockets.)

According to Ed, MangaNovel has shut down.  Ed did a story about the MangaNovel service for PWCW back in November of last year.  His analysis here.  (He also has user news of eBookReader Japan which is an application that offers manga to iPhone and iTouch owners via iTunes – with a Japan account.)

Roland Kelts also posted an article from the Christian Science Monitor in which he was quoted – as well as Viz’s Gonzalo Ferreyra.  The article is titled “Japan cracking US pop culture hegemony.”   It’s an interesting manga 101 story, and well done, and I will read pretty much anything that headlines with “hegemony”.  At this point, however, I do hesitate to pitch Japan against the U.S., given Japan’s own domination within East and SE Asia, and it’s own hegemonic rise within the comics sphere.  But it is a good article, and one that makes some very valid points about the freedom of the comics format and the level of reality it can bring to entertainment.

Roland also nudges us to pick up this week’s New Yorker which has an article on cellphone novels – which are clearly the future.

I’m making one up on twitter right now:

Ch.1 : I saw him at the train station.  He had nice hair.  He asked for my number.  I said “Eew! Gross!”

Ch.2: There was no hot water at the love hotel.

Ch. 3: ……

I joke, but I actually think this is pretty cool.  The article has a lot of interesting and well researched facts and perspectives on this as well:

“From a feminist perspective, for women and girls to be able to speak about themselves is very important,” Satoko Kan, a professor who specializes in contemporary women’s literature, said. “As a method, it leads to the empowerment of girls. But, in terms of content, I find it quite questionable, because it just reinforces norms that are popular in male-dominated culture.”

Read more at I (heart) Novels.

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End of year

Putting together my top 10 for this year was a tortuous procedure. I’ve since submitted it and have had the craziest dreams. Ghost of Christmas past? Try inquisitive souls of creators present. I can’t remember last year being this difficult, or the year before. But this is the first time I wished, sincerely wanted, ten more slots for the manga that I thought deserved a spot on my list. Was it such a spectacular year in manga? In short, yes.  And you’ll find out why when the lists go out in the next PWCW.

I’ve written essays about the state of the manga industry, and I keep writing essays about the industry – not because I have answers, but because it keeps changing, and it keeps getting better.  Kodansha coming over?  By the time they make a decision on their move, we’ll probably be ready for some “female working man” manga.  TokyoPop in trouble?  Well, I don’t know which companies are going to survive, but the content will.  However lean next year may be, I have hope that we’ll keep seeing the type of stuff that we’re ready for.   Tatsumi’s 800pg autobiographical tome – yeah, we’re ready for that.  More Nihei Tsutomu from Marvel?  If CB brings it, we’ll read it.

And if Viz Media wants to keep flaunting their status as heavyweight champion by giving us a double dose of Urasawa come February, then flaunt!  Flaunt!  Urasawa’s joint production w/Tezuka, PLUTO, is going to turn heads.

PLUTO is Urasawa’s first book in the U.S. on which the name of his producer/editor, Tanaka Nagasaki, appears on the book – as well as Tezuka’s son, Macoto.  Urasawa comments on their relationship – and the overall relationship between creator and editor – in this article that appeared on the Comipress website back in 2006.  (My review in PWCW, here.)

Sure, the recession is making things tough – like old steak, tough – and the printed word is endangered, and things are going to get a lot worse before they get better, but as long as we chew through it, we’ll keep that stoke alive.

Urasawa launches in February, and up until then, I hope everyone finds a way to shake their tail feathers in the face of adversity.

Happy Holidays and til 2009!

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Creepy

Courtesy of Ryan Sands:

So which one is Adrian?

If it weren’t for the word balloons, it would remain a mystery.

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Go for Broke

PE Obama formally announced that Gen. Eric Shinseki will be his Secretary of Veterans Affairs.  The former Army Chief of Staff went head-to-head with Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld on a couple of occasions, most notably for his prediction that far more troops would be required to invade and secure Iraq.  More on his background and his belief in new army combat in this article written in 2003.

My friend Sunyoung actually called me yesterday to tell me the news and to remind me that today is 12/7, Pearl Harbor Day.  PHD was a big day for the U.S.  It mobilized this country to intervene in the expansion of fascism in Europe and Japanese imperialism in East and Southeast Asia.  (It also led to the U.S. occupation of Japan which eventually led to the reinvention and rebirth of manga.)

But PHD was also the day that the U.S. drafted a new order, EO9066, which pulled Japanese American families on the Mainland out of their homes and relocated them to internment camps.  Japanese American men were allowed to serve in the military a couple of years later when the U.S. military formed the 442nd Regimental Combat Team in 1943 and sent them to the Western Front.

Shinseki credits the 442nd and the 100th Battalion (the first all JA/nisei military unit) for paving his way.  You can find out more about the 442nd at the Go for Broke website where there are video interviews with veterans like Hawai’i Senator Daniel Inoue who talks about losing his arm in combat:

And then suddenly, a German stood up, that I remember.  And he pointed a rifle at me.  And I could see in the muzzle, a grenade.  One of those grenade launchers.  And I thought, “Oh boy, he’s going to fire at me and my whole body will explode.”  He fired and he, thank God was a lousy shot.  He hit my elbow.  At that time, I had a grenade in my right hand and I was about to throw that and that’s when I saw him and he shot my elbow.  And this part I remember.  I looked around for the grenade.  Because the pin had already been pulled.  And men were in the back of me.  I didn’t want them to get shot at.  So I’m looking around and all of a sudden I look at my arm and it’s dangling.  And the grenade is firmly in the grip, the muscles get frozen.  So I peeled it off and I threw it.  My aim was good, fortunately.  And then this is the part that I am not too sure of, but the men remember this part.  I picked up the gun with my left hand, my sub-machine gun.  And I started moving forward to attack the last machine gun.  It must have been a bloody sight.  With my arm dangling and blood squirting and I’m firing this gun.  When you think back, it’s crazy and sometimes you chuckle about it.”

And Colonel Young Kim (who is Korean but stayed on with the 442nd) who talks about what was at stake for soldiers:

“if the stigma that the Japanese Americans were living under was to be removed, then we had to do well in combat…By doing well, it meant that we had to do well – make a good record, but we had to shed blood.  And that some and not many of us were never going to return.  But that was a price we had to pay.  We also discussed what could we do if we did well.  And we all recognized that we couldn’t make any changes economically because none of us had reached that kind of promise or that kind of wealth.  At least not in a short period of time.  And so the only possible solution was to control the community politically.  So therefore, we couldn’t gain political control unless again, we made a good record…But I don’t think there was doubt in anyone’s mind that they had a goal and they had to do well.  And that, and everyone knew many of us were not coming home.”

The 100th Battalion/442nd was one of the most decorated units receiving 52 Distinguished Service Crosses, 560 Silver Star Medals, over 4,000 Bronze Stars, 9,486 Purple Heart Medals, and 7 Presidential Unit Citations.  For a while, the unit was only awarded one Congressional Medal of Honor:

In 1945, American-born Sadao Munemori posthumously received the Medal of Honor for his service “above and beyond the call of duty.” His mother, Nawa Munemori, received word of her son’s death while living behind barbed wire in Manzanar concentration camp.

In 2000, President Clinton honored 20 Japanese American veterans with the medal, but by then, many of the former soldiers had already passed away.  When the NYTimes covered this, it was a tiny article buried in the A1 section with a photo that was primarily widows and a few surviving veterans.

So basically, this is a big day.  All that sacrifice has finally come full circle.  So far, no one has talked about a) the irony/importance of Shinseki being Japanese American, or b) the significance of PE Obama waiting to go official with his announcement until PHD.  Someone’s probably working on an op-ed piece about this for a later edition of the Times, but for some of us, we kinda just want it now.

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Uh, I just wanna give a shout-out to my homie….

I was joking with my friend Jeff last night about tone and voice and how my blog often has neither, running the gamut from random thoughts to random shout-outs, and how it’s reminiscent of the enthusiastic ramblings of high-school kids.

At one point, I had the privilege of getting one of my short stories workshopped by short fiction writer/novelist Rattawut Lapcharoensap.  On top of being a phenomenal writer with incredibly solid craft, he’s a high school English teacher.  And one of the things he comes across in teaching, is this schizophrenic, uninhibited, adolescent voice that just cannot be held back, one that merges the big-up to homie Dwight, in an essay about the Scarlett Letter.   It struck me that quite possibly, that big, open voice, the liberal integration of shout-outs into book reports, is unique to America.  It’s unique to this kind of democracy.

I bring this up because of the recent events in Thailand.  Lapcharoensap has written an insightful and critical article for the UK Guardian about it, pointing out the inconsistencies of the PAD and how their push for democracy may not be all that democratic afterall.

“The PAD seeks a radical restructuring of the country’s political system – namely, a parliament composed primarily of appointees. PAD is therefore a misnomer. The protest leader’s recommendations are often anti-democratic and anti-popular. Theirs is an autocratic if not occasionally fascist voice in Thailand’s nominally democratic wilderness, and many believe that they have managed to rally the military and the palace’s support to bolster that voice.”

What this article really drove home for me, is that democracy isn’t just a system, but in the U.S.,  it’s also learned behavior.  There’s something to be said of the high-schooler who is going to toy with voice – because he see’s that as an option, and in fact, it’s an unconscious decision.  Maybe he does it because he doesn’t know not to, or maybe he does it because he see’s that opportunity to give his homie a shout-out, and he’s going to take it.  Sure, this is a weak argument, but I still stand by it.

Oh, and while I’m here, I just wanna give a shout-out to Jiro Matsumoto because he kicks ass, and to my homie Jeff, because he’s still reading my blog.

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