Monday, June 8, 2015

Manga that I have Read

I was told a short while back that I read far too many comics from the west.  I was encouraged to read a vast number of different manga, different genres, different styles and even different target groups.  Well, I have no intention of debating or arguing about what I've read, I like what I like so that is not going to change.

But I should say first, I might not read a lot of manga presently, that has not, by any means, been the case for the entire history of my reading comics.  Additionally, I might read a lot more comics if I had the money to buy comics or people sent me comics to review instead of the pdf baloney things.  I love Japan, it is my spirit home, and I belong there, I believe it.

Moving on... so for the people who do not read manga and think it is all one sort of story, such as all ninjas, or samurai, or porn or cute talking cats or pandas, Japan's offerings in the world of comics are vast, diverse in genre, and are aimed at the very young to adults.  The Japanese are not embarrassed to say comics are lovely, exciting, fun, bright.  There are many comics/manga to choose from when discussing Japan but this is an article discussing the manga that I've read and enjoyed.  (I've read more that I disliked, but, that isn't important for the purpose of recommendations.)


The best Manga I've ever read, is also one of the best comics I've ever read, from any country.  LONE WOLF and CUB by Kazuo Koike and Goseki Kojima is the story of the samurai (lone wolf) who served a Shogun, only to be betrayed, and flees with his young child (cub), crossing feudal Japan along the way.   The stories are brilliant, violent and beautiful, evoking the best of Kurosawa samurai films.


Here now I present the character of Go Nagai's MAZINGER Z, or straight Mazinger as he was called in his American comics appearance.  He was a robotic hero, enormous, and allied with the good humans of Earth.  Go Nagai's mind created many fantastic works, I loved this book.  But it wasn't aimed at me.  The franchise of works surrounding Mazinger Z included cartoons, comics, toys, and more.


Masamune Shirow wrote and illustrated APPLESEED.  It is about a post non-nuclear apocalyptic world,  where some new states have risen, but former great powers have been on the descent.  The two main characters are members of a security force in a wild often chaotic perhaps even lawless area.  One is a cybernetically enhanced female, the other is a robot with many human characteristics.  Together they are a team, but they are also the leaders of a greater team unit dedicated to fighting the young rebels, or the crime syndicates or the people who have been enhanced and wish to try out their new martial skills.   At one time I owned the videos for it as well.  But this series didn't linger nearly as long as the others.  Not sure why not.


I met the next wave of manga with DARK ANGEL.  Kia Asamiya is a spectacular talent, able to write and illustrate, and has a grasp of drawing out the heart of mythologies at the same time applying what he understands and makes it understandable for modern and young audiences.  I didn't, actually, believe that I would like Dark Angel.  I thought that it would be silly or foolish, filled with vulgar or adolescent humor.  But the story about a young angel/phantom saint rising to his journey to become a mature veteran and worthy of his title was very moving.  I am not suggesting I would buy more, since I have very limited resources, but I liked it, even to say, a lot.


Many people are familiar with Akira, and it hit the US from highly acclaimed creative talent Katsuhiro Otomo, writer, artist and director.  In both feature film and manga he told the story of Tetsuo who lives in Neo Tokyo.  A nuclear war destroys Tokyo among other cities in 1982, and it takes until 2019 for the Japanese to recover and rebuild.  Street gangs, motor cycle gangs, psychic powers and violence all become the focus of society.  Meanwhile the government faces terrorists, and tries to reduce the threat of gangs, and of the people who have pyschic powers, called Espers.  The work is very good, intriguing and worth your time.


This work by the great creative artist Hayao Miyazaki is a comic/manga, like Lone Wolf and Cub, that is among my very favorite works.  It isn't my favorite Japanese work, it is one of my favorite works period.  I was in my glory watching Princess Nausicaa floating across the horizon, directing hordes of insects, or attacking enemy sky ships, and outsmarting the enemy every time.  The work is such a triumph of positive energy I both cried, and gave a victory cry when events happened.  Miyazaki is famous for his other works, but I am really not interested in liking what other people like because other people like it.  I love Nausicaa, and I do recommend it. 


I will receive shit for this choice, but please give me a moment to make my case before giving me that shit.  For some stupid reasons I liked the character of Spawn by Todd McFarlane. However, while I like the costume, have enjoyed some of the stories, I find the character to be utterly flawed and rather stupid.  His origin is downright stupid and I can't get over it.  But, the fact is, I still like when there have been alternative versions of the character that allow me to forget the aspects of the character I dislike.  Thus, I like Medieval Spawn, Mandarin Spawn, and Hellspawn.  And I really liked Shadows of Spawn, which was a Manga take on the character Spawn, utilizing the concept, but putting it through a manga and Japanese blender.  If you hate Spawn, you might like it, or not. But if you hate Japan and Spawn, you will definitely hate it.  But if you answered differently to those questions, that is, do you like Spawn at all, and do you like Japanese manga, you might like this. 

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