Because of his fame and influence, I tend to associate Osamu Tezuka’s work with like, dusty flipped English editions from the library that I read when I was just starting to get into manga and didn’t really have any context for it.
So I’m extra happy to read this as my first work of his in Japanese, in a very nice (but small) couple of think volumes from the Tezuka complete library collection. The upgrade in presentation and language fidelity I think extra makes it pop and let me really fall for the work. The Disneyish aspect of his work isn’t inherently a draw for me, but I was genuinely really struck by how dynamic and interesting the layouts are, how crisp and informative the art is, and how he can constantly turn on a dime from silly and fourth-wall-breaking to hugely atmospheric and grim and vice versa. There’s cool action scenes, beautiful landscapes, stunning title pages, and everything in-between. さすが「マンガの神様」I suppose, huh.
And Dororo itself is just bursting with bizarre yokai, and a truly unusual set-up in the form of 百鬼丸 and his sword arms. Dororo the character is also at least arguably a decently well represented trans character so that’s kinda cool.
There’s an afterword from Tezuka where he says it was inspired by the popularity of ゲゲゲの鬼太郎 (which is probably the #1 thing I want to read soon) but morphed into him doing very much his own thing with it. Interestingly, he also makes it sound like it’s more popular in the US than in Japan. I wonder if that’s just because ゲゲゲの鬼太郎 is less well-known here?
Some misc. poorly photographed pages that I thought were cool
All the title pages look really cool (lot of very cool ways of writing どろろ) but I feel like I took a picture of the least cool one.
Novel-wise, I read Kiki’s Delivery Service! It was quite pleasant and quick. A lot of sweet stuff about leaving the nest and striking out on your own. It made me miss commuting, since I think it would have really shined as a nice comfort on an evening train. As it was, the lack of a major driving plot for a lot of it made me impatient and I probably read through it faster than I should have.
Misc. manga updates
I’ve been reading a whole lot of manga lately with the goal of revitalizing what I used to have with English manga and the library - a way where I could just periodically enjoy lots of varied manga instead of treating each volume or series like a big project that way it’s necessarily been for me with manga in Japanese in the past. It’s been fun! And I’ve let a parcel of things build up without mentioning them since it’s a lot harder to know when I want to talk about them when some don’t change from volume to volume and others I know I’m probably going to read all the way to the end soon.
I guess what I’ll do is just mention whatever’s built up whenever I feel like and talk more or less about whatever I feel like talking about.
- 名探偵コナン (14-5)
I love Detective Conan! After vaguely assuming I wouldn’t like it I gave it a shot a couple years ago and thoroughly enjoyed it. It’s a consistent parade of fun (and surprisingly grisly) murder mysteries with an art style I like a lot more than I thought I would, and a heaping helping of silver age Superman-style secret identity hijinks, complete with copious amounts of super ventriloquism.
It’s not a series where volumes especially stand out though, so I probably won’t talk about it very much (but will hopefully read a volume every so often).
These had a ski lodge murder, a 武道館 murder, and a murder that really looked like it was going to be mahjong-themed but alas, was not.
- MAO (1-2)
This is Rumiko Takahashi’s currently-running series. It’s actually the first non-Ranma thing of hers I’ve read so far, so it’s hard to tell what differences are because of time, or the different genre, or what. It definitely feels… drier, or flatter, than Ranma 1/2, and I’m not sure if I’m completely sold on it yet, but it’s an easy read, the Taisho and 陰陽道 flavor of the setting is fun, and there’s some fairly horrific monsters. So I’ll see where it goes.
- ゴールデンカムイ (1)
I read a bunch (10 volumes, apparently) of Golden Kamuy in English, so this is me picking the series back up. I decided to start again from the beginning with this one, for the sake of all the juicy period info and Ainu vocabulary and stuff that I would have had a lot less context for originally (like a name like 土方歳三 means a lot more to me now when it’s been in my anki deck, for example), and to fill in my foggy memory of the plot.
It’s a series that has everything you’d want from a Hokkaido story (e.g. snow, bears, Abashiri Prison, Ainu, matagi, etc.) with a great set-up, an interesting mix of violence and goofiness that I remember at least mostly enjoying, and what seems like a good-faith effort to portray Ainu culture accurately.
I definitely think it added a lot reading it in Japanese so I’ll likely (slowly) keep catching up to where I was.
- チェンソーマン (1-6)
Of the strength of peoples’ recommendations and Lookback, this was the manga in my backlog I most wanted to read, so at the end of last year I started going for it. I don’t know that I like it as much as I was hoping based on those expectations… but I do like it!
I’d kind of describe it as like JuJutsu Kaisen but with the id cranked way up? Both in the psychological sense and in the “being like Doom” sense. Like it’s got kind of a similar (to JJK) X-Menish “mostly teen protagonists with powers fighting bad guys with powers with a high casualty rate” setup, but instead of complicated kanji powers it’s just a one-word them like “sword” or “blood” or “chainsaw” and the protagonist just wants to live simply and touch a boob maybe.
I really like the art and the 悪魔 designs, and it’s a fun and easy high-octane read. I wouldn’t mind if the plot developed a bit more beyond Denji’s horniness being his main motivator but I’ve been told that it will about where I’m at so fingers crossed.
- 紅椿 (1)
This is one of the more fun series in 青騎士, so I read the one volume out to catch up.
It’s… well… it’s a nudity-heavy monster women harem manga. It’s a lot better than that sounds though? A folklorist travels around the world trying to gather up various folklore creatures causing trouble, the process for which generally involves clothes falling off and/or bondage, to pacify and hopefully rehabilitate them at her institute. I think what makes it ok for me is there’s a sense of warmth and fun to it. Like it’s not “all of these monster women are inexplicably into this crummy dude protagonist” but “all these monster women are very grateful to this extremely confident folklorist” which goes a long way to make the rampant nudity and bondage seem all in good fun instead of just gross. Definitely still not really my jam exactly, but it’s an interesting take on something I would have assumed from the description would be trash, that I wouldn’t have sought out if it wasn’t in a magazine alongside much drier series.
There’s also a long endearing author’s note at the back where she talks more about the various folklore she drew from. She seems genuinely very enthusiastic about both folkore and monster women so… good for her!
- 伊藤潤二自選傑作集 歪
Junji Ito’s super popular in English these days, so I read lots of his books from the library, and this is my first in Japanese. The nature of them (mostly short story collections with similar vibes) makes it a little tricky to tell exactly what I have and haven’t read, but I saw this in Kinokuniya a while back and bought it because of the “自選” aspect (apparently this is the second 伊藤潤二自選傑作集 and the first got brought over as “Shiver”, which I did read in 2018), since the commentary from Ito would be interesting even if it turned out to be a best-of with stuff I’d already read.
I think in the end the only one I was familiar with was the first one, although there’s stories with his recurring characters (i.e. weird guy with nails in mouth; tall strange model; Tomie) in here that felt new but I may well have read some of them before…
Anyway, they’re good! They’re Ito stories! And his commentary was fairly interesting. My favorite was definitely the one about the town where when you die, your corpse transforms into your gravestone, and must not be tampered with during that process at all costs. I feel like Ito’s work translates completely fine, so I don’t think reading these in Japanese felt especially different than reading it in translation but it’s still cool though.
- LOVE GOD (1)
I personally think there’s value sometimes in picking something off a shelf with absolutely 0 expectations, so I’m gonna try to use Bookwalker freebies (which I have been vacuuming up with reckless abandon) to do that. A while ago I put together a queue of five things that I’d never heard of but own now because of that, that looked like they could conceivably be interesting, and apparently what caught my eye that day was titles in English or katakana and garish covers, so the first one up is this.
It’s… fine? With a title and cover like that I was worried it would be way out there but it really isn’t. It’s a late 90s story about a high school student’s trials and tribulations on the lead-up to exams and independence etc., with the mild twist on the premise just being that he’s a popular model so people expect him to be cooler than he is.
I’m intrigued by some of the plotlines, but I don’t like that the art pretty often veers into intentional ugliness, portraying characters as mean-spirited caricatures sometimes. And I don’t really get the impression there’s anything especially notable about it. I have 4 more volumes free (which adds up to most of the series) but I probably won’t read more. I’m not 100% opposed to it, there’s just probably better things I could be doing.
From here I’ve definitely veered back into more of the scatter-gun approach than the “first one thing, then the other” approach. I’ll keep trying to read a lot of varied manga (though it will be harder as I go back to work next week). Prose-wise, in my backlog system I drew 眼球堂の殺人 ~The Book~ as the next thing, which I got for 99 yen a while back and looks like an interesting science/math-tinged murder mystery maybe in the vein of those Saikawa&Moe mysteries they’re reading in that book club (which I also want to read some time…), but I’m not sure if I’ll actually read that next.
I recently found out three different pieces of media that were quite high on my rader, the Toshiro Mifune Samurai trilogy movies, the manga Vagabond, and the video game 龍が如く 見参！ are all based on the historical figure 宮本武蔵 and/or the apparently wildly successful (like all-time best-selling successful) novel series about him of the same name. So since I also have the first of those novels from a previous 99 yen sale… and I wanted to get into 時代 novels… that seems like a load of good reasons to check that out.
And I’m also tempted to just jump into my remaining advanced club nominee, 文字渦, since I really do want to read that, and I still have a lot of かがみの孤城 to read… So there’s plenty of good options!