Tag Archives: Graphic Novel

Solanin, by Inio Asano (2005)

Meiko Inoue is a twentysomething living with her boyfriend in Tokyo, working in an office, and wondering whether her life could be something more.  There’s a lot more to the story than that (hint: the “more” involves playing in a band), but this manga’s most profound moments come in the characters’ contemplations about the creative life versus a stable work life, along with the emptiness that comes from not having a passionate outlet.  It’s rougher and very different than Asano’s Nijigahara Holograph, though the images share the same majestic beauty and the story captures a similar sense of wonder.

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A Girl on the Shore, by Inio Asano (2011)

A ninth-grade girl wanders distraught after a subpar encounter with the class playboy, then seeks solace with another guy who likes her and a shit-ton of graphic middle-school sex ensues.

I’m not kidding—this manga isn’t for the squeamish, since there’s A LOT of sex here shown in close-up, and just when you think it can’t go any farther, it does.  In terms of story, Koume and Isobe’s relationship shows a lot about first love, disenchantment, and searching for something you can’t quite describe, and their confused realizations keep you guessing until the end, with stirring results.

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Nijigahara Holograph, by Inio Asano (2006)

Children speak of a monster in the drainage tunnel behind their elementary school while one of them sleeps in a coma; as adults, their paths cross in mysterious ways, and there are butterflies.

Nijigahara Holograph feels obliquely perplexing until it reaches its gut-wrenching conclusion, though on a second skim-through the connections felt clearer, revealing this to be a meticulously crafted manga that tells a powerful story.  The climactic reveal left me feeling uncharacteristically drained and somewhat disturbed—I’m still not sure how I feel about it, but that a manga can exert this kind of power means a lot.

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The Best of McSweeney’s, Edited by Dave Eggers & Jordan Bass (2013)

This 600-page tome from the McSweeney’s journal packs a hard punch—not just because of how much they’ve crammed inside, but because the writing is straight-up good.  There’s a comics section, a play starring three cavemen, an account of a NASCAR weekend by a man who knows nothing about racing, a list of facts about Spokane, Washington, two stories based on F. Scott Fitzgerald’s notebooks, and a scattering of 20-minute fiction.  Extra points go to the fine design: the dustjacket folds out into a poster and the bonus materials include a box of postcards and colorful booklets.

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Death: The High Cost of Living, by Neil Gaimon, Chris Bachalo, Mark Buckingham, and Dave McKean (1994)

In this Sandman spin-off, one day per century Death descends to convene with the living in the form of an upbeat goth girl, and this time she’s befriended Sexton Furnival, a suicidal sixteen-year-old in need of perspective.  Their adventures are easily resolved, but the real magic lies in Gaimon’s dialogue and in the Death-Sexton mismatch, which takes place before a decaying urban backdrop alongside a colorful cast of side characters.  As a bonus, the collection comes with a ‘90s-era sex-safe comic outlining the importance of condom use as protection from AIDS, a PSA time-capsule fitting of the Philadelphia era.

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The Flowers of Evil (Vol. 1-11), by Shuzo Oshimi (2012-2014)

Kasuga, a shy middle-schooler obsessed with Baudelaire, impulsively steals his crush’s gym clothes only to be spotted by the class outcast and labeled a pervert, but is he really a pervert, or just looking to form a normal relationship?  Powerful stories never fail to make you care about their characters, and Oshimi pulls this off incredibly—his explorations of courtship, friendship, surviving adolescence, and fitting in capture his characters at their most vulnerable.  The series’ driving question is whether Kasuga will cave in to the adult world like a shitbug or find his own path—whatever that might mean.

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Golgo 13: Supergun, by Takao Saito (1979 & 1997)

Golgo 13 is Japan’s longest-running manga series, chronicling the exploits of super-tough, laconic sniper Duke Togo, alias Golgo 13.  The two jobs in this collection involve an Iraqi ballistic superweapon (a story where both Bill Clinton and Saddam Hussein feature prominently) and a mafia hit and run, plus a background dossier on Togo himself.  If you’re looking for an intro to pulp Japanese action manga, start here—the drawings are dark and the midnight cityscapes majestic, with plenty of guns, planes, action, and sex to capture the feel of an ‘80s action movie in comic form.

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Where I Got It

Christmas 2016, from a friend who knew I loved the Golgo 13 NES games. While every convenience store in Japan sells the Japanese manga books, I never got to the chance to check them out when I lived there since English translations are harder to find, .

More

Wikipedia

Playthrough video of Golgo 13 – Top Secret Episode on the NES

The Wicked + The Divine Book 2: Fandemonium, by Kieron Gillen & Jamie McKelvie (2015)

Is fleeting greatness worth the ultimate cost?  How many of us can reach that greatness?  Furthermore, what happens when we feel that greatness lies within our grasp but just can’t seem to reach it?  These questions feel more pronounced in the Wicked + The Divine’s second collection, where mere mortal protagonist Laura tries vainly to reproduce the teensy little miracle we saw in Book 1 and questions her relationship to the Pantheon of reincarnated gods that the world continues to fawn over.  Fantasy works best when it tackles real-world values in relatable ways, and this series does it beautifully.

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Where I Got It

Gift from old college friend, Christmas 2015 (along with Book 1).

More

Book trailer on Youtube

Longer review, with pictures

 

The Wicked + The Divine Book 1: The Faust Act, by Kieron Gillen & Jamie McKelvie (2015)

Amaterasu, Baal, and ten other gods from world mythology get reincarnated every ninety years; this time they’re taking the form of teenage pop stars and a little bit of hell breaks loose when Lucifer goes rogue.  The premise promises lots of action, and I loved artist Jamie McKelvie’s style, particularly the splash pages, where there’s always something to look at.  The collection also comes with variant covers and apocrypha that form the graphic novel equivalent of a DVD bonus menu.  Reading more chapters feels necessary to make a more concrete judgement, but I’m definitely liking the start.

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3-kafkas

Where I Got It

Gift from old college friend, Christmas 2015 (along with Book 2).

More

Kieron Gillen’s Tumblr

Jamie McKelvie’s website