I had a busy weekend, spending some with an old family friend and her teenaged daughter (a toddler the last I’d seen her!) who arrived in town Friday, and then attending last night’s installment of “Hooked on Who” at the Brattle theater in Cambridge (quite a hike from here, but so much fun). We watched Douglas Adams’ Pirate Planet arc along with a theater full of like-minded fans, well worth the drive. Before the event began, there was a rousing introduction that included a rundown of some of the theater’s upcoming events (including a screening of “The Girl Who Leapt Through Time” which is such a lovely film). The whole thing made us wish that our local independent theaters (in Northampton and Amherst) would host these kinds of things.
In manga news, the first chapter of the new manga, Bakuman, by Death Note‘s Tsugumi Ohba and Takeshi Obata is out, and it’s definitely got me interested. SPOILERS TO FOLLOW:
I had some issues with Death Note, but I’ve been a rabid fan of Takeshi Obata since Hikaru no Go, so I was very excited about this new comic. The premise involves two schoolboys who decide to become mangaka, one to escape the dull future he envisions as his school’s best student, and the other to get a girl. There’s so much potential to this manga, and it will be interesting to see how much of the creators’ experience in the industry will influence the story. Already we can see that they aren’t planning to paint a rosy picture of the road to success as a mangaka. One of the first characters we are introduced to is Moritaka Mashiro’s (the protagonist’s) uncle, a flash-in-the-pan mangaka (or “gambler” as he refers to himself) whose career sank after one successful series, and who lost the girl of his dreams because he saw his failure as creating a huge gap between them. The chapter ends with Moritaka having set himself up for essentially the same success/failure as his uncle, and swearing to do better, despite the fact that he spent the first half of the chapter rattling off statistics to prove that the odds of success in the business are extremely low.
The characters are intriguing, and it will be interesting to see just how successful the writer thinks our hero can be when he is chasing a career to win a girl, rather than out of his own ambition to draw for a living. Is the girl just his excuse to take on something he’d otherwise convinced himself was foolish, or is she really the goal? What else is behind the ambition of the school’s smartest student, who is willing to basically stalk a girl at her home in order to convince Moritaka to draw for him? It probably goes without saying that I love the art, but… well, I love the art. Obata’s style really resonates with me, and it always has.
It is hard to tell from just one chapter, even a long chapter like this (58 pages), what any story is really about, but I’ll enjoy seeing where this one goes.
In the subject line, I promised more talk of xxxHolic, volume 12, which I first posted about here. I really love this volume, and I was thinking about it again as I loaned the book to my mother this weekend (yes, she is that devoted to taking interest in her children’s hobbies), and then even more today when reading Ed Sizemore’s recent review of the volume at comics worth reading.
First of all, it is always gratifying to find that other people enjoy something as much as you do, so as a devoted fan of xxxHolic (and volume 12 in particular), that review pretty much made my day. I’ve had mixed success in getting friends and family hooked on xxxHolic (though, believe me, my efforts have been nothing short of spectacular, including an illustrated “persuasion” guide to the series which I won’t link to here, to avoid conflating “real life” and fannish identities), and it is rare that I have the pleasure of reading commentary that so closely matches my own feelings about the series.
As I said in my original post, volume 12 is one I especially love, because I’m extremely interested in the links between “reality” and “dreams” and this volume is where CLAMP really delves into what that means in the xxxHolic universe. This is mainly through Watanuki’s experiences, falling in and out of dream states, never being sure what (if anything) is real (and oh how beautifully it is executed), but this is also how the Tsubasa: Reservoir Chronicle crossover comes most into play in this section of the story, and perhaps the one difference I have with Mr. Sizemore, is that I’ve been grateful that I started reading Tsubasa alongside xxxHolic, because while it certainly isn’t necessary for understanding and enjoying xxxHolic, I do think it enriches the reading of the crossover sections, particularly in this volume. I hesitate to say more, because there is actually one thing that I knew while reading this volume that was only explained in Tsubasa at this point (though it has now been partly revealed in recent chapters of xxxHolic), and I’d hate to spoil xxxHolic-only readers, but I suppose what I’m getting at is that I think that following Tsubasa is an advantage, and I’d recommend it to anyone with the time.
Another thing that Ed Sizemore’s review got me thinking about is Watanuki’s growth as a character. I actually loved Watanuki from the beginning, though I think he has irritated many (including Doumeki). I’ve loved his desire to help Yuuko’s clients, even though he was rarely (never?) able to, and it’s been obvious from the beginning that his heavy protestation of the many chores he is required to do mask a deep desire to please. I also really felt for him and his plight. I read a brilliant observation once (made in the form of fanfiction), suggesting that his wild flailing would have naturally grown out of a need to hide his constant battles with spirits from those who could not see them–that as long as everyone was expecting him to be flailing around in daily life, they wouldn’t think twice about him flailing around to fight off the monsters that pursue him. Once I’d read it, it was so obvious, I was embarrassed not to have thought of it myself. I can’t help but think that part of the calm that has come from his growing acceptance of the people who care about him in his life is also influenced by the realization that he no longer has to camouflage himself, both because he now has friends who believe in the monsters he sees, and because he now has someone to protect him from them. I’ve talked a few times about how Watanuki made me cry at the end of volume 10, and the things about him that inspired that in me have only become stronger through volumes 11 and (especially) 12. His scenes with Yuuko in this volume are incredibly moving, and made even more so by the gorgeous art that accompanies them. What a beautiful volume.
I’d originally planned more for this entry (after all, Lissa Pattillo is reviewing Black Cat, whee!), but I think I’m winding down. Perhaps later!