Welcome to the first I Wish I Wrote That of 2011! I’ve got a great batch of writing to share with you this month, which is a pretty great way to start off the year.
First off, today’s main attraction is a wonderful essay posted just last night, the latest in Jason Thompson‘s “House of 1000 Manga,” this time featuring Swan.
Published incompletely in English by the now-defunct CMX, Swan is one of those manga I am trying my hardest to collect before the volumes become so scarce that they all go for $300 apiece from skeevy Amazon sellers. I haven’t yet made it to the double-digits, something that reading Jason’s essay makes me deeply regret. Almost nobody can make me want to read a manga the way that Jason Thompson can (which is why I went immediately broke after the release of Manga: The Complete Guide), and the way he talks about Swan, I expect my bank account will suffer again. A quote:
“I didn’t expect that a shojo manga about ballet would be one of the most fiery-spirited shonen manga I’ve read in the last few years. Blood and sweat, competition, agonizing training sequences — these are things that are more common in boys’ manga, but Swan transfers them to the ballet and somehow makes it a perfect fit. It’s a mixture of rivalry and hard work, art and elegance; a combination of yûjô, doryoku, bigaku … I don’t know if this is just stereotypes, but judging purely from Swan, Japanese girls in 1976 were 10 times more badass than men in most countries today.”
Jason’s maybe not as “quotable” as some snarkier manga critics–I’m not doubled over with laughter when I read even his funniest lines. The beauty of his writing is found in the whole, and the whole is what must be read. I wish I wrote that!
A few other terrific links:
Khursten Santos has a new review up at Otaku Champloo, for est em’s gorgeous BL anthology, Red Blinds the Foolish. “There was a time when I used to dream of Spanish fiestas. La Tomatina. Hogueras de San Juan. San Isidro de Madrid. Corrida de toros. And I did not dream of this because my country, the Philippines, used to be a Spanish colony. My fascination with it lies in the romance of the activity. There was something beautiful and romantic with the order that comes with the chaos of a fiesta.”
At The Manga Critic, Kate Dacey reworked a older review of Taiyo Matsumoto’s Blue Spring, and the result is beautifully descriptive: “Matsumoto eschews linear narrative in favor of digressions and fragments; as a result, we feel more like we’re living in the characters’ heads than reading a tidy account of their actions. Snatches of daydreams sometimes interrupt the narrative, as do jump cuts and surreal imagery: sharks and puffer fish drift past a classroom window where two teens make out, a UFO languishes above the school campus. Even the graffiti plays an integral part of Matsumoto’s storytelling; the walls are a paean to masturbation, booze, and suicide, cheerfully urging ‘No more political pacts–sex acts!'”
This one’s going to get super-meta, but in my very first incarnation of this column, I praised Shaenon Garrity’s essay about Cathy Guisewite’s Cathy. Today, Noah Berlatsky did the same at The Hooded Utilitarian, and dammit, his is better than mine. “Ultimately, though, while I appreciate the insight into my own animosities, what really made this perhaps my favorite piece of the year was the insight into Shaenon’s affections … the piece is filled with affection, and indeed love. That love is directed precisely at Cathy’s fans; the Baby Boomer women. Among those women is Shaenon’s mother…and Cathy Guisewite herself.”
And speaking of Shaenon Garrity, her latest post at comiXology, about Neil Gaiman’s Sandman makes me want to finally finish the series, which I had loved until I got too bogged down in the visual overload of its ever-changing artwork. “I dreaded rereading Sandman because it was the comic that got me hooked on comic books, when I was a nerdy teenager who hung out with the goths and followed them to Kent State coffeehouses on Friday nights, and there was no way it could possibly live up to my memories. The Dark Knight Returns didn’t; the art’s still amazing, but all of Batman’s monologues now sound like they’re about butt sex, and the fact that I can’t read them without giggling indicates that I’ve somehow gotten more juvenile since I was sixteen.” Or maybe I just want to read more Shaenon.
That’s what I wish I wrote this month! Readers, what about you?
Noah Berlatsky saysJanuary 21, 2011 at 7:49 am
Melinda Beasi saysJanuary 21, 2011 at 8:05 am
I thought you might need a moment to recover from being mentioned here in a positive light. ;)
CJ saysJanuary 21, 2011 at 8:02 am
I really wish CMX had maybe put their manga in Borders so I could get it easier, maybe if they had, more people would have bought their stuff and they wouldn’t have had to fold without finishing Swan or Eroica (neither of which I got to enjoy). And so far, I think only Tenjou Tenge and Gon have been license rescued :( while Emma, Swan, Eroica, and others all go out of print. So now I boycott DC for this.
Melinda Beasi saysJanuary 21, 2011 at 8:04 am
Weeell, in my (limited) experience, publishers can’t just put their books in stores. The stores have to actually buy them! So it’s not really up to the pubs.
CJ saysJanuary 21, 2011 at 8:46 am
But I feel like DC didn’t even really try to get stuff in stores, Go Comi got some stuff in stores (even though they went defunct later) and Seven Seas doesn’t have much in their line-up, but they’ve still got plenty of stuff in stores.
DC could have also tried to advertise stuff more, I didn’t even know CMX existed for several years after they were formed, I maybe only knew of them for about 2 years or so before they shut down.
lys saysJanuary 22, 2011 at 12:16 am
Once upon a time I happened upon the first few volumes of Oyayubihime Infinity at my local bookstore. But like you, I’d barely heard of CMX until then either (when I fell in love with Oyayubihime Infinity, I did my best to study up on what I’d been missing, but I think I’m a little more aware than many readers). I don’t remember the timeframe so well, but it seems like around or just after that time there were all sorts of bookstore issues going on and manga publishers dealing with massive amounts of returns for low-selling stock (my local Bargain Books became a great place for CMX titles and obscure Tokyopop series), and I’m guessing that’s why a lot of bookstores stopped carrying much CMX. Mine still had Emma, which I imagine was a decent-selling title because of the anime and the name-recognition, but everything else I wanted from them, I had to special order. I finally started seeing a couple of their new series pop up on shelves in early 2010 or so, but of course by then it was too late.
So in my mind, the problem started because CMX titles didn’t sell, whether because they didn’t have enough promotion from DC, or the covers weren’t as enticing, or the titles they published were subtly awesome rather than mainstream popular, or because people never would get over the silly TenTen thing, or whatever. And because they didn’t sell, bookstores stopped stocking them, which meant they sold even worse. Still, I’m very much with you in thinking DC could’ve and should’ve done more to promote the line. CMX, I miss you so!
DerikB saysJanuary 21, 2011 at 9:25 am
What a great column idea (I guess I missed the previous ones).
I really enjoyed Robert Stanley Martin on Lille Carré’s “The Carnival” http://polculture.blogspot.com/2011/01/comics-review-lilli-carre-carnival.html
I immediately pulled it off my shelf and reread.
Melinda Beasi saysJanuary 21, 2011 at 9:29 am
Thanks! I suspect they’re easy to miss, since they’re monthly. :)
Thanks for sharing that link, too! I look forward to reading.
Katherine Dacey saysJanuary 21, 2011 at 9:39 am
Thanks for the shout-out, Melinda! Here are a few recent essays that I really enjoyed:
David Welsh’s brand-new review of Sand Chronicles, which pretty much eliminates the need for anyone else to review this series (except to say, “Buy it!”);
Deb Aoki’s spot-on take-down of LIVES, which does an excellent job of explaining why the fanservice in that book is so off-putting;
Jason Thompson’s essay on Ginga Legend Weed, which explains how a so-so artist found a lucrative niche for himself by drawing dog manga; and
Carlo Santos’ most recent Right Turn Only!!! column. Santos is one of my favorite writers: he’s funny, he’s sharp, and he gives every book a fair shake, even when the premise sounds egregious. I disagree with his grades about 40% of the time, but I read his column religiously because it’s so smart and entertaining.
Melinda Beasi saysJanuary 21, 2011 at 9:42 am
Oh, wow, thanks for all those great links, Kate! I’d seen David’s, of course, but the rest I missed entirely! Thanks!
David Welsh saysJanuary 21, 2011 at 5:37 pm
Thanks, Kate! “Buy it!” was actually my first draft, so I’m glad that came through! ;-)
I’ll add one to the list, Alexander Hoffman’s thought-provoking look at the appeal of Fumi Yoshinaga, in which he makes a terrific comparison to the work of Mitsuru Adachi.
There’s been loads of great reading this week.
Kris saysJanuary 23, 2011 at 3:37 pm
On Sandman, if you’re looking to get back into it, they’re rereleasing each volume using the upgraded prints from the Absolute Sandman books. I’ve got about the first 7 volumes, but I’ve put my collection on hold to get the new volumes as they come out. They’re up to…oh…volume 3 or 4, maybe?
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