Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Vent time.

I hate bad software. Having been a programmer for over 20 years, I know what it takes to make a good application. And it drives me up the wall paying for anything substandard, even if it was only $25-$50. Further, I had been pretty satisfied using Microsoft's Front Page for Win 98, ignoring the flaws with it, because it wasn't that hard to use and I could work around the limitations. But, then my laptop crashed, I had to upgrade to Win 7, and Microsoft stopped supporting Front Page on the later versions of Windows. So I looked around a little and found what was purported to be a decent low-end (meaning cheap) HTML editor called Coffee Cup.

Man, what a nightmare. Seems that the CoffeeCup programmers only want to focus on stylesheet support for fancy-looking commercial websites. That's not what I need for creating code to be used on What I need are simple tables, and links to images on Mediafire. CoffeeCup doesn't support tables well (they've got menu items for inserting rows into tables, but according to the CC support staff, there's no plan to implement the code for it), and it refuses to do relative addressing of page links. To insert rows I have to go into the code editor and do it by hand, which is a pain if there are a lot of tables. Plus, there's no support for column-wide selections so if I do insert a row I then have to go in by hand and reposition the individual cell contents one at a time if I don't want a gap in the middle of one column. What I want is column selection ala Excel. For page links, I'm writing the HTML on my PC, then uploading it to I don't want to hard code the page links, because I can't test them prior to uploading them to the server. But, if I do make them relative, CoffeeCup messes up and prepends "D:file\\" to the beginning of the link every time I switch views. This breaks the link even for testing on my laptop. So I'm forced to use hard links and give up the idea of local testing.

But I can live with that. In fact, I have been living with it for the last 9 months. What finally tipped me over the edge was when I was updating the Garo Special Issues webpage to add a table for Katsumata Susumu. This required that I put a new table in between the entries for Yuu Takita and Kuniko Tsurita. I'm using CoffeeCup's own copy-paste functions, and suddenly, the entire page is broken. Every time I switch between Code View and Page View, CoffeeCup adds duplicated code for both the Susumu and Kuniko tables, doubling the length of the file. Delete the offending duplication, and it just comes right back the next time I look at the finished page. Delete the page, start from scratch and add a new table for Shinji Nagashima, and the problem resurfaces all over again. I lost a full day messing with this.

Originally, I wrote a visual basic script to automate the process of generating the webpages for the regular Garo issues because of how long it was taking to do it by hand. I hadn't extended the script to the special issues because I only had 1 or 2 volumes to contend with at the time and rewriting the script didn't seem necessary. Not any more. Being fed up with CoffeeCup, I spent another hour rewriting the VBS to include special issues. Now, instead of the 30 minutes it would take to hand-edit the HTML in CoffeeCup (even when it didn't mess up), I can just run two scripts and everything's done in less than a second. This is a major deal, since I've got 3 more special issues that I picked up from Mandarake recently.

Which brings me to my next major announcement.

The Mandarake store in Akihabara seems to have gotten rid of 75% of its used Garo back issues. I went in around Dec. 17, thinking that I'd grab as many issues from 1970 as I could to work on them during the Christmas break (when my office is closed) and there was nothing there. Everything from 1964 to 1985 was gone. The shelf space was taken over by old copies of Shonen Jump instead. I didn't have time to ask the staff where the Garo issues went, but later I headed over to the Nakano store, and the Akihabara issues weren't sitting on the Nakano shelves. Nakano did still have some older issues, so I grabbed what they had up to July, 1971, which wasn't much. Mainly 4 special issues (Shinji, Katsumata, Seiichi and Ikegami), and 3 regular issues between Jan. and June, 1971.

In any event, I am getting tired of working on Garo, and had been planning on stopping when I got to the point where Kamui-den ended in July, 1971. But, if Mandarake is cleaning Garo off it's shelves, then I'll be finishing that much sooner. In any event, I've still got enough issues lined up for two months, at my current 1-a-week pace. I may take a break after that, but I don't know what I'll tackle next. I was thinking of sampling COM, but most of the COM issues disappeared from the Akihabara shop as well, kind of killing that idea. Nakano does have some COM issues, but it's a pretty small selection. The last time I was at the Shibuya store, there was nothing for either Garo or COM. So, at the moment, it looks like I'll be continuing the Garo features here on Nihon-go Hunter for no more than 2 more months.

End of vent.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Garo Feature #41

For the July, '69 special issue, I'm highlighting:

Shinji Nagashima's - Boy's Summer
Shinji Nagashima's - New Ugetsu Story

少年の夏 (Boy's Summer)

The story is set at a beach, where a young boy walks in the sand before sitting down. Crowds come in to enjoy playing in the ocean, and then leave, with trash scattered all across the sand behind them. Suddenly the scene jumps to a hospital office where an old man with a cigar is telling a younger, thinner guy something about cancer, the amount of money involved, the idea that the money might stay in the family, etc. Then the scene shifts back with the boy standing up, brushing the sand off his seat and walking back home.

新雨月物語 (New Ugetsu Story)

This is a combination of three short stories. It's related to the ghost story "Ugetsu Monogatari", which among other things was turned into a movie in 1953. In Shinji's version, we first have a hobo and his son and a dog, walking the countryside before they find a massive tree. The hobo settles down and starts carving the tree into a Buddha statue. The man dies and his son grows up and takes over the carving. But, he turns the statue into a modern art sculpture. He too dies of old age, and a passing traveler chops the remaining parts of the tree up to make crosses for the bodies of the boy and the dog, then uses the rest of the tree for firewood. In part 2, a young boy standing outside of a girl's house, holding a bunch of flowers, waits so long that his corpse ends up wrapped in with the ivy vines that grew up the outer wall. In part 3, a man dressed up as a clown and holding a sign advertising a coffee shop, watches as people pass him by on the sidewalk. At night, he goes home, takes off the makeup, and sits in front of an easel where he does oil painting. Over time he watches as one girl grows up, meeting a boyfriend, getting married and having a child. Just about when the painting of her is finished, the clown dies. The painting is put on display at an art gallery. The woman visits the gallery, sees herself in the painting and cries, remembering the clown that used to stand outside on the sidewalk.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Garo Feature #53

For the May, '70 issue, I'm highlighting:

Shouhei Kusunoki's - The Large Room
Tadao Tsuge's - Ditch Road, Part 2

大部屋 (The Large Room)

Note: The title, "Ohbeya", can simply mean "large room", an actor's common-use room, or a hospital ward. The story takes place in a hospital, where various patients are waiting for major surgery. The majority of the conversations revolve around the decision whether to have the surgery or not, with rumors about why any given decision would be bad. If you have the surgery in the morning, the doctor might be coming in drunk; in the afternoon the doctor is tired and making mistakes. If you don't have the surgery, you usually only have 6 months to live. If you do have it, you may overhear the nurses wondering where one of their pairs of forceps went, or that their post-surgery inventory of the needles is coming up one short. Two guys get the surgery at the same time; one comes out of it fine, the other starts coughing a few days later and dies under a post-surgery operation. Another patient comes in, saying that he'll have his surgery in a couple of months, so two of the ones that have already had their surgeries start joking about missing needles, and the new guy yells at them for making him worry, with the resulting tension about to flare into a fist-fight. Eventually, most of the people have left, with one guy who put off the idea of being operated on looking emaciated, coughing weakly, and near-death.

どぶ街 (Ditch Road, Part 2)

An artist approaching a pachinko parlor gets harassed by some local thugs protecting their turf. The thugs' leader comes out, recognizes the artist as his friend and apologizes to him. They go to a coffee shop to talk. Turns out the artist has fallen on hard times and lost his job. They depress each other, and go back out to the street. A woman happens by and asks the artist to meet up with her to go drinking. A little later, the thugs run to get their leader to announce that a rival gang is trying to get into their pachinko parlor. There's a fight and one of the enemy gets knifed and dies. Everyone scatters, but the police are summoned and they catch the leader as he flees the scene. The artist and the woman happen on the scene, and the woman runs to the leader to demand that the police let her husband go free. The artist wanders away and despondently kicks through some lumber at a demolished building site before walking off.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Garo Feature #46

For the Oct., '69 issue, I'm highlighting:

Susumu Katsumata's - Kapparou

かっぱ郎 (Kapparou)

A young kappa tries to fit in as a farmer in the countryside, with poor results.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Garo Feature #63

For the Dec., '70 issue, I'm highlighting:

Susumu Katsumata's - Gossip Woman

I've actually managed to skip issue 67, the special dedicated to Susumu. I need to go back and upload that one next week. In the meantime, I'm just featuring this one story by Susumu, because it's funny, but also because so much of Kuniko's works have already been included here.

噂の女 (Gossip Woman)

This is essentially a parody of Kuniko Tsurita, using characters from her various stories plus cameos by Akira Ogawa, Shigeru Mizuki, Yuu Takita, Yoshiharu Tsuge and others. The "story" is that each of the characters are being asked where Kuniko is, and they all repeat rumors that they'd heard about her.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Garo Feature #49

For the Feb., '70 issue, I'm highlighting:

Shigeru Mizuki's - Future Tokyo
Tadao Tsuge's - Certain Scenery

未来のトオキョウ (Future Tokyo)

This is a little 2-page piece showing the Tokyo of the Future as an over-built monstrosity.

或る風景 (Certain Scenery)

A man goes walking out on the roads to reach a favored fishing hole. Along the way he narrates the difficulties he'd had with his parents when he was younger, and how he'd badly injured his right foot as a child. It still hurts him now. When he gets to the fishing place, one of the other men that likes fishing there comes up and chats with him for a while. The visitor asks why the fisher is here since there's few fish in the area, and the guy answers that he likes the scenery. The visitor is surprised, since the place is fairly desolate and there's nothing scenery-wise worth looking at. They both leave and the first guy goes to his shop and opens it up for business. As he's washing down the sidewalk, a customer comes up and comments that he'd been afraid the place would be closed for the day. The owner answers that the off day is tomorrow. The customer buys some bait, and remarks on how clean the shop is. He leaves, and as other customers come by, the owner narrates again about having two younger brothers, the problems he'd had with his parents, and that when they'd died he'd inherited this grocery store out in Chiba prefecture. He goes home, where his wife says that she'd gotten a call from her mother saying that she was feeling ill, so the wife is going to go back home during the off day tomorrow. She makes up meals for her husband and asks what he'll do with his free time - he answers, "fishing". His foot bothers him, and we see that it's in bad shape. He peals dead skin from the top of it. That night they go to sleep and he wakes up with a start to see that she's staring at him. He asks why she's awake, and she answers that he'd been making weird noises in his sleep. They go back to bed, and she wakes him at 9 AM as she prepares to visit her mother. He's going to nap longer then suddenly his foot cramps up. He gets his glasses and rests his eyes while sitting up, and dreams that he's in the middle of a road, wearing just his night robe.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Garo Feature #47

For the Dec., '69 issue, I'm highlighting:

Susumu Katsumata's - I--diot

あ~ほ (I--diot)

Actually, Katsumata is using this issue to run a full 12-page story. Essentially it's a crow's perspective on Japanese rural life, debunking various myths and explaining the real reason why crows cry. That, and that they'd rather eat chicken eggs than watermelons.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Kazuo Kamimura Exhibit

For those of you that like the gekiga-style artists who may not have actually appeared in Garo, I posted a review on my other blog site of an exhibit that's running in Shimokitazawa right now, in Umezz's GAoh! gallery - for Kazuo Kamimura (illustrator on Lady Snowblood).

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Garo Feature #45

For the Nov., '69 issue, I'm highlighting:

Tamehiro Tashiro's - Painful Evening
Shigeo Masai's - Mime
Ouji Suzuki's - Helping Shou

痛かった夕暮れ (Painful Evening)

The master of the wordless manga explores new ground with a story where the characters actually talk. A regular guy tries getting a train ticket, only to be insulted and injured by the station personnel. In the end, he is forced to walk back home.

Mime (Mime)

Shigeo is going by a slightly different spelling of "Shigeo" (Shige + "fish"), and the English version of the name is just S. Masai". It's been quite a while since we last saw him, with "Demon Phone" back in Oct., 1966. A guy dressed up like a 1700's classical musician stands next to a tree and cries when the last leaf falls to the ground. His tears cause his shoes to get dirty, so when his attempts to get revenge on the tree fail he steps on the leaf, cleans his shoes, and comments on the crows flying away resembling the fleeting Autumn.

庄助あたりで (Helping Shou)

This is a selected work by a new artist. A young man visits the apartment of his friend, Shou, and notices that the friend doesn't look very healthy. Shou complains about being cold, and takes the visitor's book and reads it out loud. The visitor leaves and comes back some weeks later, only to find that Shou has sold all his belongings, is now living out of a box on the floor, and is looking very thin but strangely beautiful. Shou explains that when he'd gone out to get some cold medicine, he'd discovered a statue of a very pretty girl, who he'd been able to talk to. Over time, he spent all of his money on the medicine as an excuse to visit the shop. Shou dies a few days later, and the friend retraces Shou's steps to try to track down the statue. The pharmacy has remodeled and changed its name, but inside the building is the statue. Of a pregnant woman advertising baby formula (called "Mama Milk"). The friend is disgusted by this turn of events and leaves.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Garo Feature #44

For the Oct., '69 issue, I'm highlighting:

Tadao Tsuge's - Rainy Season, Part 2
Shouhei Kusunoki's - Stone Worker

雨期 (Rainy Season, Part 2)

This story is largely unrelated to part 1. The art is cruder, and it looks much more amateurish than before. The basic story is that a woman running a drinking room and her friend are joined by a customer. They talk for a while and it becomes obvious that the mama-san (female bar owner) is preoccupied. The friend and the customer talk her into explaining what the problem is. Turns out that her adult daughter had been seduced by a street thug (presumably the one from part 1), and had disappeared for a few days before suddenly coming back home. When the daughter had first tried to move in with her "boyfriend", the guy's thugs had threatened her into turning tricks for them. At this point in the story, the friend and the customer get embarrassed and tell the mama-san that they've heard enough. The story ends with the approaching storm building up and getting stronger.

石匠 (Stone Worker)

This is a simple slice-of-life story with art by Shouhei, based on a story by 冬木良 (which could be read as Yoshi Fuyuki). There's nothing coming up on him in either English or Japanese, except for references to this particular story.

A tall man visits his friend, a young woman that had quit her job in order to take care of her father. The guy doesn't understand why she is so dedicated to the old man, and constantly urges her to get on with her life. While he seems to be attracted to the girl, she just treats him as a friend. But, it is true, that while they visit a cemetery, that she shows a morbid side. Later, the father talks to his daughter, and he comments that she likes a particular stone cutter named Kuroushi, and he follows this up with the comment that he can hear Kuroushi walking up in the snow. He dies, and the tall friend accompanies the woman to the funereal. The tall guy sees some round boulders in the father's studio and is inspired to carve similar boulders himself. Then, he drives to the hills, where he tracks down the woman. She's with the other stone carver, Kuroushi, who is polishing a slab of granite. He watches as the couple frolics in the grass near a flowing river.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Garo Feature #43

For the Sept., '69 issue, I'm highlighting:

Sanpo Yodogawa's - Boy
Tadao Tsuge's - River with Kappas

少年 (Boy)

A pair of young boys are out walking along a river near some bridges. One, kind of a beaver-face and wearing a helmet, tells the other, a young version of the Three Stooges' Moe, that he's found a place where there are a lot of fish. "Moe", the leader of a secret club of boys, is referred to as "oyabun" (boss), and he orders helmet head to go back to the club house to round up the others. Helmet head goes to the club house, and gets "doc" and the rest. Doc gets out a fireworks rocket, and Helmet Head puts a frog in it - they launch the rocket to let oyabun know they're ready - the explosion at the end is fairly rough on the frog. They go out and catch a bunch of fish. Along the way, Helmet Head encounters Yomi-chan, a girl that is friends with the group. Helmet Head tries to use a dragon fly that he notices in order to put the moves on Yomi, but she's not interested. HH invites Yomi to explore the flood gate control room located near the river, and everything is fine until the control system automatically opens up the sluice gates and Yomi is swept into the water. Oyabun hears the cries for help and dives into the river to rescue the girl. Finally, everyone is back in the club house and HH recovers consciousness. Yomi is in the arms of her rescuer, and oyabun is basking in the moment. HH is so jealous, he goes over to an insect cage, and sets two spiders against each other. The one HH labels "oyabun" loses in the battle, and HH wishes death on his leader.

河童の居る川 (River with Kappas)

An old man likes to fish. A younger coworker also likes fishing in the same area, but refuses to give away his secret fishing hole. At work, the older guy gets abused by his other coworkers, but the group as a whole is kind of dysfunctional. One night, after a drinking party where the older one confuses everyone with a strange pre-War reminiscence, the two fishermen travel out to the older one's station (Edogawa-dai, in Chiba, northeast of Tokyo), which is far from the city, but close to the fishing river. The older one continues on home, where his wife is uncharacteristically awake and up waiting for him. The couple has been married so long that there's no mysteries between them. When she goes to bed, he has a revelation. After this, the older guy stops going to work. The younger one decides to go out fishing again as a pretext to find out what happened to his coworker. At the final train station, the younger worker encounters the older one's wife, who says that her husband has taken up photographing kappa (mythological river spirits). The guy continues to the river, puzzled by what the woman had said. He sets up his rod and reel and eventually the older guy arrives. When the younger one tries to ask what's going on, the older one yells out "kappa!, there's a kappa!" and runs into the tall grass along the riverbank.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Drawn and Quarterly comments

You may have noticed that I write up these Garo summaries/reviews well in advance of when I run them. Right now, I've got two concerns regarding these write-ups. First, I'm hitting the section of the Mandarake shelves where a lot of the issues are unavailable. For the first half of 1970, about 4 regular issues, and several special issues are missing. Second, I'm trying to focus my energies on studying for my level 2 Japanese Language Proficiency Test in December, so I'm not buying Garo much at the moment. But, I am taking the time to enter issue information from the net into the Garo database. Since I'm not reading and scanning the manga now, updating the database is going fairly quick, and I'm well into 1970 right now.

Because I keep running into the same title over and over again in the span from 1969-1970, I decided to check out the Drawn & Quarterly site to verify something. The title is Seiichi Hayashi's "Red-Colored Elegy" and what I wanted to check is whether this is the one that D&Q carries. Turns out it is. To me, the Japanese version of the manga is just a series of nonsense images. According to D&Q, it's a metaphorical story about 2 lovers during the turmoil of 1960's Japan. If you like Seiichi's manga, and you don't already own it, here's your chance to support the author.

Of course, Susumu Katsumata's "Red Snow" is carried by D&Q. He did die in 2007, but you can still support his family by buying the book.

Finally, one thing that caught my eye, and prompted me to write this entry, is that Shigeru Mizuki is also included in the list of D&Q's artists. He's not in the product catalog yet, but the fact that they have a biography on him seems promising. Maybe this means that they'll run some of his works in English soon.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Garo Feature #42

For the Aug., '69 issue, I'm highlighting:

Tadao Tsuge's - Rainy Season, Part 1

雨期 (Rainy Season, Part 1)

Some time ago, a group of punks ruled the street. Years pass, and two of the punks get together again, one of them being the former leader. They reminisce about the old days. Time has not been kind to them, and the leader wants a bar to sit down at and talk. But, the younger one doesn't understand what the deal is. The younger one also suddenly gets sick and throws up. The leader comments on the smell of blood on him, and the younger one answers that he'd been working at a shop carving up body parts for medical analysis. It's a horrible job and he can't do it any more. The two of them nervously talk around various subjects and the leader finally gets them into a secluded bar. His ulterior motive to to show this nasty growth or wound over his right shoulder blade and upper back. He tells the younger guy to touch it and it feels cold. Another customer at the bar laughs, but quickly looks away. The two leave the bar and head for an unprotected rail crossing where one of them had witnessed a suicide years before. They stand there, thinking about how the town changed, how they don't fit in any more and how convenient it would be to end everything. The last train of the night comes barreling up, and it looks like they decided not to stay in the middle of the tracks after all.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Garo Feature #40

For the July, '69 issue, I'm highlighting:

Shouhei Kusunoki's - Jeeze
Takao Takahashi's - One Night
Masuzou Furukawa's - Field Bath

チェッ (Jeeze)

I really do prefer Shouhei's Edo-era dramedies. His modern-life stories don't work as well. In any case, "Jeeze" centers on a young man that seems to have a fixation for ramming into people with his shoulder and then apologizing for it. The guy gets a job as a mover for a transport company and spends his day listening to rude jokes by the driver. At one point they go to a public bath, where the other customers notice the nasty scar the guy has on his shoulder. He initially says that he got it from a 5-on-1 fight against some yakuza, then claims that he's joking and that it was actually a machine accident. Another night, out on the street walking home with 3 other people, the guy has to jump to one side to avoid being hit by a racing motorbike taking a corner too tight, and all four of them bash into each other and ending up apologizing. Finally, the guy trips into one businessman who actually ignores him. The guy follows the businessman out to a secluded area and pulls a knife on him. The businessman just stares at him, and the guy laughs before running away. When out of sight, he stops and gasps for air out of terror.

ひとつねた (One Night)

Takao Takahashi (高橋高雄) ("Lingering Song", "Sampei the Fisherman") is writing under the name Takao Hashi(橋高雄) this time. An old man is caring for his two young grand children, and the narration is kind of reminiscent of a children's rhyme. The children's father had to leave the town to find work, and he never comes back. The mother works the fields of their farm, gets sick and dies. A natural disaster hits the town, and everyone else leaves to find employment as migrant workers. This just leaves the old man and the two children alone to fend for themselves. One scene shows them with angel's wings, implying that they may also be dead right now, or that it will happen eventually. With all of the catastrophes that have plagued them, though, they're not scared. What's a lot scarier is the grandfather's ghost stories. On the last page, the old man thinks "If I die, who will take care of these children?"

野風呂 (Field Bath)

This is a very silly, fairly crudely-drawn tale of Pon-tarou, a young tanuki (racoon dog) out on a stroll on his own. His mother told him that it's ok to wander away from the house to play, just stay away from humans. Unfortunately, Pon forgets her warning, and eventually discovers a hot tub in the middle of a field. He crawls inside and enjoys a hot bath, until the old man that built the tub comes along. Pon remembers his mother's words, and tries to shapeshift. However, he's never been able to shift before, so the best he can do now is turn into a fish. The old man gets into the tub and after a while starts noticing a tickling. Since fish are not commonly found in hot tubs, he becomes curious and tries to catch it. Pon is overcome by the heat and stress, and reverts to tanuki form. The old man is amazed by this, but Pon is sweating so heavily, he throws the creature away. Pon recovers and runs happily back home to tell his mother than he can shapeshift now.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Garo Feature #39

For the June, '69 issue, I'm highlighting:

Manabu Ohyama's - Fossil Forest
Ryouichi Ikegami's - White Fluid

化石の森 (Fossil Forest)

A young man, an engineer, lives with his wife and father. The father was against their marriage, and always argues with them. However, occasionally, when it snows, he just stands outside in a daze, acting like he wants to freeze to death. One day, the father pleads with the engineer to take him on a trip before he dies. As they're on the plane to Hokkaido, the man asks to know where they're going. The father answers "Karafuto" (the disputed island of Sakhalin near Russia). It's prohibited for Japanese citizens to go there, but the old man knows how to get past the border. He then tells the engineer "you're not actually my son". Turns out that following WW II, the Russian army was rounding up and executing Japanese citizens living on Karafuto. The old man and his wife had two young children then, and as they were escaping through the snow packed woods, the old man suffered a broken arm and the wife had a leg injury. They couldn't carry their children, so in one clearing, when the kids had collapsed, the father had buried them under the snow. The husband and wife made it to a port and caught a ship going to Hokkaido, and as they were about to depart, spied a small boy who'd been separated from his own parents. The couple adopted the child, who, now as an adult, is left wondering who he really is and what had happened to his own family. Then, the old man and the engineer reach Karafuto, and the old man goes running off to what he thinks is the right spot. The engineer can't believe that they'd be able to find two bodies out in the open like this after 24 years, but they do. However, while the bodies are of a male and a female, and they are wearing the right clothes, the bodies look too old. In any event, the father sweeps them up, hugging them and crying, apologizing and asking if they feel cold.

白い液体 (White Fluid)

Ryouichi really likes his horror stories. A young man gets the urge to jump on a train and goes traveling for no particular reason. He arrives at Hanukebito station and exits the train. The ticket master looks like a ghost, and doesn't talk to the guy as he passes through the gate. The man goes through town, noticing that it's empty. He finds a inn, and an old woman checks him in, saying that they only have the one room, and there's only the one guest who'd arrived 1 year earlier. Things continue taking a surreal turn as the room is filled with spider webs, the guest almost looks like a corpse, the woman is married to the ticket master, the couple has only what seems to be one grandson, no one has any teeth, the village is otherwise deserted, the train only stops once a year, the place is infested with flesh-eating locusts, and the only food is a white liquid that comes out of a pipe in the garden. The guy gets bitten by the insects, and when he tries to talk to the other people, is told that they only want to sleep. The rain pours down days on end, and the guy feels really lethargic shortly after drinking the white liquid. He never does figure out where the liquid is coming from, and eventually the other people in the inn die one after the other. His teeth start falling out, his memory slips away from him - he can't remember the name of the station he'd gotten out at or why he'd come here in the first place. The corpse of the other guest seems to be laughing at him, and the only time he seems to be lucid is when he's sleeping. Eventually, he forgets to go to the station the next time the train is due to stop, and in the final panel, he's covered with locusts.

(Ha nuki bito = Teeth Fell Out Person).


Ryouichi really likes his horror stories. A young man gets the urge to jump on a train and goes traveling for no particular reason. He arrives at Hanukebito station and exits the train. The ticket master looks like a ghost, and doesn't talk to the guy as he passes through the gate. The man goes through town, noticing that it's empty. He finds a inn, and an old woman checks him in, saying that they only have the one room, and there's only the one guest who'd arrived 1 year earlier. Things continue taking a surreal turn as the room is filled with spider webs, the guest almost looks like a corpse, the woman is married to the ticket master, the couple has only what seems to be one grandson, no one has any teeth, the village is otherwise deserted, the train only stops once a year, the place is infested with flesh-eating locusts, and the only food is a white liquid that comes out of a pipe in the garden. The guy gets bitten by the insects, and when he tries to talk to the other people, is told that they only want to sleep. The rain pours down days on end, and the guy feels really lethargic shortly after drinking the white liquid. He never does figure out where the liquid is coming from, and eventually the other people in the inn die one after the other. He teeth start falling out, his memory slips away from him - he can't remember the name of the station he'd gotten out at or why he'd come here in the first place. The corpse of the other guest seems to be laughing at him, and the only time he seems to be lucid is when he's sleeping. Eventually, he forgets to go to the station the next time the train is due to stop, and in

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

AX - Alternative Manga, #47

Time to move on to the second of the two AX issues I picked up at the Nakano Mandarake shop. Notice that there's nothing here I want to give the "Garo treatment" to.


AX, vol. 47, 2005
Tokyo Zombie
352 pages
933 yen

The magazine starts out with 20 pages on the making of the Tokyo Zombie movie, including a small fold out poster. There's a paragraph on manga artist Kazuo Umezz (who apparently appears in the movie), and a couple of sample pages from the Tokyo Zombie manga ("where is Russia?") In the middle there's another 20 pages of articles, and reviews on etchi manga. In the back there's yet again about 20 pages of ads, and reviews of movies and stuff.

「生活」1 - 福満しげゆき
"Life", #1, by Shigeyuki Fukumitsu

12 pages. (Fukumitsu has a manga running in weekly Morning right now.) A teenager working part time at a convenience store takes a train one day when he happens to be sitting next to a small boy that dislikes listening to people talking on their cell phones in public. The boy grabs several phones and runs away to toss them in the trash bins. The teenager chases him, and they crash into each other. After talking, the two get along fairly well. That night, the teenager encounters a drunk teacher crawling through the streets, and when he tries to talk to him, the teacher hits him in the face with a bottle. The younger boy subdues the teacher, and the two of them tie the guy up in the school. Later, things settle down.

「トロイメライ」2 - 島田虎之介
"Toroi Merai", #2, by Toranosuke Shimada

18 pages. (Shimada wrote "Log King Erickson" in vol. 21.) A young woman tracks down a piano that had been played by various people throughout Europe, India and Malaysia in the 1800's on up. The piano is in lousy condition, but she thinks it can be restored. At the end of the chapter, she arrives at a creepy house where a rumored restorer lives.

「コイソモレ先生」2 - しりあがり寿
"Koinmore Sensei", #2, by Kotobuki Shiriagari

6 pages. (Shiriagari wrote "Old Man Twins".) Just a series of poorly drawn, stupid 4-panel gags.

「正義隊」第11章前編 - 後藤友香
"Righteous Corps", first part of chap. 11, by Yuka Gotou

14 pages. (Yuka wrote "Puzzle of the Manhole".) A school girl sees a strange figure sitting in a classroom alone late at night. She follows it to another room where it is tending an intelligent fish that plans on wiping out all humans. Again, very badly drawn.

「変わってるから困ってる」6 - 藤枝奈己絵
"Worried, so Troubled", #6, by Namie Fujieda

20 pages. (Namie has several manga out under her own name, but there's no real profile on her outside of the brief mention on Spysee.) A fairly well-drawn high school girl's comedy. In this chapter, a school girl has conflicts with her friends, and imagines the etchi behavior of some of the teachers. Nothing happens by the end, though.

「お笑いライヴの午後十時…」7 - 三本美治
"Comical Live Show at 10 PM", #7, by Yoshiharu Mitsumoto.

24 pages. (Mitsumoto wrote "Favorable Wind".) Various patrons at a cafe behave like it's open mike night on stage, doing things like stupid dances or pulling a linked chain through their nose.

「屍錦」 - 桐山裕市
"Corpse Brocade", by Yuichi Kiriyama

14 pages. (There's nothing really on Yuichi that I can find easily.) The story is fairly crudely drawn, about a high school biker chick that hangs out with a tough crowd then eventually smashes her motorcycle into a power pole and decapitates herself. Treated kind of like a documentary with the central character just hanging around in various poses.

サマータイムブルース」 - オカダシゲヒロ
"Summertime Blues", by Shigehiro Okada

8 pages. (Almost nothing on Okada, either.) A boy climbs a tree, but a branch breaks and he lands on his head. He awakens in a hospital, bandages covering his face and unable to see or speak. His family cries with relief. He signals for a pen and paper and writes out a message complaining that they're too noisy.

「クリスチーナZ」15 - 河井克夫
"Christina Z", #15, by Katsuo Kawai

6 pages. (Katsuo co-wrote "Home Party".) Etchi chapter with three women sitting at a table at a cafe. The first two succumb to the tongue of the guy hiding under the table. The third gets up and walks away, causing the guy to come out and challenge her.

「JUKU」流星編6 - 清水おさむ
"JUKU" (meteor compilation #6), by Osamu Shimizu

20 pages. (Osamu's JUKU is available in collected format on Amazon. He's also listed in the production credits for one Naruto movie and 2 Bleach movies. Otherwise there's no real profile for him. The artwork here is pretty well-developed and highly-detailed.) Kind of a rambling tale that starts with someone like a yakuza boss riding in a car talking to an underling. Then wanders through ancient Egypt and the wars crimes of WW II. One recurring image is a big boil on the back of someone's neck.

「恋の魔法-東京ルリ子-」 - 百田千峰
"Tender Passion Witch - Tokyo Ruriko", by Chiho Momota

10 pages. (This story is kind of similar to that by Chiho Murata in vol. 21. There's no real info for her, but she does have at least one book on Amazon, and the above link goes to her blog. The artwork is very light and airy; very shojo-ish.) A girl in a headscarf working at a coffee shop goes out to get some perfume capable of causing a specific boyfriend to be more attracted to one of the female patrons. After much trouble, she gets the perfume, secretly puts it on the customer, and the customer's boyfriend falls in love with her. The story ends with the coffee shop girl pleased at having played cupid.

「青春うるはし!うるし部」ドクターE・D編4 - 堀道広
"Aoharu Uruhashi! Urushi-Group", Doctor E-D #4, by Michihiro Hori

10 pages. A school punk fights in a tournament against a big guy with a phallic neck. After neither of them scores a direct hit, the big guy pulls out a Buddhist shrine and reaches into a hidden cabinet to pull out a secret weapon. To be continued.

「屋上哀歌」- 川崎タカオ
"Rooftop Elegy", by Takao Kawasaki

10 pages. This is one of the stories appearing in the AX Anthology, vol. 1. A dying assassin up on the roof of a building to make a hit encounters a suicidal salary worker contemplating jumping off the ledge. The two get to talking and the hitman asks the worker to shoot him so he can take the elegant way out. After the worker kills the assassin with the guy's pistol, a second shooter on another rooftop puts a bullet through his head. The second shooter radios in that he's made the hit but that the target doesn't quite match the photo. Since there's no one else visible on the other roof, the sniper decides that he's shot the right person.

「四番目の男」9 - 古泉智浩
"Man #4", #9, by Tomohiro Koizumi

8 pages. (Tomohiro wrote "Cherry Boys".) A fairly ugly group of people meeting in a warehouse go out to the woods when a meteor streaks through the sky and slams into the ground. The group discovers a a capsule that looks like a big beer keg, and a creature in catsuit pajamas climbs out.

「新・中学生日記」 - Q.B.B.
"New Junior High School Diary", by Q.B.B.

8 pages. (Not a lot of direct information on Q.B.B. One site gives the initials as being "Qusumi Brothers Band". The subcaption on the title page of this manga says Q.B.B. is "kusotare, bakatare, buutare" (shit, stupid, fart). Otherwise, Q.B.B. does have several books on Amazon, and he (they) won the 1999 Bungeishunju Manga Award for this specific manga title. Basically just a bunch of badly drawn 4-panel gags about high school students.

"Mother Cosmos", #9, by Minoru Sugiyama

16 pages. (Minoru is credited as a stage designer on one game, and had appeared at Creator's World 2010 according to ANN. According to the Japanese wiki there's a chance he's related to soccer player Makoto Sugiyama, although this may be the case of two people with the same name.) One chapter in the ongoing SF saga pitting a mysterious power called "cosmos" against a big guy in a huge wheelbarrow. The resulting battle consists of the wheelbarrow guy's army shooting laser rifles against some gigantic blob monsters.

「空の巻き貝」4 -逆柱いみり
"Sky Snail", #4, by Imiri Sakabashira

8 pages. (Imiri's "The Box Man" has been translated by Drawn and Quarterly.) Surreal gag strip that wanders from discussions of insects to a battle between a man made up of fish versus cat people.

「さかあがり」 - 衿沢世衣子
"Forward Roll-up", by Seiko Erisawa.

4 pages. (The title is the name of a move that comes from gymnastics. There's little on Seiko in English, while the Japanese wiki lists several titles to her name. The link given for her website doesn't do much other than redirect you to her blog.) A boy out playing on the playgrounds does a roll over a metal bar, causing all of his change to fall out of his pockets. A female classmate out talking with him scoops up the money and notices that there's also a small piece of colored glass used to play a game similar to tiddlywinks. The boy explains that it's a memento. When he was much younger, he'd accidentally swallowed it and had to be taken to the doctor. It had passed out naturally, so he kept it. The girl tries to run away with it and the boy chases her.

「菅原家」5 - 英之助
"Sugewara Household", #5, by Einosuke

10 pages. (Ok, it's really hard to find info on someone that's just going by a common first name. I'm not even going to bother trying. If you have a link for this guy, please pass it on to me.) A young boy and his old father are out playing catch in the park and the boy hits the man in the face with the ball. The father sits down next to an old woman who offers a blackened banana for him to eat. Nearby, a constipated dog attempts to take a dump.

「スイッチ」 - うらどめとどめ
"Switch", by Uradometodome

8 pages. (No real info on Ura, either.) A girl notices that her little toe on her right foot is missing, and that a string is sticking out of the hole of her hollow foot. She finds the toe in a corner of the room, but when she puts it back on, it acts like a switch to eject the rest of her toes. Now there are 4 more pieces of string sticking out. She pulls the string and gets buried under the giant roll that forms in her room. (This is a retelling of the ghost story of the girl with a thread sticking out of the earring pierce in her earlobe.)

「お茶っぴきババアのバー。」 - 東陽片岡
"Old Woman's Bar", by Kataoka Touyou

4 pages. (Touyou also wrote "That Guy Listened to the Springtime of My Youth".) An old woman argues with some customers in her bar. Nothing much interesting happens.

「お年頃」 - 齋藤裕之介
"About that Age", by Younosuke Saitou

7 pages. (Nothing on Saitou in English. His blog has a profile on him, and he does have some works published.) Two tiny teenagers, one male and one female, find themselves climbing on the huge body of a naked man in a game of tag. The girl explores around the pubic parts, unable to find her opponent. When the boy announces himself on the other side of the naked guy's hip, the girl runs after him.

「ボーリング」 - 田中六大
"Bowling", by Rokudai Tanaka

16 pages. (Not a lot to work with here, just a link to his blog.) Two children and a humanoid dog are sitting on a bench waiting for a man to arrive. The guy is late, but he does show up, and he suggests that they go bowling. While the lanes are supposed to be near by, it takes several hours of walking out into the countryside before they finally find a pin on the ground. A few minutes later they locate a bowling alley, but it's not open yet. They find a ball on the ground and following the scent they locate another alley. Unfortunately, it's closed for the day. The dog leans against the wall and discovers a secret passage leading deep into the ground where lots of people are mingling around. The group orders some udon, and then asks the restaurant owner if there is a bowling alley they can go to. The owner points them a little farther underground, where they reach a huge building that says "bowling alley". "Closed today."

「群青色の舗道の上で」 - 春礼六
"Above the Ultramarine Pavement", by Roku Harurei (?)

6 pages (I can't get any kind of pronunciation for this name, sorry. He/she appeared in the Nov., 1994, issue of Garo with "Angelica".) Essentially this is an impressionist piece with the goddess of life giving rise to insects, stars and bluegrass jazz.

「ロボとピュー太」7 - 南伸坊
"Robo and Puter", #7, by Shinbou Minami

4 pages. (The Japanese wiki has a long list of Minami's works. There's almost nothing on him in English, though.) A father is lying in the living room reading a book and farting. His son asks why they fart after eating persimmons, and the man answers "various reasons". Then the boy asks why his mother isn't there anymore. The end.

「精G」11 - ひさうちみちお
"Spirit G", #11, by Michio Hisauchi

8 pages. (Michio has a number of movies to his credit, but there's no bio info on him in the film databases. He's listed in the Japanese wiki as a manga artist, illustrator and essayist.) An old couple sit around and complain at each other. To be continued.

The back section is again "Rack Focus", #29, this time by CSP. It's nothing more than 2 pages of badly drawn porn, with a businessman and businesswoman seducing each other. Ignorable.


Summary: Well, the idea of buying these two AX issues was to read them over and give them a fair try. Having done so, I have to say that I'm going to go back and continue focusing primarily on Garo. I hope that AX has a good run and picks up a few more readers now that the English anthology is out, by I'm not going to spend money on it. In this issue, Toranosuke, Osamu Shimizu, Takao Kawasaki and Rokudai Tanaka show promise, so these are the four that I'd recommend people to follow in the future, just in case.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

AX - Alternative Manga, vol. 21

For those of you that don't read my ThreeStepsOverJapan blog, I'm going to repeat my coverage of AX, vol. 21, here.


AX, vol. 21
The Taro Okamoto Special, 2001
272 pages
933 yen

Okamoto (1911-1996) was a famed surrealist artist in the 50's and 60's. One of his sculptures was a central piece of the 1970 Osaka Expo, which also showed up in Twentieth Century Boys. Vol. 21 starts out with a small insert poster of Taro, a gag panel based on his "Tower of the Sun", a 2-page write-up on him, and an 8-page interview with Taro's partner, Toshiko Okamoto. There's 5 more pages of stuff dedicated to Taro, then the regular manga.

「双子のオヤジ」21 - しりあがり寿
"Old Man Twins", #21, by Kotobuki Shiriagari

6 pages. One of the old twins is reading the paper and noticing how the world is becoming stupid. To become dumber faster than anyone else, he hits his head on the wall. The other brother comes up and they have a race. After bashing their heads they can't remember each other's names any more.

「チェリーボーイズ」7 -古泉智浩
"Cherry Boys", #7, by Tomohiro Koizumi

24 pages. This is a continuation of an earlier story involving 4 guys - 1 in a neck brace who's spending his time in a bowling alley, and three friends out trying to fill up experiences for their "mission growing up" notebook. The three take turns spraying each other with mace, hitting themselves with a pipe and getting tasered. After trying road tricks with an inflatable traffic cop doll they encounter the guy in the neck brace out on the roads. They panic, drive too fast and almost slide off the road. With their car stalled, the one in the brace comes up and asks if they're ok. Since they hadn't talked to anyone else about their previous fight he's going to leave them alone.

「ツノ病」 - クリハラタカシ
"New Disease", by Takashi Kurihara

16 pages. A nonsense gag story about a young boy who is hit in the head by a spike. He goes to the doctor, who diagnoses him as having "horn disease". The horn now on his head will fade away on its own. Outside, he taps the horn with his hand and it rapidly elongates until hitting something. He's pulled along with it to a mirror Earth. Everything looks the same, and he even sees himself walking his dog. He gets tired and prepares to return home. But, when he touches the horn again, it accidentally runs into a bird. The horn disappears, trapping the surprised boy on the mirror Earth, and the bird flies away with a new horn on its head.

「マンホールの謎」 - 後藤友香
"Puzzle of the Manhole", by Yuka Gotou

34 pages. This is a fairly innocuous, poorly drawn adventure of Anita, a school girl who one day spies another girl burying fish along a river. Anita tries following the stranger, who disappears down a manhole ladder. Anita then encounters the stranger's older sister who has been living in the sewers, trying to track down and capture the fish mangler. Together with another friend at school, Anita and the sewer woman succeed in catching the fish mangler, who turns out to have escaped from a nearby hospital. End of story.

「メカ野良人」 - 花くまゆうさく
"Mecha Farmer", by Yuusaku Hamakuma

4 page gag strip by the creator of Tokyo Zombies. Afro man encounters a Kappa who tries to follow him. Afro has no need for old-era creatures and tries to shake the Kappa off. Suddenly, the Kappa is thrown through the air by mecha farmer (most notable for the strap-on that proceeds him everywhere). Afro wonders who made mecha-farmer - American soldiers or aliens. To be continued.

「ヨダレくんの尊い命」 - 本秀康
"Yodare-kun's Precious Life", by Yasu Motohide

4 page gag strip. Nonsense bit with a fat idiot kid named Yodare, who jumps from a roof thinking that his mecha mattress will fold out and save him. It doesn't. His girl friend tells him that his life is sacred so it's good he didn't die.

「ホーム・パーティ」 - 河井克夫+ムロフシカエ
"Home Party", by Katsuo Kawai and Kae Murofushi

8 pages. Youko is a young woman at a friend's party. She drinks too much and goes to the toilet to throw up. She then notices that there's salmon eggs floating in the toilet and it reminds her of her friend, Jun. The more she thinks of Jun, the sicker she gets and the more salmon eggs she vomits out. Eventually she realizes that the salmon eggs are tied to memories of Jun, and finally she remembers having killed him and sliced him up in the bathtub at home. She throws up one more time and forgets about Jun again.

「癒しの園」 - 村田千峰
"Healing Place", by Chiho Murata (?)

8 pages. This is kind of a shojo story with two women deciding to go to a public bath to help soothe the downhearted feelings one of them is suffering after being dumped by a boyfriend. After they're done, the one is feeling much better, and she runs into a nice man afterwards. The narration comments on how things work out when people live in apartments that don't have private baths.

「その医者…」 - 鷹羽正臣
"That Doctor", by Masaomi Takaha (?)

10 pages. Silly gag series about a doctor that has strange patients, where one of them has swallowed a gold fish. Nothing much resolved at the end.

「渋谷くるくる寿司」 - 松井雪子
"Shibuya Revolving Sushi", by Yukiko Matsui

20 pages. Ok, the artwork on this one is pretty high-grade, but the story is really hard to follow. Essentially, two young women living in a grotto that has syrup and dirty dishes showing up at strange times eventually make their way out to the surface world where they play in the flowers and encounter more plates, with a flashback to a counter at a revolving sushi restaurant in Shibuya, Tokyo. Fair amount of topless nudity that is just slightly erotic, but not overly gratuitous.

「Bird book」 - 津川聡子
"Bird Book", by Satoko Tsugawa

5 pages. A girl reaches for a book on a shelf and starts to fall off her chair. The book turns into a bird, letting the girl catch it and then carrying her out for a flight around the house. Outside, a young man finds himself being pelted with letters falling from the book, and looks up to see the girl. The two fly off on the bird book together. I decided to scan all 4 pages of this one. The line art is really fine and it kind of doesn't scan well.

「ブルー・ギター」21 - 安斎肇
"Blue Guitar", #21, by Hajime Anzai

Just 4 pages of random pictures.

「釣り師の悩み」 - 西岡兄妹
"Angler's Anguish", by Kyoudai Nishioka

("Kyoudai" means "siblings". This is a brother-sister pair who have done both manga and picture books.)
22 pages. A young man goes out to the coast to fish, but it's too crowded. He comes back home, where the people disgust him. He eventually winds up at a water runoff ditch in town trying to catch whatever is in it.

「丸太の王エリクソン」 - 島田虎之介
"Log King Erickson", by Toranosuke Shimada

(Toranosuke won the 12th Tezuka Award for best newcomer for his "Traumerei". Otherwise, there's little information on him in English.)
20 pages. Two guys are out driving in the countryside and the driver drifts off in a daze. He semi-dreams about an alternate history of the U.S. where a viking helps create the country, with cameos by George Washington, Richard Nixon, Abraham Lincoln and JFK. The viking turns into a lumber jack, whose great skills lead to the U.S. as we know it now. Eventually the driver wakes up and they keep driving.

「探偵ハニー・サテン-2001-」 - 谷弘兒
"Detective Honey Satin, 2001", by Hiroji Tani

4 pages. This is a really well-drawn mini-story. A man comes into the office of Honey Satin, detective. He tells her that something important has been taken from him and he wants her to get it back. He'd been walking by an abandoned building and seen a beautiful naked woman lying on the ground inside. He went in to get a closer look and passed out. When he recovered, the woman said that she was punishing him for staring at her body so lewdly. He then lifts a patch over his left eye showing an empty socket. He asks Honey to get his eye back. Suddenly he notices her perfume and wonders where he'd encountered it before. He leaves and Honey pulls an eyeball out of her desk and kisses it.

「順風」6 三本美治
"Favorable Wind", #6, by Yoshiharu Mitsumoto

12 pages. Not much of a story. A guy decides to get away from his life and goes hitchhiking.

「オレの青春を聞けこの野郎!」 東陽片岡
"That Guy Listened to the Springtime of My Youth", by Kataoka Touyou

4 pages. Two guys at a bar are talking about their favorite rock, including Pink Floyd and Grand Funk Railroad, and a third guy gets upset, being a fan of Japanese female singers. The two ignore him and keep talking.

「黒寿司十八番」番外篇9 根本敬
"Dark Sushi 18 - Extra Story 9", by Takashi Nemoto

(Nemoto first appeared in Garo in 1981 and was a regular after that. Considered to be an avant-garde artist.)
Basically 4 pages of strange images appearing above the head of someone lying in bed. Muddy and hard to make out individual details in any of the panels. The above panel is the best of the set.


There's a good thirty pages of text and reviews as well. Some of the reviews are of etchi comics, a mention of the movie "Ghost World", and some discussions of music CDs and upcoming concerts. The last 2 pages are "Rack Focus", a montage of XXX film footage mashed up ala a National Lampoon magazine gag.


Summary - There's really nothing here that stands out and says "read more of me!" "Honey Satin" isn't bad but it seems to be a one-shot. "Log King Erickson" shows some promise, and "Bird Book" is whimsical enough to do well in a children's picture book. Nothing that I'd want to spend money for to get the next issue of AX, though.

As with Garo, some of the artists here have made a name for themselves, and others never show up again. Some of the manga here would do all right in weekly Morning magazine or maybe monthly Afternoon.


I guess I shouldn't be surprised at serendipity any more, either. There's a two page ad in this issue for a special manga exhibit at the Kawasaki City museum featuring Garo artists Kuniko Tsurita and Shouhei Kusonoki. The KCM has a good collection of past exhibit books, and that's where the "Shonen Sunday/Shonen Magazine DNA" exhibit had been held. It's about a 45-minute bike ride from my apartment, so I may try going there soon to see if they still have copies of this specific book.