Wednesday, July 28, 2010

On finding Garo

It's not exactly easy, trying to find old Garo magazine back issues. While some collectors may be trying to sell individual issues from the auction sites, the prices they're asking will be pretty high. So far, the only store that I've found that carries back issues at all reliably is Mandarake. There are three Mandarake locations in Tokyo - the Complex in Akihabara, the sprawling set of shops in the Broadway department building in Nakano, and the huge basement store in Shibuya. There are another 4 or 5 shops scattered around the rest of Japan, but they're expensive to visit from Tokyo, and the stores don't have a policy of shipping requests between cities (that I can tell).

The Akihabara shop has the biggest selection of Garo issues, but there are holes. Also, they only put out one copy of each issue on the shelves at a time. If someone else is buying Garo at the same time you are, there's going to be a fight over who gets what. The Nakano shop has maybe 1/3 of what Akihabara has, and Shibuya has maybe 20 issues total (compare that to the 12 issues x roughly 30 years that were actually published).

A couple of weeks ago, I went to each of the shops in Tokyo, and I asked the clerks if they had more copies of the issues I was missing on a back shelf somewhere, and was told "no, what we have is what's out on the floor right now" at each place. Given that the magazine's not in circulation any more, it's not like the store can just order up more copies when they want. If a specific number is out of stock, you have to wait until a collector decides to sell off their magazines to Mandarake before you can find the number you want. On the other hand, there was something I'd noticed before, and I wanted to try an experiment.

The Japanese store clerks hate having shelves that look messy. And Mandarake has a huge warehouse somewhere that holds the vast number of used books they buy back every day. So, I started buying up 3 and 4 issues every time I visited, which left large gaps on the shelf over a couple of weeks. Finally, it worked - someone somewhere got fed up with the way the shelf looked and a good 30 issues of the magazine magically appeared to plug up all the holes. I was able to get two of the issues I was missing this way. Unfortunately, I'm still missing 5 issues in the range I'm buying in right now, but with luck I may be able to find those eventually.

Why go on about this? Well, a little while ago, there was an exhibit at some museum in New York showing the first 10 years of Garo (if anyone went to that exhibit please let me know), and the guy that put it together had made the statement that it's really easy to buy Garo issues - just place an order online through the Mandarake website. The problem with that claim is that doing a search on Garo doesn't bring up many hits, and you're buying the magazine from a specific store, not from the warehouse. If a store only has one copy of a specific issue on the shelves, you're in competition with people like me for it. So, bottom line is that it's not all that easy to get Garo after all. If you really like a specific Garo artist, then contact Mandarake and buy compilation volumes of that artist's work directly.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Garo Feature #26

For the July, '68 issue, I'm highlighting:

Tamehiro Tashiro's - Indian Treasure
Takako Harada's - The Petite Pooch

インドの宝 (Indian Treasure)

The creator of "Mysterious Ball" and "Space Event" is back. A man out drifting on the ocean on a raft encounters a guy from India stranded on an island. The Indian jumps on the raft, and eats half of the guy's food. The guy has a map to a great Indian treasure, which the Indian tries to take. At some point, the Indian talks the guy into diving into the ocean with him, and the guy discovers that the treasure is actually the sunrise as seen from under the water.

The Petit プチ (The Petite Pooch)

A young girl finds a stray puppy and takes it to school, where the other kids fall in love with it but the teacher objects to having pets in class. She brings it home, and her mother drop kicks it out of the house, making the girl hate her mother. The puppy disappears for a while. Eventually, she finds it again, but when she approaches, it runs away. As she chases after it, the puppy slowly starts treating this all as a game. The girl keeps talking about how she loves the dog. But then it runs into the street and gets hit by a car. The girl hates the dog for bleeding on her hands, which then marks the point where she turns into a grown-up.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Garo Feature #24

For the June, '68 issue, I'm highlighting:

Seiichi Hayashi's - Red Dragonfly
Yoshiharu Tsuge's - Ben-san of Honyara Grotto

赤とんぼ (Red Dragonfly)

This is another semi-surreal story from Seiichi. In this one, a young boy lives with his mother, catching dragonflies and getting his fingers scrapped up, with her largely ignoring him. At one point, it looks like the boy's grandfather has dropped by, and they play soldiers for a while. But, the boy sees the old man along with his mother, and she's crying. In the last panel, the boy encounters the shadowy old man (we never see his face) and there's just the sound effect of a gun shot.

ほんやら洞のべんさん (Ben-san of Honyara Grotto)

Tsuge is continuing his travels, and comes to a remote hostel out in the snow-covered mountains of Honyara Grotto. The owner of the hut, Ben, hasn't had lodgers in years and doesn't know what to do with this unannounced customer. Tsuge talks him into sharing what little food there is, then breaking out some futons to sleep on. The next morning, they go out on the ice to fish, but instead of using the net to catch some river fish, Tsuge just stands with his eyes closed and listening to the sounds around him. Ben prepares to go into town to get supplies until Tsuge says that he's not staying any longer - he just wanted to drop by and see the area for the night. Neither of them has much ambition in life at the moment, although Tsuge does state that he's working as an artist. However, when asked to draw something, he can't.

They go out to do some night fishing and a small girl suddenly shows up. Turns out that Ben is her father, and that Ben and his wife have separated. The girl is part of a children's group out to sing songs in the winter night to attract swallows for the coming spring. Ben and Tsuge catch a large carp that's worth a few hundred dollars on the market, and Ben takes it farther up the hill to a different pond to swim in. Unfortunately, they waste too much time and when they get to the pond the fish is frozen like a rock. Back in the cabin, Tsuge asks if a fish like that tastes like it's worth a few hundred dollars. Ben remains silent and curls away from the plate the fish is on.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Garo Feature #23

For the May, '68 issue, I'm highlighting:

Yuu Takita's - Island Solitude
Shouhei Kusunoki's - Special News
Hideshi Hino's - Mud Dolls

孤独の島 (Island Solitude)

A shipwrecked castaway daydreams about escaping the island he shares with his wife and 4 babies.

臨時ニュース (Special News)

Shouhei has forgone the Edo era again, trying for his second story set in the 1960's. This one is well-drawn, but kind of pointless. A girl, her father, her younger brother and their dog live at home. The girl gets hit by a car and injures her arm, but it gets better. The father encounters the driver of the car and his boss, and accepts the settlement. The boy gets into a fight with another kid and hits him in the head with a rock, but the victim comes out of the altercation ok. (The other kid is actually the son of the car driver, who tells his boy to quit crying and fight harder next time.) At the end, the dog growls at someone that seems to be a bad guy and that's it. Nothing is resolved or changed.

どろ人形 (Mud Dolls)

A group of disabled children living in the shadows of some factory smokestacks create a statue out of mud and then beat it down with sticks as a symbolic retribution against the adults that built the factories that spew out the black ash that has stolen away their eyes, mouths and ears. Unfortunately, the ritual fails to work this time too, as the factories remain standing. At the end, they watch the beautiful sunset through the smog.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Garo Feature #22

For the Apr., '68 issue, I'm highlighting:

Yoshiharu Tsuge's - Korean floor heater cabin
Maki Sasaki's - Ballad of Anri and Annu

オンドル小屋 (Korean floor heater cabin)

This is another of the stories that had been included in Tsuge's "Neji-shiki" collection I reviewed a while back. The author goes out to a mountainside onsen to relax in the hot spring waters. Unfortunately, 3 delinquents show up and act like jerks, ruining his trip.

アンリとアンヌのバラード (Ballad of Anri and Annu)

A man and a woman working in a strange prison climb up to the surrounding wall. They take turns telling their stories, in alternating pages. The guy was an artist that arrived in town and fell in love with a beautiful woman. The woman lived with an older man, and the artist ended up sneaking into their house in the middle of the night to continue the affair, but the old man woke up and shot him, thinking that the artist was a jewel thief there to rob him. The artist then died in the resulting hail of gunfire and went to hell. The prison girl, on the other hand, became homeless when her mother died. She tried making a living selling matches, but at a time of cheap cigarette lighters no one was buying. In the midst of the ongoing Christmas celebrations, the girl decided to use her matches to keep herself warm, by setting fire to houses around town. The townspeople caught her and burned her at the stake as punishment, and she also made the trip to hell. Back in the prison in hell, the two prisoners decide to ask kami-sama to save them and take them to a place that's more comfortable.