Monday, March 14, 2011

Garo #306

(All rights reserved by their respective owners. Images used her for review purposes only.)

This is the last of the three Garo issues that I bought specifically for the Tori Miki stories.

Mr. Saeki's Afternoon

This is a simple gag comic showing a good day in a man's life.

Garo #290

(All rights reserved by their owners. All images used here for review purposes only.)

Cyber People.

This is Tori Miki's "adult" story. I'm only uploading the splash page because the rest of the story may not be appropriate for minors (it's not overly graphic, though). An online detective is trying to track down a cyber perp in a program designed for virtual sex. In the end, the detective turns out to be an old man in a hotel room, and the perp (posing as a beautiful young woman) is a teenage fan boy living in his mother's house's basement.

Garo #285

(All rights reserved by their owners. All images used here for review purposes only.)

In the later Garo issues, the stories tend to be shorter (nothing like Shirato's 100-page Kamui-den monsters) with almost twice the number of artists. Since I only really want to read one of them, I'm going to stop scanning all of the others or trying to translate everyone's names. Instead, I'm just going to run the Tori Miki manga, and reprint the table of contents for anyone that wants to look at it. Tori Miki didn't appear all that regularly - maybe only every 3 or 4 months. And then again, Mandarake doesn't have every issue used for every year. So, going through what they do have, I was able to find 3 issues that Tori was in. Unfortunately, one of the issues was "alternative adult" enough to prevent me from showing it in an area that minors can access. So, I can only show 2 of the 3 stories next.

King Rilke

This is the first chapter of a potential short series, which wasn't continued in any of the other volumes I found. Click on the image to start reading it.

Ad for "Damatte ore ni tsuite koi" (which I'm translating as "Shut up and come over here").

Garo in retrospect

Now that I'm wrapping up my reviews of Garo, I'd like to take the chance to comment on my current opinions. When I first started thinking about buying Garo, my thoughts were that it was an over-hyped art magazine that people revered instead of read (kind of like with all "great" literature along the lines of the Great Gatsby and War and Peace). Every time someone in the English newspapers in Japan reviewed something translated by Drawn and Quarterly (Like Red-Colored Elegy) they'd mention Garo in reverent tones. The problem was that I'd be looking at the cover artwork and maybe a few sample pages of the title being reviewed and thinking "what a great big waste of ink". Didn't do much for giving me incentive to read Garo at all.

Naturally, as I started reading Garo on a regular basis, my opinions changed. Then we had the exhibit for the first ten years of Garo at The Center for Book Arts in New York, and this thrust the opinions of an assistant art professor (Ryan Holmberg) in front of my face. The interview on Garo with Ryan gets all artsy, and I don't agree with most of the assessments being made about the magazine during this period. Then again, I only looked at the period from July, 1966 to July, 1971, and I can't comment on anything outside this period that I didn't read.

My thoughts: Garo doesn't really have specific beginning and ending points that you can wave at and say "this is when the anti-Vietnam War era started, this is when Seiichi became anti-woman, etc.". There are waves, when other artists try to imitate the surreal works of Maki Sasaki, or the horror of Mizuki, but they overlap each other. In terms of what appealed to me most, I think I liked best the period between 1966 and 1968, specifically when Mizuki was running the Kitaro serial. During this time we had Shirato creating a balance of power in "Kamui-den", where the peasants were experiencing various successes; we had "Kitaro"; we had Kuniko Tsurita playing around in a light-hearted way trying to find her voice as a writer; and we had Yoshiharu Tsuge doing different kinds of stories. Somewhere between 1969 and 1970, Mizuki takes a break from Garo, Kamui-den turns dark and ugly, and Yoshiharo gets replaced by his brother Tadao. More artists experiment with surreal stories, and any continuity there had been from one issue to the next disappears. Shouhei stops doing Edo-era stories and goes more modern, while Ryuuichi Ikegami tries his hand at horror with limited success.

I did like it when Yuu Takita dropped his short gag strips and switched to the Terajima series, but then he too started to become less frequent and started playing around with the surreal format. By the end, between 1969 and July, 1971, Garo starts feeling like any other manga magazine at the time. I think that the gekiga concept was becoming more mainstream, and the artists that started out at Garo were finally finding other outlets to publish through. In any event, the sense of "wow, there's nothing else like this on the shelves" was strongest for me between 1966 and 1969. This is one reason why I want to set Garo aside now and move on to something else - the stories showing up from 1970 onward don't excite me anymore.

I liked:
Early Kamui-den, before the old magistrate died.
All of the Hakaba Kitaro stories.
Anything by Kuniko Tsurita.
The Terajima stories by Yuu Takita.
The first 10 stories by Shouhei Kusunoki, up to Red Water.
What little came from Manabu Ohyama.
Everything from Tamehiro Tashiro.
And most of what came from Yoshiharu Tsuge.

Would I recommend Garo? Of course. I think that anyone interested in manga history should read the first 6-7 years of the magazine. I'm not so sure I'd recommend the titles that have been commercially translated in the U.S., that originally ran in Garo, though. The people that I like the best aren't the ones getting published. I still think that titles like "Red-Colored Elegy" and "Red Snow" are over-hyped. The problem, though, is that it's getting much harder to find used issues of Garo, and unless you're living in Japan, you're pretty much going to be out of luck. If you do live here, a number of the titles have been published in collected volumes, like Kamui-den, Kitaro, and Neji-Shiki, that are still available in Japanese used from Mandarake.

As a side note, one of my favorite artists is Tori Miki, and he had several stories published through Garo in the 1980's. I picked up three more issues during this time period, and I will do two more posts containing just his stories. But, it's like the entire magazine went shojo somehow. And even the Tori Miki stories aren't that good. On the other hand, the issues from the 1980's are about 300 yen each ($4 USD). I'm not completely giving up on Garo, but I'm moving on to stuff that I like more, now.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Garo Feature #260

For the Feb., '88 issue, I'm highlighting:

Miki Tori's - Construction Sign Counterattack

路上観察物件の逆襲 (Construction Sign Counterattack)

Miki is out walking with his camera, looking for construction signs. There are a lot of different variants on the "construction worker bowing and apologizing for the inconvenience", which has attracted his attention. What he wants to know is where they come from, and what they do when they go back to wherever they came from at the end. Suddenly, one of the signs comes alive and starts to give him answers, except that a worker soon comes up to them, grabs the sign, throws it into a truck and drives off.

Ok, this is the one manga I wanted to get to. Not one of Tori Miki's best works, but it is representative of his earlier style.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Garo Feature #73

For the July, '71 issue, I'm highlighting:

Genpei Akasegawa's - Sakura Pictorial
Sanpo Yodogawa's - Mystery Man M and the Boy's Detective Club

桜画報 (Sakura Pictorial) #3

A young boy and his horse have a variety of strange dreams. Very surreal, with no actual storyline.

怪人Mと少年探偵団 (Mystery Man M and the Boy's Detective Club) #3

The story in this chapter is just the lead detective taunting M and making bad jokes. On the last page, the tables turn and M prepares to fight the team along with some henchmen.