Great interview with the Attack on Titan guy translated into English over here. Hajime Isayama sounds like a really cool dude to hang out with. He goes on about zombie flicks and Guillermo del Toro and stuff. It’s all interesting, but some interesting-er bits were that he’s a fan of Knights of Sidonia, was influenced by Muv-Luv Alternative (which was later spun off and adapted into the anime Total Eclipse and Schwarzesmarken), and modelled Captain Levi after Rorschach from Watchmen. I’m not into the manga, but now I’m looking forward even more to season 2 of the show.
Also, I gotta highlight this remark:
I thought it’d be awesome to actually be a battery for machines like in The Matrix.
I’d like to point out that the guy also did Azumanga Daioh, the slice-of-life series I like to describe as Seinfeld if it was about Japanese high school girls. I couldn’t get into the manga, probably because I had trouble telling the girls apart, but I didn’t have that problem with the anime.
What’s interesting about the slice-of-life genre is that it’s always a slice of fictional life, which is to say that it’s always about the heartwarming and positive aspects of ordinary life. The lives being sliced are those without sorrow or tragedy or money problems or heartbreak. It’s inherently escapist, which, of course, is one of the biggest reasons behind the genre’s appeal.
I’m reminded of something I read a long time ago comparing tha manga Azumanga Daioh and High School Girls. I don’t even remember which blog I read this on, but the blogger observed that one of the biggest things they found unrealistic about Azumanga Daioh was that the high school girls never talked about boys. In contrast, the girls of High School Girls constantly talked about boys, about their periods, their make-up, their teachers, their rival social cliques – which is to say that they talked about the kinds of things actual high school girls talk about. This is unsurprising considering that the author based the series on her own experiences in an all-girls high school.
I quite liked High School Girls and nearly drove myself crazy trying to find copies of the manga. As you might expect, a series where girls talk frankly about menstruation kind of had niche appeal ten years ago. The series was made into an anime and renamed in English as Girl’s High. Things in the story were necessarily squished for the adaptation, which is why I consider the original manga to be superior, but at least the anime ending was charming and fun.
Yeah, I realize that the dancing is just rotoscoped actors, but I do like how the way each character dances directly links to their personality – the uptight girl does the frug (I think that’s what it’s called), the extrovert goes crazy with a guitar riff, and so on. And even better, all of the girls are endearingly awkward. It really does look like a bunch of teenage girls messing around instead of accomplished dance students displaying their skills. Plus the ending shows just how much effort the girls put into appearing cute – the make-up, the studied playfulness, the deliberate construction of their social fronts. It’s not Erving Goffman but it’s still something.
Over here is a translated interview of Tsutomu Nihei, the author of Knights of Sidonia. I find it interesting that he’s aware he needs to do more to make his work appeal to female readers. I dunno, dude, maybe make it less male gaze-y? Just change up the presentation and quit with the harem antics and fanservice.
It’s not like Sidonia’s subject matter or setting are alien to shoujo or to female readers. I mean, Please Save My Earth had psychic death battles and They Were Eleven began with a giant info-dump about fusion reactors and space empires – things that should be pleasantly familiar to old school grognards stuck in the sci-fi ghetto. (The latter also had transgender aliens reenacting And Then There Were None in space, but I digress.)
Though I do wish the interviewer had asked Nihei more about his science fiction influences. Which novels did mini-Nihei consume as he dreamed of writing his own science fiction? Still, it’s an interesting interview and even if you’ve never read the manga (like me) it still gives an interesting perspective on what made Knights of Sidonia.
The manga Luca, The Summer I Shared With You is essentially a love letter to classic Western sci-fi, with most of the chapters being titled after science fiction classics. The throwback atmosphere is probably why I liked this book so much.
The story itself is about a teenage boy whose sister’s mind has been replaced by that of a soldier from the future trying to prevent a disaster. It feels kind of like a mid-century sci-fi juvenile novel, especially with the focus on the made-up science and the way the protagonist is always coldly rational, though the weird time travel sex shit is more like Heinlein’s adult works.
I’ve noticed that a lot of manga that I like were initially published by BEAM COMIX (rendered as Comic Beam in the linked Wikipedia article for reasons I can’t ascertain). It’s a magazine that serializes manga mainly targeted at an adult male audience.
It seems to me, judging from their published titles that I’ve enjoyed, that the publisher releases offbeat works with unique premises that are compellingly readable. What have I read of theirs? Let’s see, there’s the magical realism of Ran and the Gray World, the character-driven kitchen sink comedy of Hinamatsuri, the indie comic action of Bambi and Her Pink Gun, the anthropological detail of A Bride’s Story, the science fiction violence of Immortal Hounds, and the adventure comedy of Dungeon Meshi. This is an all star line-up.
According to the ol’ Wiki, the magazine is considered by many as focusing on “alternative” manga, which from context sounds like the Japanese equivalent of indie comics. It has a very small readership of 25,000 but consisting largely of hardcore enthusiasts and art students. To my mind, BEAM COMIX’s readers would probably be the type to own copies of Understanding Comics (the comic book bible) were they to live over here instead. In fact, quite a few of the magazine’s Japanese audience probably do own copies of Understanding Comics themselves.
Whatever they’re doing, BEAM COMIX is doing it right. Their editors know how to pick a winning story. I’m going to keep an eye out for their other stuff from now on.