Category Archives: Manga

Barefoot Gen, Vol. 1: A Cartoon Story of Hiroshima by Keiji Nakazawa, Translated by Project Gen

Barefoot Gen 1 Title:
Author: Keiji Nakazawa
Publisher: Last Gasp
ISBN: 978-0867196023
Genre: Graphic Novel, Manga
Pages: 288
Source: Personal Copy
Rating: 5 Stars

Never a good time to read about Hiroshima and Nagasaki and yet something draws me to picking up more books about that time and what happened to them during WWII. I don’t know what it is – maybe just some fascination or dread even (which I will never admit) – the fact that we know how it ended and yet we want to know more about it – the horror of it all, but more than that it is the human stories that come out of it, with every new read on the bombings. Yes, that’s why for sure. And this time in the form of a graphic novel.

“Barefoot Gen” is a series consisting of 10 books. The story begins in Hiroshima during the final months of the World War II. Six-year-old Gen Nakaoka and his family live in poverty and struggle to make ends meet. Gen’s father Daikichi is critical of the war. He hates the idea of it. And then in all of this, his brother Koji joins the Navy and on August 6th, the atomic bomb is dropped on Hiroshima, killing Gen’s father and his siblings. His mother and he escape and “Barefoot Gen” is the story of that survival, as they witness the horror of war and the bombing.

The book is autobiographical in nature and though you think it is only but a comic, it manages to wrench your heart. The perspective of war from the eyes of a six-year-old and the maturity as well of it will leave you speechless.

Books such as “Barefoot Gen” will always be so relevant (sadly so) – given the atrocities of war and the common folk who are always in the eye of the storm. For most part of reading the book, I just didn’t know how to react. There was a lot of sadness and love and more than anything else, a lot of anger at a chosen few who decide to do what they do, when all that the majority wants is peace and the chance to be alive and thrive. A read not to be missed out on for sure. Can’t wait to read the other nine parts.

 

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My Brother’s Husband, Volume 1 by Gengoroh Tagame . Translated by Anne Ishii

51rq4hPobXL Title: My Brother’s Husband, Volume 1
Author: Gengoroh Tagame
Translated from the Japanese by
Publisher: Pantheon Graphic Novels
ISBN: 978-1101871515
Genre: Graphic Novels
Pages: 352
Source: Publisher
Rating: 5 Stars

“My Brother’s Husband” is a graceful manga by Gengoroh Tagame. It handles homosexuality, homophobia and xenophobia (to some extent) very tenderly and not once did I feel berated being a gay man or an insider looking out while reading this manga. Tagame tells the story of parents and in turn of children and how important it is for children to learn, believe and accept alternate sexualities. At the same time, this manga doesn’t get preachy at all. It doesn’t sermonize or ask you to change yourself. It provides different perspectives and that’s that to it.

Yaichi – a single Japanese dad is forced to confront his painful past when an affable Canadian named Mike Flanagan shows up at his door, declaring himself to be the widower of Yaichi’s estranged gay twin Ryoji. Mike wants to explore Ryoji’s past, his family and his growing-up years. Yaichi takes him in reluctantly and thus begins a relationship of understanding, apprehension and fear not only between Mike and Yaichi but also between Mike and Yaichi’s young daughter, Kana. It is how Kana begins to question and understands Mike and at the same time Yaichi’s overcoming of homophobia is what the manga is all about.

Japan as a country is quite conservative when it comes to the question of homosexuals. It isn’t easy to talk about it in the open – more so in traditional societies of Japan. Maybe that is why this manga is needed now more than ever. Tagame explores each aspect – alienation, small incidents of homophobia, questions about the relationship that wasn’t mainstream and the differences of perception between the East and the West tenderly and with much insight.

There are multiple viewpoints, which is great because he then doesn’t give only one point of view and leave it at that. It also talks of how relationships can alter feelings and how life as it goes along, gives you the opportunity to keep embracing the new, no matter how different it might be. The story is beautiful and the characters are so well-rounded.

This book is definitely for those who want to understand what the LGBT people face, no matter how basic it seems in the book. This could however be the perfect guide and also not just for adults but children as well. “My Brother’s Husband” embraces differences and talks of cultural clashes at the same time. I cannot wait to read the second volume soon.

The Gods Lie. by Kaori Ozaki

Title: The Gods Lie.
Author: Kaori Ozaki
Publisher: Vertical Comics
ISBN: 978-1942993360
Genre: Manga, Graphic Novel
Pages: 216
Source: Personal Copy
Rating: 5 Stars

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This was the first book read this month and it has stuck and how. I never thought a Manga could leave me all emotional and almost in tears, but this one did and in the most wondrous way. “The Gods Lie” is about everything I think, as you are growing-up, it is also more than just a coming of age tale and yet the innocence and charm of the book isn’t gone at all, no matter how dire the circumstances. There is always some hope and light at the end of the tunnel and maybe that is why I could connect with this read.

Natsuru Nanao is a 6th grader who lives with his mom, loves soccer and isn’t what you’d call the popular kid in school or maybe he is. Enter Rio Suzumura and the both of them have an unlikely friendship, given how different they are. The soccer coach changes and Natsuru hates the new coach (there are several instances) and decides to not to go soccer camp. In all of this, he ends up staying over at Rio’s house with her kid brother. He does find it strange to see these two children living alone but then secrets start tumbling out of the closet – including a dark one which will test his love for Rio.

That in short is the plot of the book. It is a coming-of-age story for sure but there is so much more to it – the harsh realities of modern life, how one just hangs on to hope no matter what, and of course the bittersweetness of first love. It is a short-read. There is not much dialogue but I think when you are dealing this strongly with emotions, the need for dialogues doesn’t really arise. At the same time, you are vested in the story of Natsuru and Rio, that you just want it all to be fine for them. That to me is the power of a great book. When it engages you to this extent. I can’t recommend this book enough. Do read it.

Opus by Satoshi Kon

opus-by-satoshi-kon Title: Opus
Author: Satoshi Kon
Translator: Zack Davisson
Publisher: Dark Horse Comics
ISBN: 978-1616556068
Genre: Manga, Graphic Novels
Pages: 384
Source: Borrowed from a friend
Rating: 5 Stars

Satoshi Kon died very young. When he was only forty-nine years old. In the course of reading his manga, “Opus” I researched and got to know more about it. I didn’t even know till then that he was a renowned filmmaker. I’m only too glad that I read “Opus” – a little too late, but better late than never.

“Opus” is about worlds that writers create; characters they rule over, plots they devise and how all of them affect each other. The manga is about a manga creator Chikara Nagai and how he is at a deadline to finish his graphic novel Resonance. Lin, his main hero does not want to die. He protests as he tears the last sheet of the manga and runs into the world created by Nagai. Lin wants to protect Satoko who is battling the evil Masque. Masque will stop at nothing. These are characters created by Nagai and he doesn’t want them to have a happy ending, though his editor and everyone else around him wants them to.

Chikara by chance or magic if you please enters his world of Resonance. The characters want to write their own story. Satoko comes to the real world with Chikara and things change drastically – with a lot of thrill page by page for the reader. Let me not say any further now or I will be giving away most of the plot.

Kon’s imagination is magnificent – as is visible through this manga. I haven’t watched his movies, so I really can’t comment on them. Having said that, this manga is brilliant beyond words. The anime has so much character, grace, personality and plot twists and turns that you cannot help but love this one. I wish someone would make a series of it soon. It would be epic.

The Book of Human Insects by Osamu Tezuka

The Book of Human Insects by Osamu Tezuka Title: The Book of Human Insects
Author: Osamu Tezuka
Publisher: Vertical
ISBN: 978-1935654773
Genre: Manga, Graphic Novels, Comics
Pages: 368
Source: Personal Copy
Rating: 4 Stars

Osamu Tezuka was my introduction to Manga and I will forever be indebted to him for that. I remember the first time I read Tezuka. It was 2007 and the Buddha series had just released. Landmark was the only store that stocked it then and I became a fan. A true blue fan of Mr. Tezuka’s work. Since then, the love has only grown stronger – book by book and will not end anytime soon, because there is so much ground to cover.

Having said that, the book I read this time and absolutely loved was “The Book of Human Insects”. It is about so much that I don’t know where to begin with this review. Toshiko Tomura is a genius. She is everything anyone would want to be – intelligent, famous, a stage actress, a prestigious award winning writer, and also an up and coming architect. She is all this because she has the rare talent of emulating the skill of others.

She is also behind a series of murders – whether she committed them herself or led those people to doesn’t matter, a series of men, blackmail, treachery and loneliness as she climbs the ladder of fame. This in short is this graphic novel. It is edgy, sharp, witty and takes you to the extremes of despair and loneliness, but every turn of the page is worth it.

Now to the writing and the illustrations. The manga as visualized and incepted by Tezuka is beyond brilliant. Tezuka clearly knew what he was doing and this is evident in almost every manga of his. He made me a fan (Oh my God I say this with no reference to the recent movie) for life (even though he sadly isn’t around) and there is so much of him to discover through his works. Thank God for that.