Obsession resumes

March 13, 2007

I was reading Kate Culkin’s PWCW profile of the delightful Aya (Drawn & Quarterly), and I came to a screeching halt when I read this:

“The ALA has nominated the book as one of its 2008 Great Graphic Novels for Teens.”

What?! There’s a new round of nominations?! Why wasn’t I informed?! To the search engine!

Ahhhh, Young Adult Library Services Association… it’s been too long.

Anyway, it’s a nice first round of nominees with some personal favorites (After School Nightmare, Emma, Goong) and some books I’m looking forward to reading (The Plain Janes, The Tiny Tyrant).

Manga chic

March 13, 2007

Manga Month may still be down the road a ways, but it seems like it’s Boutique Week on the ComicList, with welcome arrivals from smaller publishers.

Take the pick of the week, Fumiyo Kouno’s Town of Evening Calm, Country of Cherry Blossoms from Last Gasp. The U.S. publisher of Keiji Nakazawa’s legendary Barefoot Gen offers another perspective at Japan after the atomic bomb, and I’ve heard nothing but enthusiastic responses from people who’ve read it in scanlation or Japanese.

Fresh on the heels of MangaBlog’s interview with Stephen Robson, Fanfare/Ponent Mon releases the third volume of Times of Botchan, scripted by Natsuo Sekikawa and conceived and drawn by the superb Jiro (The Walking Man) Taniguchi, and re-offers Yukiko’s Spinach, written by Frédéric Boilet and drawn by the fabulous Kan (Kinderbook) Takahama.

Gullywasher offers Danica Novgorodoff’s Isotope Award-winning mini-comic, A Late Freeze, which I really enjoyed.

Okay, CMX is an arm of DC, so it’s not really boutique-y, but Kaoru Mori’s Emma feels boutique-y, and I’m holding on to this theme with my fingernails. The third volume ships on Wednesday, and it’s lovely.

And Blu offers Hirotaka Kisaragi’s Innocent Bird, which I bought over the weekend because it seemed like it would be enthusiastically tawdry but turned out to be sort of interesting and thoughtful instead. I liked it, but I can’t say I’m not a little bit disappointed by the smut shortage. Stupid plastic wrap.

From the stack: Innocent Bird Vol. 1

March 13, 2007

It’s delightful how easily the premise of Hirotaka Kisaragi’s Innocent Bird (Blu) translates into buddy-comedy bluster:

A devil trying to do the right thing… An angel upholding God’s law the only way he knows how… Genesis… was just… the beginning!

Inventing variations on bombastic movie trailers throughout my reading of this book probably led me to like it more than I should. It’s not especially gripping, and readers hoping for sexy blasphemy will be sorely disappointed, but Kisaragi does chart some interesting, even moving territory along the way.

Shirasagi is a very bad devil. He’s gone so far as to abandon his demonic duties to become a priest in a low-rent neighborhood, ministering to the downtrodden and teaching children mathematics and Japanese out of a shuttered nightclub. Karasu, the angel, cares more about the spirit of God’s law than the letter. When sent to convince Shirasagi to resume his duties as Beelzebub’s favorite sex toy, Karasu lacks the bureaucrat’s enthusiasm for order and regulation.

The two are essentially soldiers in a war that has become so codified as to be void of passion or meaning. Angels and devils do what they do because that’s what they’ve always done, and individual moral choice has been divorced from the equation. Shirasagi and Karasu are outsiders simply because they take a nuanced, personal view of their by-the-numbers circumstances. Even putting aside their mutual attraction, they’re dangerous because they think for themselves.

That conceit interests me, and it helps overcome a lot of the mundane mechanics of the story. Nothing particularly startling or even unexpected happens in terms of plot, and Kisaragi is much better at illustrating emotion than event. In spite of those shortcomings, Kisaragi has convinced me to want a happy outcome for her protagonists and to be curious about what happens to them next. (A sharply observed back-up story about building a family of choice goes a long way to sell me on Kisaragi’s abilities.)