Lord help the sister

October 29, 2008

In the process of creating Papillon (Del Rey), Miwa Ueda consulted with counselors to explore the psychology of the twin-sister rivals at the center of her story. Okay, so the experts, as described, kind of sound like Tokyo’s answer to Dr. Phil, but there’s an observant undercurrent to the book all the same.

Ueda introduces withdrawn Ageha and popular Hana, sisters who were raised separately for the first seven or eight years of their lives. Ueda never really explains why the separation occurs, which nags at me. (I always thought the twins in The Parent Trap should have focused their energies on scorched-earth vengeance for their parents’ hideously selfish neglect rather than on trying to reunite them, but maybe that’s just me.) But Ueda is more interested in portraying the sisters’ prickly dynamic than explaining how they arrived at it.

Since Ueda portrays the relationship with feeling and detail, I can mostly overlook the omitted exposition. Ageha is discontent in Hana’s shadow, and she’s been nurturing a crush on a classmate who spent summers in the country near her grandmother’s house. A trainee school counselor (hunky and irresponsible, but amusing all the same) encourages her to pursue the boy and come out of her cocoon in the process. Instead of concocting wacky, demeaning schemes, Ageha begins generally standing up for herself. Her displays of confidence have positive results, earning her new friends.

Hana hates that, of course. She’s used to being the sleek, sparkling city girl in comparison to Ageha’s country mouse bit, partly since Ageha generally played along. It helps Hana maintain her identity by having a drabber mirror image for contrast. So she takes steps to maintain the status quo. But Ueda is generous enough to refrain from making Hana completely horrible, acknowledging that Hana might actually have some feelings for the boy she stole from her sister.

It’s possible that I’m being too generous to Hana based on my distaste for her parents’ past behavior, but I find her and Ageha fairly evenly matched. That balance makes for a more interesting story than a pure underdog portrayal for Ageha. I’m looking forward to future twists and turns, as Ueda has set up a believable dynamic that should be able to generate them without stretching things too far. I admit that I’ll be bitterly disappointed if the sisters don’t go off on Mom and Dad at some point, but for now, I’m content to enjoy the soapy, slightly nasty sister act.

(This review is based on a complimentary copy provided by the publisher.)

Upcoming 10/29/2008

October 28, 2008

This week’s ComicList offers a happy hodgepodge of choices, from cross-cultural curiosities to comic strips to creepy classics. (It also allows for a lot of alliteration.)

First and foremost is the fourth volume of Adam Warren’s razor-sharp but still endearing super-hero and fan-service parody, Empowered (Dark Horse). Rarely is the enduring fortitude of the human spirit celebrated with such enthusiastic bad taste.

I can rarely resist a travelogue comic, and Enrico Casarosa’s The Venice Chronicles (AdHouse) looks like an extremely pretty one.

A new volume of Hitoshi Iwaaki’s old-school horror manga, Parasyte (Del Rey) is always a welcome arrival, and the fifth installment shows up Wednesday.

As much as I enjoy Vertical’s manga releases, I’ve missed the design genius of Chip Kidd. I can kind of get over it thanks to the arrival of Kidd’s Bat-Manga! (Pantheon).

While I strongly suspect The Venice Chronicles will be much more to my narrative-friendly tastes, I’m sure there will be much to admire in Yuichi Yokoyama’s Travel (PictureBox).

I’ve heard nothing but raves about the anime adaptation of The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya, and I keep meaning to put it in the queue, but I’m just not that much of an anime geek. And besides, I tend to like to read the manga first. (Except in the case of Inu Yasha, because that series is like 75 volumes long, so I’ll stick with the animated version for now.) But thanks to Yen Press for launching the series this week. Yen is also delivering the second volume of Satoko Kiyuduki’s four-panel fairy tale, Shoulder-a-Coffin Kuro. I really enjoyed the first volume, so this is another welcome arrival.


October 28, 2008

I’m really glad Tom Spurgeon reviewed American Widow (Villard), because some variation on cowardice has been keeping me from writing about my own negative response to the book. I’m reluctant to review autobiographical works in the first place, which springs from the probably false assumption that creators are more sensitive to criticism of their own stories as opposed to criticism of ones they’ve invented. (There’s also the unpleasant prospect of essentially telling someone either that their life story is kind of boring or that they don’t tell it very well, or both.)

Anyway, Tom makes a fine argument against the book, and the only thing I’d add is that I felt like I knew less about the subject after I read it than I did before.

I’m in the “Liked it” column

October 27, 2008

Well, really, after Jog and Chris Butcher have discussed it, what else is there to say? In my defense, I did not yet know that they’d both already gone over Solanin (Viz) when I wrote this week’s column.

And really, there’s only so much I could have written about the terrorist fist-bump in the eighth volume of Beauty Pop. I’m not fooled by you, seemingly innocent, would-be beauty experts.

Sad news

October 27, 2008

This news makes me very sad. I’ve always liked Hillerman’s novels, solid mysteries set in one of my favorite parts of the world (the Southwest), and I think the Times does a good job summarizing his appeal and impact:

“Mr. Hillerman’s evocative novels, which describe people struggling to maintain ancient traditions in the modern world, touched millions of readers, who made them best sellers. But although the themes of his books were not overtly political, he wrote with a purpose, he often said, and that purpose was to instill in his readers a respect for Indian culture. The plots of his stories, while steeped in contemporary crime and its consequences, were invariably instructive about ancient tribal beliefs and customs, from purification rituals for a soldier returned from a foreign war to incest taboos for a proper clan marriage.”

Friday poll 10/24/2008

October 24, 2008

Looking at the official selections recently announced by Angoulême, which book would you most like to see made available in English?

Angoulême selections

October 23, 2008

Awards season plows forward as the legendary Angoulême Comics Festival announces its official selections, including some comics from Japan and one from China:

  • La Force des Humbles,” by Hiroshi Hirata, published by Delcourt
  • “Les Gouttes de Dieu,” by Tadashi Agi and Shu Okimoto, published by Glénat (and yes, it’s that wine manga)
  • “La Pluie du Paradis,” by Yu Lu, published by Casterman
  • “Undercurrent,” by Tetsuya Toyoda, published by Kana
  • “Le Voleur de Visages,” by Junji Ito, published by Tonkam
  • (Via Dirk Deppey.)

    Upcoming 10/22/2008

    October 22, 2008

    I’m in an easily confused state, so I’ll just note that the stuff on this week’s ComicList looks an awful lot like stuff that was on it the last couple of weeks. So click on the ComicList category and marvel at my prescience, or something.

    I’m going to confine myself to a “pick of the week,” and that pick would be Asano Inio’s Solanin, arriving courtesy of Viz. I thought it looked promising when I first thought it was shipping, and I’ve actually read it in the intervening weeks thanks to a preview copy from the publisher. I don’t want to go into too much detail and rob myself of column fodder for next week, but I really liked Jog’s blurb about the book:

    “Actually, it sounds just like Seiichi Hayashi’s 1970-71 lingering youths landmark Red Colored Elegy (in English this year from Drawn and Quarterly), although I’m sure this latter work is 7,000% more straightforward and contemporary mainstream-palatable. And Asano could certainly go places with it.”

    If there was a highly conceptual costume partly, Solanin would kind of be like what you would get if Beck: Mongolian Chop Squad went dressed as Red Colored Elegy, had a little too much to drink and started getting sort of Method-actor about it all. That’s intended as a compliment. There are lots of stories about aimless 20-somethings in all kinds of media, but I would argue that there are only a handful of really good ones, and I think Solanin makes the cut.

    Pass it on

    October 20, 2008

    Windy manga columnist has crush on Jiro Taniguchi.

    Friday poll 10/17/2008

    October 17, 2008

    Lazy content generation just got easier. WordPress now has a poll function.