And the nominees are…

April 8, 2010

Tom (The Comics Reporter) Spurgeon was first out of the gate to post this year’s Eisner Awards nominations, and I thought I’d pull out the manga- and manhwa-related nominees with a little commentary.

Best Continuing Series

  • Naoki Urasawa’s 20th Century Boys, Naoki Urasawa (VIZ Media)
  • This delights me, as I like 20th Century Boys just slightly more than Pluto, so I’m glad to see it get a nomination in this very high-profile category.

    I was a bit disappointed by the absence of manga in the Best Publication for Teens category, but the slate seems crazy strong, at least based on reviews that I’ve seen of the chosen works.

    Best Reality-Based Work

  • A Drifting Life, Yoshihiro Tatsumi (Drawn & Quarterly)
  • A nomination for this excellent book was never really in question. It was just a matter of wondering which category (or categories) would claim it.

    Best Graphic Album — New

  • A Distant Neighborhood Vols. 1-2, by Jiro Taniguchi (Fanfare/Ponent Mon)
  • I’m a bit surprised that GoGo Monster didn’t snag a slot here (or anywhere). But Taniguchi does admirable work, and I’m very thrilled that Fanfare/Ponent Mon’s splendid My Mommy is in America and she met Buffalo Bill is keeping A Distant Neighborhood company.

    Again, I’ll express some mild disappointment that there was no nod for Black Jack in the Best Archival Collection/Project — Comic Books category. That’s an impressive effort on Vertical’s part, and they deserve plaudits for it.

    Best U.S. Edition of International Material — Asia

  • The Color Trilogy, Kim Dong Hwa (First Second)
  • A Distant Neighborhood Vols. 1-2, by Jiro Taniguchi (Fanfare/Ponent Mon)
  • A Drifting Life, Yoshihiro Tatsumi (Drawn & Quarterly)
  • Oishinbo a la Carte, written by Tetsu Kariya and illustrated by Akira Hanasaki (VIZ Media)
  • Pluto: Urasawa X Tezuka, Naoki Urasawa and Takashi Nagasaki (VIZ Media)
  • Naoki Urasawa’s 20th Century Boys, Naoki Urasawa (VIZ Media)
  • On the one hand, this is a generally excellent slate, and I’m thrilled to see Oishinbo included. I think I’m the only person in the world who didn’t like The Color Trilogy, so I’ll keep my opinions to myself on that front. And I don’t think it’s wrong to suggest that there might have been room here for some of the excellent works created by women, like Junko Mizuno’s Little Fluffy Gigolo Pelu, Kaoru Mori’s Emma, or Fumi Yoshinaga’s Ôoku: The Inner Chambers, as they really were as good as just about any other comic published last year.

    Best Writer/Artist

  • Naoki Urasawa, Naoki Urasawa’s 20th Century Boys, Pluto: Urasawa X Tezuka (VIZ Media)
  • Is there some kind of record for most nominations for a single creator?

    Best Lettering

  • Adrian Tomine, A Drifting Life (Drawn & Quarterly)
  • Best Comics-Related Book

  • The Art of Osamu Tezuka: God of Manga, Helen McCarthy (Abrams ComicArts)
  • Manga Kamishibai: The Art of Japanese Paper Theater, Eric P. Nash (Abrams ComicArts)
  • It wouldn’t be an Eisner slate if Tezuka wasn’t in there somewhere. As it should be.

    Here’s a link to my post of suggestions for the Eisner nominating committee, just in case anyone feels like looking back.

    In the near future

    April 8, 2010

    I’m never entirely sure what the right window is to review a book before it comes out. Write about it too far in advance, and people who might want to try the book could be frustrated by the fact that they can’t immediately act on that impulse. But I’ll run the risk with a couple of titles, as they’re both a little off the beaten track, both very good, and may well benefit from all the mentions they can get. Let me explain.

    One of the first manga I ever read was Makoto Yukimura’s Planetes (Tokyopop). I was never a huge fan of science fiction, and I’m still not, but this one really had the right kind of narrative voice for me. It’s a character-driven story about orbital garbage haulers, the men and women that clear debris out of space to keep people from dying, basically. It’s very low-key and introspective, and it really struck a chord with me, even though I felt it had some imperfections.

    It didn’t sell very well, which rankled me. (It’s always rankled me when books I really like don’t sell very well.) Planetes was among the licenses that Kodansha reclaimed from Tokyopop, so it’s effectively out of print. That’s very unfortunate. With two other low-key, character driven space dramas in the pipeline, I feel a possibly unwarranted, pre-emptive protective urge.

    The first volume of Kou Yaginuma’s Twin Spica (Vertical) comes out May 4, 2010. It’s about a 14-year-old girl who dreams of becoming an astronaut, of coming closer to the stars she’s always loved. Asumi must overcome her father’s resistance, a rigorous entrance exam, and personal tragedies to enter a training academy.

    Yaginuma renders all of Asumi’s difficulties with admirably straightforward delicacy and attention to detail. There’s plausibility to the process Asumi pursues and the examination system itself. There’s also a wonderful earnestness to Asumi’s dreams and her desire to reach out to the people who share them. Factor in the aching sadness that provides underpinnings for Asumi’s quest and you have a moving, unusual finished product.

    The illustrations have just the right fragility for the material. They have a simple, sketchy charm that helps you focus on the characters. There’s a similar quality to the look of the second book on my mind, Hisae Iwaoka’s Saturn Apartments (Viz), which ships on May 18, 2010. (It’s one of the titles in rotation on Viz’s SigIKKI site.)

    Iwaoka’s work has the same tenderness towards her characters, but she lavishes more detail on their environments. This is all to the good, because that environment is fascinating. The titular apartments are floating in orbit above a largely uninhabitable Earth. The story’s protagonists are window washers for those apartments, which is as perilous as you might suspect. As is too often the case, the danger and drudgery of their work doesn’t come with an appropriately high salary. They live on the grungy levels, even as they clean the windows of the elite.

    Young Mitsu has just taken up the work of a window washer, following in the footsteps of his dead father. We watch his evolution as a worker, and we also see the lives of his co-workers and clients. Iwaoka does a lovely job finding the possibilities in her scenario as she inches forward with Mitsu’s growth as a person.

    Both of these titles succeed in finding the specific human drama in space opera. They’re graceful, wistful, and gently funny at the right moments. They don’t have the raucous bombast that can often make a book a best-seller, but they’re well worth your attention if you like interesting, sympathetic characters in fascinating situations.

    (The review of Twin Spica is based on a preview copy provided by the publisher. You can read Saturn Apartments online at the SigIKKI link above.)