Frenchmen

July 23, 2010

I had a great time participating in Melinda Beasi’s Gerard & Jacques roundtable over at Manga Bookshelf. It’s always a pleasure chatting with some of my favorite manga bloggers about work by one of the most interesting creators out there, even if this isn’t one of my favorites of Fumi Yoshinaga’s works. (Manga Bookshelf has devoted the entire week to Yoshinaga, which has resulted in some great reading.)

I keep meaning to do a post on yaoi and boys’-love titles that gay guys might like. I don’t think I’d put Gerard & Jacques on that list, though there’s other Yoshinaga manga that would be right up near the top. First place would obviously belong to Saika Kunieda’s Future Lovers (Deux), but that’s about as concrete as my thinking is on the list so far. That’s because I’m lazy and easily distracted. I’ll get around to it someday, though.


Vive la France!

July 14, 2010

It’s Bastille Day, so I thought I’d put together a quick list of some of my favorite comics by French creators and some of my favorite comics set in France. It’s tough, because so many of them are so great, but I’ll try not to go overboard. Off the top of my head, here are some of my favorite comics by French writers and artists:

  • Aya, written by Marguerite Abouet and illustrated by Clément Oubrerie (Drawn & Quarterly): Wonderfully funny and thoughtful multigenerational soap opera about coming of age in the Ivory Coast of the 1970s.
  • Little Nothings, written and illustrated by Lewis Trondheim (NBM): Really terrific slice-of-life and observational humor from a wonderful cartoonist.
  • The Rabbi’s Cat, written and illustrated by Joann Sfar (Pantheon): A rabbi in Algeria finds his cat can talk, and the cat has no shortage of distressing philosophical opinions.
  • Klezmer, written and illustrated by Joann Sfar (First Second): I really like Sfar, what can I say? I even liked Vampire Loves, and I usually hate vampire comics. When are we going to get more of this wonderful tale of Jewish musicians in Eastern Europe?
  • Get a Life, written and illustrated by Philippe Dupuy and Charles Berberian: Why haven’t there been more collections of Monsieur Jean stories published in English? This one’s a treasure.
  • Glacial Period, written and illustrated by Nicolas de Crécy (NBM): Still my favorite of the comics created in conjunction with the Louvre. (Holy crap, NBM is going to publish Salvatore this winter! My wish came true!)
  • My Mommy Is in America and She Met Buffalo Bill, written by Jean Regnaud and illustrated by Émille Bravo (Fanfare/Ponent Mon): Deservedly nominated for a few Eisner Awards this year,
  • Japan as Viewed by 17 Creators, written and illustrated by various creators (Fanfare/Ponent Mon): Half of this book constitutes an invasion of Japan by various wonderful French comic artists. The other half is wonderful Japanese comic artists telling stories about their hometowns. There is no losing in this book. I’d love to see the same group take on France as Viewed by 17 Creators.
  • And here are a couple of comics set in France that I really like:

  • Paris, written by Andi Watson and illustrated by Simon Gane (SLG): This tale of young women in love in the Paris of the 1920s is so gorgeous it almost hurts.
  • Gerard and Jacques, written and illustrated by Fumi Yoshinaga (Blu): Over time, I’ve willfully forgotten the fact that this series opens with coercive sex, because I love watching the characters natter at each other in between bouts of steamy, consensual congress.
  • What did I forget? Or what should I look into? What about comics from or set in France that have yet to be translated? Between their indigenous talent and the volume of licensed manga they enjoy, the French are sick with awesome comics.


    Letter head

    February 22, 2010

    I can’t really say that I’m a huge fan of Yun Kouga’s comics. Earthian (Blu) was one of the comics that cemented my opinion that love stories between angels are relentlessly dull, and Loveless (Tokyopop) struck me as too melodramatic and confusing. I do find her art lovely in an odd way, so I keep trying.

    I might have liked Crown of Love (Viz), a tale of romantically entangled pop idols, but there’s an obstacle. The font choices don’t make any sense to me.

    As you can see in the image above, all of the dialogue is printed in upper-case italics. Internal monologues and asides use sentence-case italics. There’s no distinction between present-moment font choices and flashback font choices, so it can be a little confusing to determine when the story shifts to explore past events.

    So my biggest issue with Crown of Love is with the way the words are presented. In my experience, upper-case italics are the font of meaningful flashbacks. Italicized text seems best applied to either shouting or internal musings as opposed to run-of-the-mill dialogue. So the consistent use of upper-case italics puts too much import on moments that should read as breezy and conversational. For contrast, here’s a page from the third volume of Ken Saito’s The Name of the Flower (CMX) that I think uses varied lettering extremely well:

    Gradations of emotion seem important in Crown of Love, as the story shifts from classroom banter to industry scheming to intense and sudden feelings of romance. But the lettering bleeds the dialogue of visual nuance. It renders it in monotone. You can read it into the dialogue, but, frankly, there’s not that much nuance to be mined, and it seems like an awful lot of work to invest in a fairly slight outing.

    There is promise here. Kouga’s illustrations are as attractive as always, and they’re cleaner and clearer than I remember them being in other titles. I like the agent character, Ikeshiba, who uses his charges’ intense emotions to get his way and move them forward in their careers. He’s so forthright in his manipulation, which is refreshing in contrast to the scheming, capricious old pervs agents often are in idol stories. And Kumi, the boy Ikeshiba is trying to sign by dangling a female starlet in front of him, has a domestic situation that’s grippingly unpleasant.

    But the sameness of the lettering, its artificial, often misplaced urgency, flattens so many of the little peaks and valleys that could have been more meaningful. Dave (Comics-and-More) Ferraro notes that “Equal weight is put on everything as the book progresses,” though he doesn’t specifically mention the lettering. So it’s entirely possible that I’m the only person who has this problem, which suggests that I’m nitpicking. Here are a couple of links to reviews by other people:

  • Kate (The Manga Critic) Dacey
  • Sean (A Case Suitable for Treatment) Gaffney
  • There’s always the possibility that my deeply ingrained association of italicized all-caps comes from another source:


    Tokyopoll

    August 12, 2009

    Over at About.Com, Deb Aoki provides a wrap-up of Tokyopop’s recent webcast, including a list of upcoming new titles and updates about ongoing series. If you’ve got a minute, check Deb’s listings, then take a look at the poll below and click whichever titles sound good to you.

    I usually enjoy series that use eateries as a setting, so I’ve got my eye on Kou Matsuzuki’s Happy Café. I’m also a fan of whodunits, so I’ll certainly give Yoshitsugu Katagari’s Kokaku Detective Story a try. Higuchi Tachibana’s Portrait of M & N sounds like it could be really intriguing or go horribly awry. And the prospect of a bishie-infested, eye-rolling take on Wonderland draws me to Alice in the Country of Hearts by quinrose and Hoshino Soumei.


    From the stack: Tea for Two

    July 30, 2009

    I should note that just because I tend to prefer yaoi about grown-ups doesn’t mean I never enjoy yaoi about teen-agers. There’s an intensity of emotion and a difficulty in expressing it clearly that’s ascribed to youth, and it’s reliable story fodder. If the creator takes a light, smart touch with that material, the results can be charming. Case in point: the first volume of Yaya Sakuragi’s Tea for Two (Blu). It’s a sweet, silly, opposites-attract story.

    teafortwo1Tokumaru is a clumsy jock type. His sister reaches the breaking point with the breakage and insists he join their school’s tea ceremony club to “learn composure and grace if it kills [him]!” The club is run by stoic, dignified Hasune, who may have taken composure a little too far. Nobody who’s read a single chapter of a single yaoi title will be shocked to hear that these very different young men find themselves falling for each other, but Sakuragi does a nice job selling the notion that Tokumaru and Hasune are surprised, and pleasantly so.

    Sakuragi also does a nice job establishing the couple’s chemistry. Tokumaru isn’t just a klutz, and Hasune isn’t just frosty. Each has qualities that the other can admire, and each displays a nice sensitivity to the other’s feelings. There’s a bit of a courtship dance, but they’re refreshingly frank about their feelings long before reticence gets a chance to become tiresome. The book is as much or more about sustaining a relationship between two very different people as it is starting one.

    The look of the book supports the story. The protagonists are lanky and masculine, though they still look like they could be in high school. Sakuragi has more fun with Tokumaru’s facial expressions for the simple fact that he allows himself to have them more often than Hasune does, but she manages to work in some nice slyness and subtext into Hasune’s looks. The book is also reasonably sexy, whether or not the characters are having sex at the time.

    There are two bonus stories. I adored the short piece about a fateful meeting between Tokumaru’s and Hasune’s sisters, which provides witty, opposites-repel counterpoint to the main story. The other back-up didn’t work as well for me. In it, the guy who provides sweets and cakes for the tea club, Keigo, makes a classic relationship blunder. Keigo, it’s natural to have a crush on the wrong person, but I beg you, hold out for someone who isn’t quite so high-maintenance.


    Yoshinagarama

    March 14, 2008

    At Manga Recon, Kate Dacey and Erin F. take an entertainingly thorough (and thoroughly entertaining) look at the translated works of Fumi Yoshinaga. I’m a big fan of Yoshinaga’s work, and I’m thrilled that so much of it is available in English. And since I never pass up a chance to lazily develop blog content, here’s my list of her works ordered from favorite to least:

    1. Flower of Life (DMP)
    2. Antique Bakery (DMP)
    3. Tie — Ichigenme: The First Class Is Civil Law (801 Media) and The Moon and the Sandals (Juné)
    5. Gerard and Jacques (Blu)
    6. Don’t Say Any More, Darling (Juné)
    7. Garden Dreams (DMP)
    8. Tie — Lovers in the Night (Blu) and Truly, Kindly (Blu)
    10. Solfege (Juné)

    I’ll probably annotate these at some point, but I haven’t had enough coffee yet, and as I said… lazy blog content development.


    Blu funk

    May 9, 2007

    It’s kind of a slim week on the ComicList, so I’m going to limit myself to three items that particularly catch my eye:

    Blu continues the absolutely welcome wave of manga from Fumi Yoshinaga with Lovers in the Night, a collection of shorts that range from the French Revolution to feudal Japan to contemporary Seattle.

    Anike Hage’s Gothic Sports (Tokyopop) has generated some very favorable pre-release buzz, and the preview pages look great.

    The first volume of Meca Tanaka’s Pearl Pink (Tokyopop) didn’t quite reach the heights of Tanaka’s Omukae Desu (CMX), but I can always use a shôjo fix, and I’m becoming kind of a sucker for wacky, showbiz comedies. I’ll probably pick up the second volume sooner or later.

    Other takes:

  • Chris Mautner and Kevin Melrose at Blog@Newsarama
  • Jog
  • The MangaCasters
  • Matt Blind at comicsnob