Monday, October 29, 2012

Manga Monday: Can first love be anything but bittersweet?

Year 2 at Tokyo Space School begins, and Mr. Lion reflects on his first love, in Twin Spica Volume 5.

Note:  Twin Spica Volume 5 is, of course, the sequel to Twin Spica Volume 4. The review for Twin Spica Volume 1 is here, and the review of Twin Spica Volume 4 is here. Otherwise, read on!

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Sometimes the story behind the story is even more interesting

"Just a story? Tell that to the Greeks who fought at Troy...Tell the women burned as witches. The Rosenbergs. Sacco and Vanzetti. Tell the martyrs of all the religions and the millions who fell in all the wars since time began. Stories are the only thing worth dying for."
That speech, made by a man consumed by a story, eloquently sums up the beginning of an amazing new series from Vertigo, The Unwritten Volume 1 by Mike Carey, illustrated by Peter Gross. 

Tom Taylor can't help who his father was. Wilson Taylor created the world-wide phenomenon of the Timmy Taylor book series. He completed 13 books centered around this character before his mysterious disappearance, leaving his own son Tommy behind.

Fast-forward a decade or so, and Tom hasn't done all that much with his life. Really, besides money from his father's estate, he mostly just trolls the convention circuit signing his father's books and doing Q&A sessions for fans who have a dubious grasp of reality.

His whole life begins to unravel at London Tommy Con. As Lizzie Hexan brings light to the inconsistencies in Tommy's childhood, more and more of his life stops making sense. Finally, after he survives a kidnapping by a fan (with a little bit of help from Lizzie) he's hailed as a messiah, begged to lay hands on the sick and heal the crippled. And as he continues to track down figures from his childhood, it looks like there are outside forces determined to keep the past firmly in the past.

With a debut including Sandman and Hellblazer, Vertigo has been known from the beginning for bringing high-quality, innovative series to the comic store. With a current lineup including the hit 'Fables' along with this title, Vertigo is continuing this trend today. While this title could go in many different directions, history has shown that it won't lack for quality storytelling.

Highs:  The 'torture porn' version of Tommy Taylor make me giggle out loud.

Lows:  The the switch to the past in the last chapter was a bit jarring.

Verdict:  An extremely promising opening to the series, with some of the best lines about the importance of stories I've ever read.

Further Reading:  Fables, Y - The Last Man

Monday, October 15, 2012

Manga Monday: Looks like Happosai was a nuisance when he was younger, too.

Yet ANOTHER fiancee of Ranma comes out of the woodwork - and Mousse turns up again - in Ranma 1/2 Volume 8.

Note:  Ranma 1/2 Volume 8 is, of course, the sequel to Ranma 1/2 Volume 7. The review for Ranma 1/2 Volume 1 is here, and the review for Ranma 1/2 Volume 7 is here. Otherwise, read on!

Thursday, October 11, 2012

One woman sheds light on a nation's oppression of women

All countries evolve. A person born a generation ago in America has seen a revolution in social issues. In the last 50 years, the US has seen great strides in the acceptance of minorities, homosexuals, the physically and mentally handicapped, and those with mental illnesses. The military has gone from a noble profession, to something to be despised, to a 'love the soldier, hate the war' mentality. We've had the Red Scare, watched the Berlin Wall come down and had the first large-scale terrorist attack on American soil.

All that, however, is nothing compared to what has been going on in China since the end of World War II, as seen in Xinran's Good Women of China. So much of it will never be know, because of China's strict control of the media. It's a wonder even that the Tank Man footage of the Tienanmen Square Massacre made it out intact, as military police stormed the hotels overlooking the Square, destroying any film and cameras they could find.

By the 1980s, however, China began to give the appearance of a free press. Author Xinran sought to give voice to the millions of women in China that had found themselves in truly horrifying situations. Created by a combination of thousands of years of a male-dominated culture, the huge social and political upheaval of the last century, and a pervasive national sense of not being able to change one's lot in life. Whatever the reason, though, there is no excuse for the horrors found in the stories included here.

The very first story in the collection is the story of Hong Yue. Hong Yue was a bright young girl who kept a diary while in the hospital. But the relative safety of the hospital was the best situation she'd ever been in. For at home, her father slips into her bedroom at night. And when she tells her mother about this, she is told that there is nothing to be done about it. The family needs its patriarch, and there is nothing to be gained by making a fuss and the family losing face over the issue. So Hong Yue learns how to keep herself sickly and confined to the hospital,  where befriending a baby housefly and sacrificing her health is better than the alternative.

But not every heartbreaking story ends in despair. Due to the lack of rural infrastructure, a massive earthquake in central China went completely unnoticed by authorities. Until people walked through the destroyed roads leading out of town, no one outside the village knew how bad the destruction was. Entire apartment buildings were shorn in two, as mothers watched their children buried in rubble. But from the devastation of the earthquake grew an orphanage that helped the childless mothers as much as the orphans themselves. Their days are filled with laughter and play, and both the mothers and the children share in the healing.

After working on her radio show for years, Xinran became a tremendously famous media personality in China. It came to the point where she would be stopped on the street by perfect strangers, and being offered their terrible stories, wherever she went. Eventually, it became too much for her, and she moved herself and her son to Britain. One good thing came of the move, however - outside of the influence of the Chinese media, she's now able to get her books published. Since then, she has also set up a charity teaching Chinese heritage to children who have been adopted out of the country. In this way, Xinran continues to help those without a voice, both in China and beyond.

Highs: These are stories that need to be told, no matter how hard they are to endure.

Lows:  Because there are no easy answers to the plights of those whose stories are told, it does leave the reader with a sense of despair at the end.

Verdict: An absolute must-read for anyone who wants to know how the rest of the world really lives.

Further Reading: Sky Burial, Half the Sky

Monday, October 8, 2012

Manga Monday: The past ten years finally become clear

The cause of the tension between Rin and Kouki finally gets some explanation in Bunny Drop Volume 6.

Note:  Bunny Drop Volume 6 is, of course, the sequel to Bunny Drop Volume 5. The review of Bunny Drop Volume 1 is here, and the review of Bunny Drop Volume 5 is here. Otherwise, read on!

Monday, October 1, 2012

Manga Monday: They call it the Vomit Comet for a reason

Marika begins to break away from her family, and Asumi works to overcome her physical limitations in Twin Spica Volume 4.

Note:  Twin Spica Volume 4 is, of course, the sequel to Twin Spica Volume 3. The review for Twin Spica Volume 1 is here, and the review of Twin Spica Volume 3 is here. Otherwise, read on!