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Lychee Light Club is a one-volume manga adaptation of a stage play the author was incredibly influenced by as a small child. In it, an incredibly screwed-up club of middle-school boys build an invincible robot powered by lychee fruit, as part of a two-part scheme of which the second half is 'rule the world', but their internal psychoses bring the whole thing crashing down long before it gets that far, despite the fact that the robot, you know, actually works.

I neither enjoyed Lychee Light Club (mostly) nor thought it was that good (mostly), but I am extremely glad that it has been translated and released in the U.S., I hope it enjoys commercial success, and I think it's important that English-speaking companies consider this a viable direction to go with things they license and put out. Despite the fact that I didn't like this. (Except that I kind of did.)

Let me unpack that a bit. The theatre who did the stage play that Usumaru Furuya adapted here were the Grand Guignol Theatre of Tokyo. The story is every bit as violent, sexually graphic, misogynistic, homophobic, needlessly cruel, and petty as you would expect from the words 'Grand Guignol'. That's the point. The reason I don't think it's very good is that it's also pretty derivative (except for the thing about the lychees)-- I could predict just about everything that happened as soon as I saw the setup, which I think may also have been part of the point, but seriously-- and the reason I didn't really enjoy it are that, well, the largest portion of the budget for the stage play must have been the fake blood. Also, piles of sexual violence.

However. Furuya is an underground artist, who got his start in the legendary magazine Garo, and whose work is only now starting to be translated. I am not sure whether he is actually definable as an ero-guro artist*, but he uses an art style here very similar to that and a similar visual vocabulary. When Lychee Light Club arrived in the mail Thrud and I looked at each other and said 'it's one of those, you know, what's that genre again, where it's not ero-guro because the content isn't extreme enough but it is in every other way, we used to know a word for this sort of thing...' and as far as I know it's the only one of those in English. And if you study manga, this is useful. For one thing, you can get some ero-guro in English, somebody has actually translated some of Suehiro Maruo DO NOT IMAGE SEARCH FOR THE LOVE OF GOD**, but why do this to yourself? I am willing to spend a lot more time studying the art and craft of Lychee Light Club to see what is going on in it than I am in looking at the harder stuff.

And there is art and craft here, and it's important to me to know what's going on in it. In a sheerly technical sense this is some of the best art I have seen in a manga. It is incredibly expressive, very well laid out, beautiful in all the wrong ways, very distinctive, and manages by virtue of drawing skill alone to force some emotional resonance and actual disturbingness into a story that I found, as I said, predictable to the point of boring.

Also, having read this makes reading the other series in English by Usumaru Furuya incredibly hilarious. You see, for a brief span of time recently Furuya did a series for Shonen SG, one of the Shonen Jump family of magazines, called Genkaku Picasso, and two volumes of that are out now. Genkaku Picasso is pretty damn terrible, unless you are in on the central joke, which is that the protagonist (including his art style) is directly out of an ero-guro. Everything else about the series, including what the protagonist is allowed to do, is drawn and written in extremely broad Shonen Jump house style, which involves speeches about friendship, everyone getting along after friendly rivalry, and everything working out for the best. Upon reading Genkaku Picasso I initially thought that it felt as though the artist was being forcibly restrained by his venue and it was a really stupid shonen series, but I now think that the point is that if you are a kid you read it as a stupid shonen and if you are an adult you expect it to devolve into terrifyingly degenerate pornography any second now and it keeps finding new implausible ways not to. Which, all right, I actually find pretty funny.

And if people are running jokes like that in a mainstream magazine? ... yeah, that's something in manga I want to keep up with, that's an actual thing. So props to Vertical for putting out Lychee Light Club, and I hope they keep on in this vein, because I appreciate it as an academic if not as a reading experience. (And hell, I may have been in the wrong mood. I usually have a pretty high violence threshold. Probably too much rape in it for me to ever actually like, though.)***

* Erotic grotesque (ero-guro): a genre of pornography generally expressed in manga by attempts to draw beautiful things as disgustingly as possible and vice versa, combining sexual content with the outré, surreal, gory, violent, and ridiculous.

** So much I mean this, you cannot even imagine. There is supposedly something coming out later this year by Maruo which is not porn, and which should therefore be amazing because the man is one of the finest technical painters I have ever encountered. I will let you all know when that happens, after I make Thrud read the thing first because I have a policy of not even touching the Maruo we currently have IT MIGHT STAY IN MY HEAD.

*** Serious props to the U.S. manga-and-anime mag Otaku USA for managing to find ten consecutive worksafe pages of Lychee Light Club to use as a preview. I do not know how they did it because if I hadn't seen that preview excerpt and compared it against the volume I would have sworn there were not ten consecutive worksafe pages in there. Now that is an impressive editor somewhere-- either at Vertical, sending the preview, or at the magazine itself.

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rushthatspeaks: (Default)
Lychee Light Club is a one-volume manga adaptation of a stage play the author was incredibly influenced by as a small child. In it, an incredibly screwed-up club of middle-school boys build an invincible robot powered by lychee fruit, as part of a two-part scheme of which the second half is 'rule the world', but their internal psychoses bring the whole thing crashing down long before it gets that far, despite the fact that the robot, you know, actually works.

I neither enjoyed Lychee Light Club (mostly) nor thought it was that good (mostly), but I am extremely glad that it has been translated and released in the U.S., I hope it enjoys commercial success, and I think it's important that English-speaking companies consider this a viable direction to go with things they license and put out. Despite the fact that I didn't like this. (Except that I kind of did.)

Let me unpack that a bit. The theatre who did the stage play that Usumaru Furuya adapted here were the Grand Guignol Theatre of Tokyo. The story is every bit as violent, sexually graphic, misogynistic, homophobic, needlessly cruel, and petty as you would expect from the words 'Grand Guignol'. That's the point. The reason I don't think it's very good is that it's also pretty derivative (except for the thing about the lychees)-- I could predict just about everything that happened as soon as I saw the setup, which I think may also have been part of the point, but seriously-- and the reason I didn't really enjoy it are that, well, the largest portion of the budget for the stage play must have been the fake blood. Also, piles of sexual violence.

However. Furuya is an underground artist, who got his start in the legendary magazine Garo, and whose work is only now starting to be translated. I am not sure whether he is actually definable as an ero-guro artist*, but he uses an art style here very similar to that and a similar visual vocabulary. When Lychee Light Club arrived in the mail Thrud and I looked at each other and said 'it's one of those, you know, what's that genre again, where it's not ero-guro because the content isn't extreme enough but it is in every other way, we used to know a word for this sort of thing...' and as far as I know it's the only one of those in English. And if you study manga, this is useful. For one thing, you can get some ero-guro in English, somebody has actually translated some of Suehiro Maruo DO NOT IMAGE SEARCH FOR THE LOVE OF GOD**, but why do this to yourself? I am willing to spend a lot more time studying the art and craft of Lychee Light Club to see what is going on in it than I am in looking at the harder stuff.

And there is art and craft here, and it's important to me to know what's going on in it. In a sheerly technical sense this is some of the best art I have seen in a manga. It is incredibly expressive, very well laid out, beautiful in all the wrong ways, very distinctive, and manages by virtue of drawing skill alone to force some emotional resonance and actual disturbingness into a story that I found, as I said, predictable to the point of boring.

Also, having read this makes reading the other series in English by Usumaru Furuya incredibly hilarious. You see, for a brief span of time recently Furuya did a series for Shonen SG, one of the Shonen Jump family of magazines, called Genkaku Picasso, and two volumes of that are out now. Genkaku Picasso is pretty damn terrible, unless you are in on the central joke, which is that the protagonist (including his art style) is directly out of an ero-guro. Everything else about the series, including what the protagonist is allowed to do, is drawn and written in extremely broad Shonen Jump house style, which involves speeches about friendship, everyone getting along after friendly rivalry, and everything working out for the best. Upon reading Genkaku Picasso I initially thought that it felt as though the artist was being forcibly restrained by his venue and it was a really stupid shonen series, but I now think that the point is that if you are a kid you read it as a stupid shonen and if you are an adult you expect it to devolve into terrifyingly degenerate pornography any second now and it keeps finding new implausible ways not to. Which, all right, I actually find pretty funny.

And if people are running jokes like that in a mainstream magazine? ... yeah, that's something in manga I want to keep up with, that's an actual thing. So props to Vertical for putting out Lychee Light Club, and I hope they keep on in this vein, because I appreciate it as an academic if not as a reading experience. (And hell, I may have been in the wrong mood. I usually have a pretty high violence threshold. Probably too much rape in it for me to ever actually like, though.)***

* Erotic grotesque (ero-guro): a genre of pornography generally expressed in manga by attempts to draw beautiful things as disgustingly as possible and vice versa, combining sexual content with the outré, surreal, gory, violent, and ridiculous.

** So much I mean this, you cannot even imagine. There is supposedly something coming out later this year by Maruo which is not porn, and which should therefore be amazing because the man is one of the finest technical painters I have ever encountered. I will let you all know when that happens, after I make Thrud read the thing first because I have a policy of not even touching the Maruo we currently have IT MIGHT STAY IN MY HEAD.

*** Serious props to the U.S. manga-and-anime mag Otaku USA for managing to find ten consecutive worksafe pages of Lychee Light Club to use as a preview. I do not know how they did it because if I hadn't seen that preview excerpt and compared it against the volume I would have sworn there were not ten consecutive worksafe pages in there. Now that is an impressive editor somewhere-- either at Vertical, sending the preview, or at the magazine itself.

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