rushthatspeaks: (Default)
A kid's book written by Katsuhiro Otomo (the author of Akira and Domu) and illustrated by Shinji Kimura, who has worked for Ghibli and other animation studios.

The mode is a Nightmare Before Christmas-type wackiness, in which the title character, Hipira, is a juvenile delinquent vampire who lives with his pet floating soul in a town full of other vampires. His principal recreational activity is shouting 'Sunrise!' at people, which as the sun has not risen there for two thousand years is both alarming and unbelievable to them.

Unfortunately, this simply isn't a good book. The English adaptation totally removes whatever nuance might exist in the Japanese; the text is clunky, ungrammatical, and painfully sparse. The illustrations are lovely, with a richly nuanced blocky feel highly reminiscent of Beetlejuice or something of that sort, but in the absence of interesting dialogue or description to link them they fall flat. Some illustrated books can get by without good linking text because the images flow out of one another, and some are meant to have longer patches of explanation. This is clearly one of the latter sort and the translation tries, and fails, to make it comprehensible as the former.

I am also sad that Otomo did not draw this himself, as he is, after all, one of the great manga artists. Kimura's work here is fascinating, but it isn't what I'm most interested in.

In short: skip it.
rushthatspeaks: (Default)
From the author of Akira.

Thrud bought this recently because it came recommended to her as good horror manga, but I'd call it science fiction, and indeed it won the Japan Science Fiction Grand Prix. It's familiar subject material-- a densely crowded urban housing complex becomes a battleground between two psychics, one a deeply senile old man who has regressed to mental childhood and kills randomly, and the other an eight-year-old girl who's trying to stop him-- but it's so well done, and uses so few of the tropes of psychic-battle manga or this plot in general, that it feels, and is, completely original. There are cops, looking in the wrong direction or in the right direction but at the wrong time; there are the people who live in the complex, whose weaknesses are grist for the combat and whose ordinary lives go on around it; there is the endless sense of how little privacy there is in this kind of public housing, where one of the things the police find most inexplicable is the ability of various people to move for more than a hundred feet without there being a witness. (Literally. They express confusion and fear at the thought that someone could climb a flight of stairs in this building without it being seen, and they're right.)

Honestly, in tone this reminds me profoundly of J.G. Ballard. It's in the sort of urban landscape he made his own, and it shares his pragmatic and cynical coldness. The questions the manga is pondering are those of moral responsibility: the old man is out of his mind when he does horrible things, and the child who does horrible things to stop him is a child and cannot be expected to understand the consequences, but can be expected to remember, later, what she did and can do. I don't think I've ever seen a manga wondering before whether growing up can or should absolve a person of the crimes of childhood-- I mean where childhood is seen as a state in which, through ignorance, any child can and probably will do things an adult would consider terrible. Usually people think of childhood pretty much the other way around, but honestly one of the major moral differences between the psychics in this book is that she can grow up, and he cannot.

An odd, taut, carefully brutal little masterpiece.


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