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Uzumaki Volume 1 Review

Uzumaki Volume 1

Art and Story by: Junji Ito

Published (JP) by: Shogakukan Inc.

Licensed (US) by: Viz Media

Spirals seem pretty harmless—until Junji Ito’s Uzumaki comes into the picture.

Uzumaki is a manga about Kurozu, a small coastal town cursed by all things spiral. When Shuichi Saito’s father becomes obsessed with anything spiral, a series of events reveal the deep-seeded curse of uzumaki, or the spiral. Told from the perspective of Shuichi’s mild-mannered girlfriend, Kirie Goshima, Uzumaki follows the twisted fates of the town’s inhabitants.

Uzumaki is more of a psychological horror with a corporeal feeling about it—almost as if spirals can grab any reader and drive them crazy. With each event surrounding the residents of Kurozu, readers become just as confused and fearful as the townspeople. No one knows why the spirals are causing such chaos, and the characters don’t try to seek out why the events are happening in the first place.

By the end of the first volume, the spirals seem to be just a natural occurrence. With the repetition of spirals throughout the manga and the characters not making a break for another city, Uzumaki leaves any reader wondering how much more damage can be inflicted by spirals.

The art of Uzumaki is truly beautiful while depicting gory scenes. There are points in the manga where certain scenes could be isolated from the rest of the manga and framed inside a J-horror exhibition. Ito does an excellent job in making impossible things—Shuichi’s father twisting his entire body into a spiral—believable. It helps the imaginative story become more realistic and visceral for the reader.

Uzumaki showcases the talent of Junji Ito, one of Japan’s leading horror comics artist. Besides Uzumaki, Ito has released horror greats like Gyo and Tomie, which was turned into a live-action movie. Drawing from famous inspirations Kazuo Umezu, Hideshi Hino, and H.P. Lovecraft, Ito has forged several unforgettable horror manga that garnered him the prestigious Umezu Prize for Horror. His background as a dental technician also appears in his work, especially in the various illustrations of the human body.

With its chilling story and convincing artwork, it is easy to see why Uzumaki was nominated for “Best U.S. Edition of Foreign Material” in the 2002 Eisner Awards.  Uzumaki has the whole package in a horror manga. This is one manga that will definitely have readers thinking twice about spirals.

vampiretrend

Topic: The Vampire Trend in Manga

Manga: Bloody Kiss by Kazuko Furumiya

The first installment of Bloody Kiss is one manga fit for the Twihards and the Vampire Knight cosplayers who aren’t tired of bloodsuckers and half-baked romances. It begs the question– do manga creators just decide that no matter how overworked a vampire story is, they should add to the fantasy simply to make sales?

It’s no secret that the vampire mythos can sell. Among the uprising of TV shows and movies boasting vampire stories, anime and manga have followed the neck-sucking trend with the same aggression. The sales drown out the opportunity for releases to settle into a legacy. There’s a stop sign in red somewhere, and creators ignore it. For instance, after Blood: The Last Vampire took the anime movie world by storm in 2000, fans received a subsequent anime series, Blood+, in 2005. However, Blood: The Last Vampire was made into a live-action movie in 2009, biting a big fat hole into the entire Blood franchise. If creators had stopped at the anime series, the Blood line would be pure enough to be considered memorable anime.

In trying to squeeze out dollar bills from a perfectly fine anime, creators don’t know when to call it quits with the vampire trend in general. It shows in several shabby releases, including the transparent Tokyopop title, Bloody Kiss. The plot is ordinary: a high school girl inherits her grandmother’s dilapidated mansion, instantly becoming a landlord to two male vampires. On a daily basis, Kiyo has to maintain her school life while trying to keep her vampire roommates off her neck. It’s a step up from Vampire Knight–at least Kiyo wants to be a lawyer someday–but Bloody Kiss falls flat when it comes down to conveying depth. Every serious moment has to have a joke, and even those aren’t really that funny, just sad.

On top of the failed comedy, the characters aren’t that lovable, and in a vampire story, you can’t expect them to be. Vampire stories aren’t about connecting with people– it’s all about the angst, undead creatures who suck blood. What can be so lovable about those Debbie Downers? Bloody Kiss makes the attempt to humanize these bloodsuckers with humor, but it doesn’t work in copious amounts of annoyance. It seems that this lifeless manga was rushed to the world just to make a few more bucks off the popularity of the vampire trend. But was it really worth it? Was it even good timing?

Though it appears that the vampire trend is as alive as the main characters are undead, a closer look at the trend reveals that it’s starting to wane. Between 2005 and 2008, at least 8 vampire manga or manhwa circulated at the same time. Blood+, Hellsing, Rosario + Vampire, and Trinity Blood were released or already circulating in 2005. Dance in the Vampire Bund started its serialization in Comic Flapper in 2006 while Vassalord was released that same year. But after 2008, some series ended and fewer began. Since then, at least 3 series have continued giving fans the bloodsucker treatment, a big drop from the 8 vampire stories from years prior. In 2010, Bloody Kiss, along with equally unfinished and un-funny vampire manga, would’ve had little chance of surviving its predecessors in an overall downturn of vampire stories.

The deflation of the vampire trend in manga may relate to the quality of content from titles. Today’s vampire manga rely heavily on the bells and whistles, not enough on the interesting aspects of the vampire-human interaction. Look at the late 1990’s vampire manga. The core story lines featured vampires without overdoing the dramatic plot twists. Former CMX’s Canon (1994) starred a sickly girl who uses her second chance as a vampire to exact revenge on a powerful vampire responsible for her classmates’ deaths. The late Tokyopop’s Lament of the Lamb (1997) depicted a high schooler who learns that he and his sister were born with the same vampire-like terminal illness inherited from their mother. Even Hellsing (1997) hosted an engineered vampire who works against other undead creatures in the interests of Great Britain. No vampires from another planet, no stupid jokes, and aside from Alucard’s love of humiliating enemies, no games. The straightforward approach for these vampire stories did well in humanizing the undead.

Even though taking a hint from the past is a world apart from planning for the future, giving Bloody Kiss and similar manga some extra time for development would have helped their overall quality. Given that more time means pushing against the trend, sometimes the best thing to do is not to cash in on the current tasteless buzz.

Every summer, the art teacher in my school does bingata lessons. I did this last year and the year before.

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First, a water-soluble resin is put through a stencil with wire and dried. Afterwards, you can paint directly on the dried parts. The painting process is similar to making woodblock prints (ukiyoe). You first apply the base layer, which is usually a light color. In all of my paintings, I use really light colors that contain yellow (unless I plan on painting blue or purple over them). It’s really important to know what the final picture will look like so that you can plan the base accordingly. If not, it’s easy to drawn out the base color with indecisive colors.  After the base colors are applied, you dry the dye with a hair dryer and go on to the next part of the painting.
140819_1427The second part of the painting process is putting the final shades and tones. I use a small soft brush and a regular brush (one in each hand) and blend the colors. Because I started out with bigger brushes, the phoenix in this image came out funny. It’s my own lesson to choose my brushes carefully from now on. Once all the colors have been applied, you dry the dye until the resin flattens. Place your finished painting into water for a few hours, or if you want the resin to come off more easily, put it in water for a couple of days. Finally, you wash the resin off without rubbing the fabric together, and let the fabric dry.

This one wasn’t my favorite bingata because I only had an hour to make it where I previously took two or three hours to make.

What do you think about it?

 

aotheader1

Topic: How Attack on Titan Isn’t Actually About Titans

Manga: Attack on Titan by Hajime Isayama

When anime fans look at Japan, they look at the anime and manga and the weirdness that seems to pour out of its red sun. They are part of Japan, but just as The Simpsons, American football, and twerking don’t represent the Western world, strange otaku culture doesn’t encompass all of Japanese society. The only way to truly understand Japanese culture is to live in Japan—and from there, things like Hajime Isayama’s Attack on Titan become commentaries on today’s world.

Most fans would say that Attack on Titan, a horror manga where Titans eat humans, is a story about survival, the key component to all horror manga. If survival was removed, the walls that protect human civilization from Titans would be the barrier dividing traditional Japan from foreign cultures.

Since the end of sakoku, or national isolation (literally “chained country”), and the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945, Japan has been chasing the rest of the world in technological advances and cultural inclusion. However advanced Japanese society seems to foreigners with its cars and ASIMO robots, Japan hasn’t broken away from its traditions. Miso soup and zen gardens are still part of Japanese homes and schools, and tattoos continue to be scary marks of the Japanese mafia. One of the most-iterated proverbs in Japan, “The nail that sticks up gets hammered down”, is ingrained in Japan’s soul—so much so creators have made a living from selling uniqueness.

Just as the first wall in Attack on Titan is easily compromised by a single Titan in the first volume, foreigners and visitors will see through Japan’s image after living in Japan for a few months. Though Japan has English education, revised immigration laws, and communication with foreigners, those things just say, “We’re not totally oblivious to the rest of the world.” The reality is Japan is uncomfortable with diversity: Japanese students can’t use the impractical English they’ve memorized; biracial Japanese people can’t hold dual citizenship after the age of 22; and Japanese people are not likely to meet foreigners in their entire lifetimes.

The other two walls in Attack on Titan aren’t easily fallible. After living in Japan for a few years, foreigners see Japan’s true colors, and they’re redder than people think. In Japan, being different or individualistic isn’t a good thing. People who are selfish, have outgoing personalities, or don’t look like other Japanese people are “less Japanese”. Students are punished more for long hair, shaven eyebrows, or ear piercings than their classroom behavior and grades. Handicap or disabled citizens have “bad blood”. Students who have mental or learning disabilities are placed in regular classes because everyone must have an “equal” opportunity to education. Speaking English is also viewed as a big difference, and many times, foreign language teachers of Japan won’t speak English with others because they’ll be labeled “strange”. These kinds of images aren’t seen by foreigners even when they’re placed in a Japanese workplace. It takes time and English-speaking friends to find the real Japan underneath its otaku underbelly.

But the walls aren’t the only thing that links Attack on Titan to the undazzling sides of Japan. When readers look at the three main characters, Eren, Armin, and Mikasa, they’ll find that they represent the different eras in Japan. Mikasa, the unaffected muscle of the three, doesn’t just represent Japanese women who still endure harsh sexism even till now—she’s the old Japan. In the past, it was good etiquette to never show emotions, as depicted in historical hand scroll paintings such as Ban Dainagon Ekotoba (12th Century) by Tokiwa Mitsunaga. Mikasa’s perseverance is a characteristic of the bushido code which has changed its samurai heritage into lengthy work and cram school hours.

Mikasa is accompanied by physically weak yet genius Armin who looks outside of the walls, and in essence, outside of Japan to improve their chances of survival. Unlike Mikasa, Armin shows his emotions, but he doesn’t go as far as Eren in expressing his thoughts. Armin represents Japan’s post-World War II attitude towards rebuilding the nation, as seen with Japan’s quick advances in technology. Japan’s advances in the public domain, such as artificial intelligence in cars via robots and Shinya Yamanaka’s stem cell research, owe their successes to outside influences (German A.I. specialists and British researchers).

The last and most pivotal character, Eren, is the opposite of Mikasa. He has a bold personality with a grandiose idea of destroying Titans. He represents the new Japanese person, one who is trying to break out of the sameness that Japan wants all its constituents to mimic. Because of his differences, Eren is punished the most in Attack on Titan. Though both him and Mikasa have lost their families, Eren watched a Titan eat his mother. During his military training, Eren faced multiple setbacks from his friends, peers, superiors, and later, his own government. But Eren drives the story and the reader because he exists—the outgoing, selfish, passionate, inquisitive, diverse Japanese person is alive at this very moment. Japanese people are questioning the government and using any means to get attention on important issues in Eren-like fashion. A salaryman in Tokyo lit himself on fire to protest the Japanese Constitution changes in June this year. Okinawan people marched against the Ospreys and the American military’s acquisition of Henoko. And most citizens are vocalizing their disapproval of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, especially with Abenomics’s unsuccessful inflation plan to improve the economy. Of course, these kinds of Japanese persons are very proud of their nation. They also juggle their questions with their patriotism as does Eren throughout the entire manga series.

While most readers look at Attack on Titan as a simple horror manga or another odd manga from an artist’s mind, people who live in Japan will uncover the hidden side of Japan buried within its metaphoric walls and diverse characters.

Jd Banks:

Yes! I’ve always wanted to read this CLAMP title, but I couldn’t find it in English here. Thank goodness for the internet!

Originally posted on Lesley's Musings... on Anime & Manga:

Anime News Network is reporting that Viz Media will be releasing CLAMP’s Suki: A Like Story manga digitally in North America.

The first volume will be available on September 23, 2014 on the VIZ Manga platform and Amazon Kindle.

View original

Topic: Stop (Cyber)Bullying Day

Manga: Worst by Hiroshi Takahashi

Bullying is something that happens everywhere: school, work, the playground, even at home. We as humans are culprits and victims to this circular action. We are bullied by our parents, relatives, so-called friends, and strangers, and to feel better about ourselves, we also bully our kids, siblings, schoolmates, and minorities. At the heart of bullies–and really, all of us–is a scared little person. We’re all capable of lashing out in trying to appease that little heart dweller, but until we recognize that we are being bullied and we get out of that situation, we’ll always be afraid.

However horrible bullying is, it’s no reason to feel down about yourself nor turn to violence. From an otaku perspective–which is, in essence, being a nerd and geek–having a bully only means that somebody else has a shorter self-esteem than you. Normally picking on others is a way of making themselves feel superior. Sometimes, it’s just a form of control that they don’t have at home or in their past.

In Hiroshi Takahashi’s Worst manga, the main character, Hana, is really strong, but he’s also very nice. He rooms with four other freshmen boys in a boarding house run by a yakuza man. Although the personality types in the house are known for bullying and fighting, it’s Hana who diffuses the tension and breaks barriers with his optimism. He strays from being a typical delinquent by keeping a clear line between good and bad which to some characters (and people, too) is strange to find in his age.

Similar to Hana, I’d have to say it’s not the end of the world if somebody does bully you. It’s never really about you and it’s never your fault. They probably feel threatened by you because they’re jealous–you seem to be in control of your life or you have some attribute they wish they had. Sometimes its just that you seem weak because you’re a child or you’re a girl or you’re a smaller person, so bullies jab at you. It’s not your fault.

As simple as this sounds, it’s not easy to just walk away and leave it alone, but it’s the best route. Getting into a fight with a bully doesn’t help anyone or anything, and sometimes, it’s exactly what a bully wants–a license to bring you down.

Just think of it this way in the long run: Geeks and nerds rule the world. Bill Gates (nerd), Oprah Winfrey, Donald Trump– do you think they’re stupid? They certainly aren’t, but I bet in high school, people thought they looked like nobodies.

If you need someone to talk to about this “This Week” topic or you would like to submit a “This Week” topic, please contact me!

Jd Banks:

I should do this! I’m a person who hates scary movies and I get scared easily!

Originally posted on RocketNews24:

PT

Calling all scaredy-cat exhibitionists! If you’re easily frightened and love broadcasting yourself to the world, you’re just the kind of person Japanese video game developer Konami is looking for!

Following on from its video series of sample-group players reacting to forthcoming horror title Silent Hills, Konami is looking for footage of everyday people playing the game and their reactions to it. Better yet, the best videos will be shown at next week’s Tokyo Game Show.

Details on how to submit your own reaction video after the jump.

View original 260 more words

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