Adorned by Chi Manga Review – Finally, a Nigerian Manga!
Yes, this is my first video review, and it’s for a Nigerian manga called Adorned by Chi.
I love coming across cool manga with black main characters, and this one, Adorned by Chi, is set in Nigeria. When shy Adaeze and her friends are attacked by apocalyptic monsters called Mmanwu at their college, they soon learn that they have god-like powers. They must use their new powers to keep the Mmanwu at bay while living their regular school lives.
Yes, it’s cutesy and Japanese-ish, but what it has is a lot of Nigerian spunk. The art style and story-telling are like manga. The characters are toned by computer, the panels are different on each page, and the personalities are definitely part of manga tropes. If there was a black version of Sailor Moon, this would be it–minus the age gap with Tuxedo Mask and Sailor Moon.
If you’d like to get a copy of Adorned by Chi, use the discount code, JADESCHI, for 10% off your order!
VIZ Media reaches the next stage in the development of its VIZ Originals imprint. Aspiring artists and writers are invited to apply for portfolio reviews taking place at some of North America’s biggest pop culture shows. The VIZ Originals imprint will develop innovative, English-language creator-owned graphic novel content for a global market, and is committed […]
The Black Nerds Expo on Thursday, February 28 from 10:00AM to 2:00PM at MiraCosta College (1 Barnard Drive, Oceanside, CA 92056) is a space for attendees to explore and celebrate black comics, books, art, video games, and pop culture. This event is open to everyone! Register at http://blacknerdsexpo.eventbrite.com for free!
Here is what the expo will offer:
-Meet people in the art, video game, and comic book industries
-Make new, local friends who like black pop culture
-Participate in opportunity drawings for active attendees
-Take Instagram-worthy photos at the photo booth
-Day-of point card to collect comics-related stickers and prizes
-Learn about upcoming projects and releases information in anime, manga, video games, media, and pop culture
How much is it to attend the Black Nerds Expo?
It’s free! Just make sure to either pre-register or register on-site for entry.
Why is there a need for a black nerds event?
Could you name at least three black superheroes outside of Black Panther, Storm from the X-men, or Luke Cage? Could you name at least three black authors without searching on Google? Could you name at least one black artist outside of comics? Events such as the Black Nerds Expo is to make aware the existence of black pop culture that isn’t usually shown or celebrated in mainstream media.
If I’m a vendor, artist, or would like to table for the Black Nerds Expo, how can I make that happen?
It’s free! We don’t want tabling or exhibiting fees to be a barrier for exhibiting. Please contact Jd Banks at firstname.lastname@example.org as soon as possible since space is limited.
If I can’t be there personally but I or my business would like to contribute, how do I do that?
Send any promotional materials (i.e. flyers, postcards, business cards, posters) to the following address by Thursday, February 14, 2019 to give them time to arrive:
ATTN: Jd Banks, Student Equity (MC: #10C)
1 Barnard Drive
Oceanside, CA 92056
Is it possible to sponsor something for this event?
Sure! We would like to do an opportunity drawing for attendees, so any swag items such as T-shirts, hats, buttons, wrist bands, DVDs, posters, cups, or figurines relating to black pop culture would be appreciated. In return, the Black Nerds Expo will cross-promote your brand on social media and other marketing materials. Please email Jd Banks at email@example.com for information.
Are you providing any stipends or paying any fees for vendors, artists, or representatives to participate in the Black Nerds Expo?
No. Participants will only be provided a table, refreshments, and day-of logistical support.
What sort of things would be great to bring as a vendor, artist, or representative to the Black Nerds Expo?
If you are a comics vendor, comics and graphic novels concentrating on black superheroes such as Black Panther, Storm, Luke Cage, Black Lightning, Green Lantern, March, Miles Morales Spider-Man, Ironheart, Batwing, Cyborg, Mister Terrific, Vixen, Nubia, Rocket, XS, Tattooed Man, Afro Samurai, and more would be great. Find a list of black superheroes at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_black_superheroes. Books from Toni Morrison, Ben Okri, Karyn Parsons, John Lewis, Alice Walker, Octavia Butler, Ta-Nehisi Coates, Michelle Obama and other black authors would also be great. Artwork can be fan-created artwork of current black superheroes and/or original artwork with black and African-American attendees in mind.
Awww, but it was just starting to get good! In 2001, Weekly Shounen Jump debuted a new manga that rocketed to the top of everyone’s must-read lists: Bleach. I can still recall the almost nervous excitement I felt upon hearing the news that the author of Zombie Powder, Kubo Noriaki AKA Kubo Tite, was set…
Just as in writing, backgrounds are important for every manga. It anchors the characters and settings in a specific time and space. Without them, readers have only dialogue to follow the story.
Drawing from scratch
Creating a background from scratch may be time consuming, but it is one of the most fulfilling parts of drawing. Once you’re done, you sigh and yell, “I did it!” The best way to create a background from scratch is to take a picture of the locations or buildings you want to use and draw it from that picture.
The reason why I don’t prefer drawing at the location is because many factors change as you’re looking between your drawing and the actual place. The sun and clouds move, shifting the shadows around, and people hover over your shoulder with indignant questions, peeling your gaze from your focal point. A picture will stay whatever you want that picture to be.
Turning out a picture
With a picture of a location, you can also create unique backgrounds. Ai Yazawa turns images into shadows with almost pixelated points.
Notice the background in Ai Yazawa’s Paradise Kiss and NaNa. It’s her trademark. (From Pinterest)
You can also turn pictures Into vectors in Adobe Illustrator or Manga Pro. To vectorize an image in Illustrator, select to “Trace”.
Using stock pictures
If drawing or vectorizing pictures are too much, you can buy Deleter background booklets or get free stock manga backgrounds on DeviantArt or Pinterest.
Deleter and Manga University both have books with backgrounds you can print onto adhesive sheets and apply like screentones or digitally place them in your manga using layers. They’re good for hard-to-find pictures such as Japanese classrooms, common streets, and convenience stores. The books aren’t free. They price anywhere from $2.50 to $12.00 online.
If you want to be a well-rounded artist, my advice is to learn how to do perspective drawings. Even if you plan on becoming a traditional artist (drawing, painting, sculpting), learning perspective will only be a tool.
I used to hate and blame fat people for their heaviness. It’s their faults, I convinced myself. But after facing my own fat issues and reading about weight discrimination in all walks of life, I’ve changed my accusatory hate into something more productive: understanding. It’s been hard considering that I live in Japan, a country where the inaccurate BMI is still gold and sizes run all but large.
In reading a post on Tutus and Tiny Hats, I realized that this problem–making fat people the victims of a weighty situation–is ingrained not just in Japanese fashion. It’s something that even manga readers have to see in black and white: the fat characters in manga and their treatment by their thin counterparts.
Two manga come to mind. The first title is Bara no Tame ni, or For the Rose, an unlicensed title in the shoujo category. Because of its quirky plot–a chubby homeless girl starts living with her half-siblings in her movie star mother’s home–For the Rose won the Shogakukan Manga Award in 1994. For me, this manga proves that a manga starring an overweight woman can be memorable. I read this 10 years ago, and I can still remember how unfair and judgmental everyone was being to Yuri, who only wants to find a home with her siblings. One thing I love about this manga was how the other characters changed around her, defending and protecting her for her, not her size.
The second title is an unlicensed josei title called Cousin with a chubby girl as its main character. After Yuki graduates from high school, she meets Aoi, a carefree guy who decides to befriend her because he’s a fan of her actress cousin. Though Yuki is skeptical at first, thinking he’s a pervert, they become friends. In spite of its lackluster plot, I love Yuki and her realistic struggles with her weight and her place in the world. She faces hassles on her new job and with her new friends, but she keeps moving forward in life. What really surprised me was her family’s personality. When she decides to lose weight, her parents are reluctant at first because they “love her the way she is” (though her father adds, “I like chubbiness”). Her younger sister, on the other hand, gets on her case even more, but just as in Yuki-fashion, she is mostly labeled as an ignorable brat. I never thought of this kind of situation for a fat person. What if your family is resistant to you losing weight? What warms readers hearts about this manga is that Yuki has perseverance–and yes, she stumbles here and there–and the characters around her accept her for who she is, not the size on the tag.
I love these two manga, but as I said before, they’re unlicensed, meaning that they aren’t officially translated into English for the Western audience. I can think of other manga that have fat supporting characters, however, I’m looking at main characters. They come few and far between. This shows how Japanese comic artists stereotype fat people, usually making the defining traits for rotund characters like Choji Akimichi (Naruto), Gluttony (Fullmetal Alchemist), and Terumichi Nishida (Detroit Metal City) the same.
I don’t think fat people can be put into the same Giant Foodie Category just because they’re fat. Every person, whether they’re a size 22 or a size 2, has problems, and those problems lead people to different coping mechanisms. Some may be food addiction while others are alcoholism. Some may be one too many milkshakes, and others may be one too many sexapades. These things are just escapes from a larger issue that needs to be faced. I know for me to even start losing the weight I gained from life abroad and marriage, I had to look at my heart before my plate. If anything was going to change and stick, I had to tackle the problem(s). I’m not at my goal right now, but I am at a better place–and so are the numbers on my scales.
Now if only manga creators could find it in their hearts to make some super interesting fat characters, main or side, without using their fatness as the only defining trait.
Here are some licensed manga that feature fat or fat-thinking main characters:
Accel World by Reki Kawahara and Hiroyuki Aigamo (Yen Press)
This month, online manga and comic magazine, Inkblazers, shut down for good. I was a big fan of the series, “Only Human”, but just because the magazine is gone doesn’t mean these awesome comics have to disappear as well.
Aside from stowing away in a friend’s suitcase for Tokyo, getting to Japan is easy. It depends on your desire. Do you want to work, play, study, or tour?
If you’re looking to play in Japan or tour the sights, you could do it the old-fashioned way and buy a plane ticket. You’ll be shelling out around $1,000 for a round-trip ticket–a definite hole in some shallow pockets. The other way to get to Japan is by joining your city’s sister cities program. “My city has a sister city?” Most cities, even the small ones, have a sister city in a different country. I came to Japan for nearly half the cost because the City of Chula Vista did a summer sister city exchange program in Odawara. If you go this route, you’ll be a representative, which means you’ll have some obligations to fulfill before seeing sights. As a representative, you’ll get to see places and things that you wouldn’t see if you were just a tourist.
Bottom line: Try to go to Japan on someone else’s bill.
If you want to study in Japan, there are various programs to try. The first one to try is your own school. Many high schools and universities have a short-stay (two weeks to three months) exchange program or a long-stay (eight months to one year) exchange program. In universities with strong international programs, you could arrange to study for a year in a coordinating Japanese university paying the same tuition for your regular university. Aside from the universities, some places in Japan offer a chance for foreigners to come to Japan simply for studying manga techniques or the Japanese language. These programs, however, are usually limited space and short-stay programs, but they still give you a glimpse into Japanese culture. There are a few programs in schools intended for job placement in Japan, such as Ritsumeikan Asia Pacific University. You can also check out my post on manga classes offered to foreigners.
Bottom line: Use the easiest route first and learn some Japanese.
If you want to work in Japan, you’ll have to do one of two things: come to Japan and find work within three months or apply through a program in your home country and get the job before coming to Japan. The latter is easier to do because programs like the Japan Exchange and Teaching Programme (J.E.T. Programme) and the Interact Network provide some assistance in getting your visa and plane tickets and helping you settle into your new home in Japan. Coming directly to Japan and looking for work on a visitor’s permit is more stressful because of the time restrictions. If you arrive after April, you miss the hiring season, lowering the chances of finding a job. If you arrive between January and April, the chances of finding a job is higher since most work contracts end in April.
Bottom line: Apply before coming Japan or arrive before April for the hiring season.
If you want to “accomplish your dreams”, remember that dreams require work. Most young people want to be a manga artist. As Jamie Lano of Jamieism.com suggested, read Bakuman. It’s not as glamorous as most people might think, but if you’re willing to shed some sweat and tears–and maybe blood–you’ll find yourself gaining wholesome experiences.
Bottom line: Look before you leap, and work for your dreams.
Last year, I made some typical resolutions–losing weight, saving money, reading 50 books, and completing 33 art projects–and I met some of them. I lost 15 pounds after July’s knee injury (no exercise, too) and read 55 books in 2014. I unfortunately didn’t finish 33 art projects nor save money, so I felt a little disappointed in myself. Still, I’ve battled the horse through injuries, failures, and burn-outs, and I’ve found one thing to be tried and true: I’m going to do accomplish many goals before I leave Japan this year.
Read more manga. I really want to read old manga. I feel like old manga had more meaning. If you look at my reading list for last year, I started reading older or re-released manga including Barefoot Gen, 47 Rounin, Doraemon, Sazae-san, Children of the Sea, Gundam Wing, and Evangelion. The reason why I’m looking at older manga and classics is because the newer stuff isn’t cutting it. I also read Assassination Classroom, Crimson Empire, Devils and Realist, Sankarea, Ultimo, and Zero’s Familiar Chevalier. This latter group just rubs me the wrong way. Every plot device in manga is glaringly obvious, so much so, I just dropped them off my reading lists–or ranted about them on the Anime3000 and Manga Corner podcasts. If you have any good recommendations for me with atypical plots and characters, please contact me right away.
Do more art projects. So I didn’t do 33 art projects last year, but I’m set on doing it this year. I’ve set a goal for myself on Anime3000’s Manga Corner: to do a motion comic per podcast. I can do it. I just need to buckle down…and get a Mac. (￣◇￣;)
Wean myself off the internet. Yes, yes, it’s a weird resolution, but I sit in front of a computer maybe 8 to 10 hours a day. That’s too many hours sitting down.
After I got married, I gained 36 pounds. All my co-workers, even the ones with kids, were skinny. It made me wonder how Japanese people stayed thin without any effort. I’ve turned to anime and manga (and my Kinesiology background) to find the answers.
True or False?
Cousin (Unlicensed) Food and Baths
· Eat brown rice instead of white rice.
· Cook at home.
· Avoid eating out.
· Eat small portions.
· Take 45-minute baths before going to sleep.
· Brown rice has more dietary fiber and fewer calories than white rice.· Cooking at home will mean you won’t overeat or buy unnecessary food.· Your body operates on an input-output cycle. Smaller portions mean smaller fat deposits.· Steam may exfoliate the skin, but 45-minute baths do not cause weight loss. They only cause you to lose water weight, or weight that can easily be regained by drinking water. Sure, your heart rate goes up, but that doesn’t mean it’s a good thing—some people have heart problems or palpitations. Hot baths also dry out your skin. I would stick with a 20-minute bath for relaxation.
Real Clothes (Unlicensed)Exercise and Heartbreak·· Go running in the morning.
· Get dumped by your lover and pine away by refusing meals.
· If you exercise in the morning, your metabolism will get a wake-up call greater than your cup of coffee. Plus, you get better sleep than people who exercise in the evening.· Some people experience heartbreak–and quickly ditch their meals to dwell on the shards left by their lovers. I’m not an advocate for skipping meals because it’s counterproductive: you might actually gain more weight when you get your mojo and regular eating habits back. Results may vary.
· Ditch the processed sweets and pick up fruits, nuts, veggies, and yogurt.· If you don’t have a treadmill or gym membership, I would suggest a home exercise program like FitnessBlender Youtube videos or Jilian Michaels’s DVDs.
· Diet programs may help you lose weight, but if you don’t make it your lifestyle, you’ll balloon into a state worse than your previous weight. Certain diet programs were created for specific types of bodies (ex. Atkins’ No-Carb Diet was made for obese people). My advice: re-create your eating habits and stick to it.
· Nothing metabolizes fat better than water. Drink lots of it instead of sugary alternatives. Soda, energy drinks, and sports beverages all have exuberant amounts of sugar that’ll send your energy downhill when it hits 3 o’clock. If you don’t like plain water, squeeze a lemon into it. Also try green tea or black coffee for your energy fixes.
Anime and manga say that this idea of effortless thinness is not so effortless. On a daily basis, Japanese people are mindful of their eating habits, portions, and exercise regiments—something that the rest of us can do in a quest towards weight loss.
I’ve tried all of these suggestions, and the one that has worked for me the most is my diet. Without exercise, I lost 15 pounds by revising our eating habits and sticking with it. My husband and I stopped eating meat and processed foods—chips, ketchup, soda—and replaced them with vegetables, fish, fruits, and wheat. Our lunches are measured every day, and they usually include beans, eggs, rice, salad, vegetable soup, and pasta. This lifestyle of cooking most of our meals is a little tough, but we plan ahead.
Exercise won’t account for most of your weight loss. In some cases, exercisers will see increased weight. What exercise does is build muscle, and that muscle will help burn some fat but not all of it. Your waist might get smaller and your arms might get leaner, but the real fix for your fat is your diet. If you’re about to make an excuse for not losing weight—“It’s too hard”, “I don’t have time”, “I don’t have money”—I’m sure collapsed lungs (around $20,000), heart failure ($20,000-$93,000), diabetes ($7,000-$13,000 per year), and death ($3,000-$6,600 average cost) can convince you to re-think those excuses.
How to get started for free?
Change 1 meal out of your day. That meal can be breakfast, lunch, or dinner. Make sure that meal has lots of veggies, fiber, and lean protein such as grilled chicken or fish. When you’re ready to change another meal, do it! You’ll start to see changes in your body after 30 days.
Eat less processed food. They aren’t good for you. Did you know soda is used by police officers to wash blood off the streets? Did you know mechanics use soda to take the corrosion off car batteries? Imagine what it can do your stomach. Did you know most processed food is made up of sugars, corn, and salt? Next time, look at the label and find the nutritional value.
Cook at home. A restaurant isn’t going to understand your taste buds or weight struggles. Make your food at home and check out Youtube and websites for awesome and delicious recipes. My favorite is AllRecipes.com!
Try FitnessBlender’s (or any other Youtube channel’s) chair or low-impact cardio programs. They take 10 to 30 minutes, and they’re great for anyone who has leg or knee injuries (like myself).
Go walking with a friend or loved one. When my friend was learning English, we used to take walks twice a week around our neighborhood. If you want to burn more calories, add a 1-minute jogging interval to your walk, and you’ll burn triple the calories of walking.
Laugh those pounds away! Depending on the intensity of the laughter, you can trim 10 to 40 calories off with comedy. If you’re a comedy head like me, watch George Carlin, Bill Hicks, Steve Colbert, Kevin Hart, Patrice O’Neal, Sheryl Underwood, Sommore, and Loni Love.
Squat it out while watching TV or listening to a podcast. Every time I tune into Sleepy Hollow or Elementary, I do squats, pushups, and tricep dips. It’s better than being a couch potato…and later becoming a potato.
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.
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.
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.
Whether it’s been for good or for bad, everyone’s told a lie. As humans, we’ve convinced ourselves that white lies, honest lies, and noble lies are acceptable in society. Why are we dishonest? The simplest answer is that we’re selfish. We want money, fame, kids to leave us alone, things our way, even if it means setting traps for unwilling and inquisitive souls, namely investigators and child protective services. (That’s what spam blockers, boogiemen, and fact checkers are for.) The other answer is childish–we don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings. The lies in which feelings are spared are seen to have good intentions while truths that lead to depression or anger because they’re honest are seen as rude or cruel. Those who can’t master lies in certain situations–“Do I look fat in this?”, “Am I annoying?”, “Was I a mistake?”– are labeled weird, rude, and immature.
Itsuwaribito, which translates to “a person who lies”, is a manga that focuses on the good and bad of lying. Utsuho Azako first has trouble with lying. Not that he’s a bad liar, quite the contrary, but he doesn’t know how to use his deceitful skills. When his orphanage is raided by a pack of itsuwaribito, he realizes that lying can be used for good. Some people could look at Utsuho as a professional scammer, especially in today’s society, but I see him as K-20, an acrobatic Japanese version of Robin Hood. Utsuho takes from richlings, gangs, and other itsuwaribito and gives to the untouchables and wronged peasants.
Not only does this manga illustrate the difference between a good lie and a bad lie, it also shows that no matter what, lies have consequences. Maybe some truths can lead to a happy ending, such as in many of Itsuwaribito‘s scenes, or they can lead to hardships, as is the case in Utsuho’s past. I think that nowadays humans can’t accept the consequences because we don’t recognize the lies coming out of our mouths. How many times have we said, “You don’t look fat in that” when your friend does look fat; “You’re not annoying” when your best friend asks; and “Santa Claus won’t bring you presents” to kids when they won’t behave? Do we think, “Hey, that’s a lie”? No. We simply brush it off. Manga like Itsuwaribito reminds us that lies will never stop being lies, and we should accept our punishment for frequently using them.
My story began with a search inside the famous Google, its grey strip begging me to ask my question, to give it a task. I did so with two words: “Frankenstein manga.” What was to follow only betrayed my expectations. I found fewer than 10 titles–only 6 titles–that involved the moody fictional character, Dr. Victor Frankenstein, and the monster he created now called Frankenstein. From these 6 measly titles, I thought half of them would be in English being that Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein was in English, and so, many Western readers would also enjoy them in their origins’ native language. To my dismay, all 6 Frankenstein titles were unlicensed manga. “How could I ever wish to write about these without guiding readers to scanlations and pirated websites?” Of course, I found no answer waiting at my fingertips.
“How could these manga creators do this to me, to other faithful followers?” I complained, but a thought struck me as devastatingly as lightning. Manga creators simply make the stories, not publish and translate them into other languages. Editors, letterers, and translators only followed their duties. So who, if anyone, could be to blame for allowing these 6 titles to remain on the lab table, only to be viewed by 125 million Japanese speakers when there are 360 million English speakers? Surely readers can’t be to blame. Complaints aside, I felt that manga lovers were done a great injustice when titles that have been poked, prodded, and even robbed by many go unnoticed by manga publishers.
I am certain many people have looked for Franken Fran, Embalming: Another Tale of Frankenstein, Noblesse, Frankenstein, Mondlicht: Tsuki no Tsubasa, and Wagatomo Frankenstein in the darker realms of the internet. Even I, an advocate of licensed manga and a resident within the Japanese language, have ventured there for such reasons. But I must say, when sub-par titles about vampires, werewolves, demons, and zombies are tramping through English bookshelves while these little bolts of genius float in obscurity, it makes me ponder, “Can I not go forward and talk about these unlicensed manga?”
“‘Live, and be happy, and make others so,'” Justine Mortiz in a dying whisper.
The first of the Frankenstein children to stay in Japan’s lab is Wagatomo Frankenstein. Born in 1972 in Shueisha, Wagatomo Frankenstein is an elusive child. Even in the smokiest alleys of the cyber world, its real story is hidden from English speakers, thus we move to its siblings.
Wagatomo Frankenstein‘s sisters, Franken Fran (fathered by Kigitsu Katsuhisa) and Mondlicht: Tsuki no Tsubasa (fathered by Juichi Iogi), are still housed under Akita Shoten’s label, but they have gained a cult outside their imprisonments. Franken Fran uses a female version of Frankenstein to grant the wishes of hapless humans in rather unwishful, Pet Shop of Horrors ways. The junior of the sisters, Mondlicht: Tsuki no Tsubasa, bears little resemblance to Mark Shelley’s Frankenstein–it’s simply a battle waged between lonesome vampires and Dr. Frankenstein’s monsters who take the form of pretty schoolgirls.
*As of 4/29/2015, Franken Fran has been licensed by Seven Seas Entertainment and is slated for release in February 2016 in omnibus editions. Thank you, Leslie!
Along with Franken Fran and Mondlicht, three brothers have joined the Frankenstein manga family. Similar to most human families, the eldest brother takes its name from the father: Frankenstein. Despite being younger than Wagatomo Frankenstein, Junji Ito’s creation is the closest to their mother’s children, Dr. Victor Frankenstein and his monster’s awakening. The second brother, Embalming: Another Tale of Frankenstein, comes from the 2007 Jump SQ generation, born from Rurouni Kenshin creator, Nobuhiro Watsuki. If Dr. Frankenstein truly lived and he assembled his grotesque monsters, Embalming shows how these undead beings run amuck in Europe 150 years after Dr. Frankenstein’s original creation.
I must say, though the baby of the brothers is a Korean webcomic, it mimics its elder siblings, right down to the typical high school premise. Noblesse from Son Jae-Ho has Frankenstein, a devoted scientist who follows a vampire lord, operating a prestigious academy. Though this Frankenstein offspring has his scientist father’s brain, its history is completely warped. He has made himself into a monster and granted himself immortality in completely following his master’s wishes.
However much I seem to know about these 6 titles, I have yet to read their copies within legitimate terms. I had hoped that several publishers would need these titles in English to appease the cults who follow them. With my confession now in front of the whole world, I can find solace. I and these manga creators have re-told Mary Shelley’s story. I hope English manga publishers would like to hear them.
Unused talent: Ken Watanabe and Bryan Cranston do not work together. It’s not even a Bryan Cranston movie.
One-dimensional actor takes the boring lead: Aaron Taylor-Johnson keeps looking at the camera, adding to his unconvincing role as Bryan Cranston’s military son.
Too many kids: This is not a family movie! When did throwing kids into the mix equal “human element”? True Lies, Indiana Jones and The Temple of Doom, and Back to the Future had kids in them, but they actually served some role other than “Let’s make this a family movie.”
Gun/nuclear-happy Americans: I would have to say that this pro-military movie portrays Americans’ top specialty–using their guns first and coming up with sound answers later.
Horrible villain monsters: In the Godzilla franchise, there are tons of interesting and badass monsters to choose from. I would’ve gone with King Shisa (I’m impartial to the Okinawan shisa) or King Gydra (the Hydra).
Picture from the best Godzilla books ever in Japan, ゴジラ人間 series, printed in 1984 by Shogakukan Publishing.
Friendly Godzilla: When was Godzilla on our side? OK, so he crushed a few buildings, but he’s nothing like the Godzilla from the past franchise.
Movie should’ve ended in the beginning: If you’re a foreign who gets arrested in Japan, unless you’re married to a Japanese person, you’ll get deported, not sent back to your apartment. Godzilla would’ve easily ended in the first 20 minutes of the movie.
Japanese people don’t speak English: Sorry, English teachers, but I know this as an English teacher here in Japan. Few Japanese people speak English, especially fluent English, and most freak out when they see a foreigner, even if it’s in a convenience store.
Japanese people don’t take orders from Americans: How many foreign executives have you seen in Japan?
I started watching the 1998 Godzilla: The Series TV show just to wash the taste out of my mouth.
Big Hero 6 Manga
This is a first: before Disney’s Big Hero 6 release, Disney is releasing the manga for free through Amazon.co.jp, Boollive!, and Yahoo! Bookstores etc. from August 20th (limited time only). You can read the manga in Japanese here.
Japanese manga artists have it good. They can walk to the nearest bookstore and buy any line of pens all suited for creating manga. Artists outside of Japan, however, have a challenge in getting manga-purposed supplies, especially cheap inking pens.
Right now, pens by Too are cornering the inked market. They make Copic-brand supplies, from nibs to colored liners. In Japan, a set of 9 regular Copic multiliner pens are around 1795 yen or $18 while Western online shops sell them for more than $20. Copic drawing pens with nibs and Copic Ciao color brush pens are 250 yen or $2.50 each, half the cost of what Western stores sell.
So where do you get these pens and how much do they cost? Here’s a list of online stores selling pens for manga artists and ship internationally. (Prices may vary.)
This online manga university also sells manga tools, including Tachikawa All-in-One Manga Pen ($9.99 for 1) and the Ultimate Manga Pen Set ($24.99 for Tachikawa and Nikko nibs and nib holders). To calculate your country’s postage, enter your location after adding the item(s) to your cart.
For UK artists, there are 2 shops that will ship to you at a cheap rate.
What better way to find Japanese pens and pen holders than by going to a calligraphy specialty store. This shop has everything calligraphy related, including art pens. They carry Kuretake Zig Cartoonist Mangaka Pens (£1.55 for 1, £4.75 for 3), Kuretake Manga Pen Holders (£5.05 for 1), and Kurecolor Fine and Brush for Manga (£2.45 for 1), including the VAT at 20 percent. Scribblers has international shipping.
For even cheaper supplies, don’t forget to sign up for the shops’ club cards or mailing lists.
Dick Blick offers a 10 percent discount if you have a Dick Blick Preferred Card.
Jerry’s Artarama has various discounts when you’ve signed up for their Online Email Club.
Blue Line Pro has a yearly membership for their Club Blue Artist Discount Club that drops prices by 15 percent. This membership isn’t free—it costs $14.99 per year.
Akadot’s Retail Membership is $15 per year to get a 5 percent discount on your purchases. After $1000 of purchases, they’ll give you a $20 gift card.
When I first started drawing manga, I used to buy the Sakura Pigma and Pigma Micron pens at Michael’s (they sell them at full retail price). I didn’t have a car or much money. It was when I started going to conventions that I saw there were many different pens out there, and I quickly realized that pens from Sakura Pigma and Faber-Castell were stealing my money. Both brands don’t give you enough ink (that’s why they’re so lightweight), the nibs break or split in half after a few uses, and the line quality is really bad. Right now, I’m using Copic, Tachikawa, and Mitsubishi pens. They give me a good amount of ink and the nib replacements are cheap and easy to find. They do cost more than Sakura Pigma and Faber-Castell pens, but they’re also higher quality.