Posts Tagged manga
I picked up the first couple of volumes remaindered from a discount bookstore, and got the last four through interlibrary loan. (Best invention ever. Ask your librarian!)
Yes, particularly for fans of supernatural manga (Saiyuki fans would like this, I think).
“A grudge is a sentiment that is chained down and cannot move. That fixed sentiment becomes sadness, and when that sadness remains chained with no escape…it becomes hostile…” Baek-On and Ho-Yeon are exorcists-for-hire, traveling throughout the country in search of grudges and ghosts. Each encounter reveals a story of tragedy and loss, sentiments they are all too familiar with themselves. But sometimes the violence of the most murderous spirits is nothing compared to the cruelty of the living. Brush sleeves with death in this beautifully-illustrated collection of ghost stories.
First off, let’s talk art. This art is absolutely gorgeous. Detailed, elegant, ephemeral, wonderfully researched and with just the right edge to it – these are ghost stories, after all. The artist says she set the story in this period (which, forgive me, I did not write down and cannot find a reference to) solely because she wanted to draw the gorgeous clothes, and she does a wonderful job. All the characters are distinct and easy to identify, which is key in a series like this where the dialogue and naming conventions are not always the same as you’d expect. (Read the helpful cultural notes in the back of the book, as usual.)
I did have a couple of technical issues with the series. First, I am just not used to manga reading left to right anymore. Really, Yen Press? Second, the fight scenes. Now I readily admit that I am not a huge fan of fight scenes in any kind of comics, and that manga fight scenes tend to confuse me even more, and with a Korean manhwa I really shouldn’t have been surprised that I was totally lost – but I think that’s also partially due to the artist’s skill, because I felt that the later action scenes were much better than the earlier ones.
Anyone who’s familiar with Japanese horror movies will be familiar with this type of ghost story – a ghost is someone with a grudge against the living, sometimes one person in particular but sometimes just living people in general. There are quite a few other elements of Asian mythology as well – a number of fox demons make their terrifying appearance, and in volume six there’s a particularly nasty retelling of the Crane Wife story (which you might recall from the Decemberists album of the same name).
There are two kinds of stories in Time and Again, really – stories featuring individual one-off characters or, sometimes, Ho-Yeon and his personal history, and stories featuring Baek-On. The difference between them, basically, is that Baek-On is an ass. I find him hilarious, but if you don’t find a hard-drinking, self-obsessed, terminally lazy exorcist to be an ideal interface with the world of terrifying Korean ghosts, you might not like him as much as I do. Baek-On’s backstory, finally presented in volume six, has a little less of his general assholishness – but really, his disdain for the stupid things humans do gives me endless entertainment.
The balance of humor and creepiness in the series is just right for me: the humor takes the sting away from the horror, but not so much that you won’t find these ghosts creeping up on you in the middle of the night. I got attached to the main characters and some of the demons, and I wanted to learn more about the mythology these stories were based on. I couldn’t ask more from a book I picked up on a whim.
In a Sentence:
Beautifully executed horror stories with a funny twist and one of the best jerks I’ve read about in a long time.
I discovered Mushishi through a recommendation by a friend and as soon as I read the first volume, I knew I had to own it all. First of all, it’s beautiful – just look at that cover art! And second of all, the world it describes is absolutely magical. That is to say, it’s often dangerous, sometimes horrifying, and almost always much more complicated than it looks.
The series follows Ginko, who is the titular mushishi – part physician, part witch doctor, part scholar, he sees and understands the mushi, the small, strange life forms that share the world with humans and often shape their lives even if the humans never know they’re there. Some mushi eat sound, so they live in peoples’ ears and cause deafness. Some mushi mimic humans, seeming to reanimate the dead or give life to impossible people. (And some mushi breed by growing spores that resemble human babies so that humans will take care of them. Sometimes horrifying.)
In the first story, Ginko meets a boy whose writing comes to life. He can’t put brush to paper without the characters turning into little flapping birds and flying away. The animated characters are adorable – but a little intimidating, too. Imagine not being able to write down anything at all, ever… The boy is lucky; Ginko can solve his problem. A lot of the time, Ginko can identify the mushi, can even get rid of it, but that doesn’t mean the problem goes away.
One of my favorite things about Mushishi is that it’s so seasonal. Ginko is a wanderer, and you can watch the seasons change with him as he moves from one place to another. I’ve always thought more horror stories should be set in the winter, it’s so still, and Urushibara here makes exquisite use of the changing seasons to set the tone for her stories.
Mushishi is an almost perfectly serialized story; Ginko is the only real recurring character, and none of the stories require knowledge of any of the earlier ones, so it’s the perfect thing to pick up when you just want a short taste of something. It also means it adapts very well – the anime series, while in a completely different order than the stories in the manga, is absolutely faithful to it and is equally beautiful. (Just stick with the Japanese language track and watch it with subtitles: the casting is all wrong on the English dub.)
The series is complete at ten volumes, reprinted in the US by Del Ray. They’ve made the unfortunate decision to print 8-10 in one giant brick of a book, but you should buy them anyway. You’ll love it.
(I’ve been so busy with my 30 Days of Books posts, I’ve been neglecting to post about my latest reads. Ooops.)
Cherie Priest, Not Flesh nor Feathers
Last in the Eden Moore series, and still awesome. Now with zombies! This book is pretty apocalyptic, what with the flood of Chattanooga and the undead coming out of the darkness — not to eat people, in this case, but at the behest of an angry twelve-year-old ghost who can’t be stopped or comforted. I love the…well, the realism, for lack of a better word, of Priest’s ghosts. They act just like people do, only more frustrated, because they’re dead.
Tom Vanderbilt, Traffic
I blogged about this a little earlier in my 30 Days of Books series, too. Like I said there, it’s a pretty fascinating overview of what we know, scientifically, about how traffic works — not only how people drive, but how patterns and trends emerge, and what to do about them. There’s a whole chapter on my favorite insight about traffic, which is that roads are safer the less safe drivers feel, largely because when drivers feel safe they speed and when drivers feel unsafe they slow the hell down.
Lauren Myracle, ttyl
You know, I don’t have to look at this book and think, Was I ever like that in high school? I know I wasn’t. I just wasn’t that type of teenager; I couldn’t wait to grow up and get out into something that more closely resembled civilization than high school does. I enjoyed this book nonetheless. The girls are bright, their fights are indeed about real things high school girls fight about, and their solutions are occasionally brilliant. I don’t think I’ll read the rest of Myracle’s books, it’s just not really my thing, but I would have no hesitation about recommending them to people for whom this is their thing, particularly high school girls.
Mushishi 8-10, Yuki Urushibara
I don’t know why they decided to publish the last three volumes of this series all in one gigantic brick, and I have to say, I’m kind of annoyed about it. The stories themselves, though, are as wonderful as ever; Ginko is brilliant and slightly sneaky, the mushi are tremendously alien, and all of the stories have an excellent meditative kind of feel. They’re like haiku in manga form. Supernatural haiku. I love it, and while I’m sad there won’t be any more, I don’t think the series is lacking in any way.