12/11/2017

Bright Lights (2016)

Bright Lights: Starring Carrie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds Directors: Alexis Bloom, Fisher Stevens Starring: Carrie Fisher, Debbie Reynolds, Todd Fisher.
Bright Lights: Starring Carrie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds
Directors: Alexis Bloom, Fisher Stevens
Starring: Carrie Fisher, Debbie Reynolds, Todd Fisher

Even in a media landscape where reality TV stars are willing to have their private lives exposed for any measure of fleeting fame, the relationship between Debbie Reynolds and her daughter Carrie Fisher is truly the stuff of legends. Together they represent two very different eras of Hollywood. Fisher has memorialized their often difficult relationship in her writings. One of them was the semi-autobiographical novel Postcards from the Edge, which was made into a film rather fittingly starring Shirley MacLaine and Meryl Streep. And yet they were practically inseparable, living as next door neighbors in their Beverly Hills compound for decades. When the two died within a day of each other almost a year ago, the legend seemed to be complete. Fisher would pass away on December 27 after suffering a massive heart attack. Reynolds followed her soon after, almost as if she couldn't bear to be without Fisher. According to Carrie’s brother Todd Fisher, Reynolds said before dying that she "wanted to be with Carrie."

Bright Lights was filmed from 2014-15, well before their passing. But it feels like a fitting capstone to their careers. It breezily mixes present day and archival footage in a nonlinear order, producing a lively and affectionate portrait of the two. Their conversations are often filled with inside references and zingers which hint at a much more adversarial past, but which has since mellowed out with time. The pair is a study in contrasts. Reynolds is dignified and polite in front of the camera. And she always dresses immaculately. Fisher expresses herself through a combination of acerbic wit and humorous self-depreciation. Reynold’s house is tastefully decorated. Fisher’s house is cluttered with more recent pop culture memorabilia. Even their pet dogs reflect their different personalities. But they’re united in their mutual love for musical numbers and classic Hollywood cinema. And of course their status as showbiz goddesses. Or as Fisher states in response to a reporter’s question at a red carpet event., “We are always on a red carpet.”

Bright Lights: Starring Carrie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds Directors: Alexis Bloom, Fisher Stevens Starring: Carrie Fisher, Debbie Reynolds, Todd Fisher.

The claim isn’t too hyperbolic. The documentary shows both Fisher and Reynolds being kept busy interacting with their adoring fans. Fisher is an active participant of fan conventions. She refers to these appearances as a “celebrity lap dance” while prepping in the autograph area during one such event, After a full day of signing autographs and posing for photo ops, Fisher can still express a mixture of awe, befuddlement, and acceptance. “They love her”, referring to her Princess Leia role, “and I’m her custodian, and I’m as close as you’re going to get.” Despite having retired from film, Reynolds still tours the country performing in lounge acts to a mostly aging audience. This is a source of tension between mother and daughter, since these performances leave Reynolds with barely enough energy to function. The first scene of the film catches Fisher after she’s failed to talk Reynolds out of one of these gigs. Fisher compares her mother to a force of nature, a “tsu-mommy.” Then she goes to help her pack. Despite the toll touring takes on her body (she almost collapses as she hobbles of the stage), it’s easy to see what Reynolds gets out of it. The reception she receives is ecstatic. Fisher recognizes the sustenance it gives to Reynolds. "Performing gives her life. It feeds her in a way family cannot."

Reynold’s work ethic is no surprise. She was a product of the Hollywood studio system of the late 1940s. It was a system that always demanded a cheerful professionalism out of its charges, like a manic version of kayfabe. It was also still the golden age of the movie musical. But more importantly, Reynolds went through three failed marriages, the first one ending in a huge scandal at the time when husband and celebrated crooner Eddie Fisher left her for actress Elizabeth Taylor. Through it all, Reynolds kept up a semblance of dignity and wholesome sweetness. Bright Lights suggests this wasn’t an act resulting from shallowness or ignorance. It was a display of inner strength. A way of showing the world that she wouldn’t be brought down by such difficult circumstances.

Bright Lights: Starring Carrie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds Directors: Alexis Bloom, Fisher Stevens Starring: Carrie Fisher, Debbie Reynolds, Todd Fisher.

Needless to say, this is unlike the more outspoken Carrie Fisher. Old homemade movies give the impression that Todd and Carrie had an idyllic childhood. Yet Todd admits to a surreal family life being raised by such a famous mom. The siblings began smoking weed as teenagers, though Carrie would go on to stronger stuff and develop a serious drug habit. They came of age in the freewheeling 70s, when Hollywood was being colonized by a new generation of auteurs. One of those auteurs, a young George Lucas, would soon give Fisher her big break. There’s one remarkable clip from 1971 which foreshadows a more unstable future. Reynolds is in the middle of one of her shows when she goads, perhaps bullies, Fisher to perform onstage. It’s a very typical parent-child dynamic where the former is setting up the latter to either succeed or fail. The clearly embarrassed teenager grins through it all and belts out a soulful rendition of “Bridge Over Troubled Water,” her outward cheerfulness bleeding over into defiance. “I love that voice” remembers a tearful Reynolds. “Isn’t that a great voice? Wish I had it.” But Fisher would disappoint her mother by not pursuing a singing career. In a few years, she would land the role of Leia for Star Wars, then go on to have a tumultuous marriage with Paul Simon.

When the film catches up with the present, Fisher’s inner demons haven’t vanished. She can’t quite quit her personal vices even as she prepares to film The Force Awakens. But the angry recriminations that characterized the mother-daughter dynamic from a few decades ago have already been replaced by a more genteel schtick. A comedic performance where the characteris have come to recognize each other’s limitations. Fisher keeps insisting that Reynolds retire her lounge act, while Reynolds worries about her daughter’s bipolar disorder. They find in familial bonds a happiness they couldn’t obtain with their romantic male partners. The final part of Bright Lights has the entire clan coming together to ensure that the increasingly frail Reynolds will be on hand to accept a lifetime achievement award. It’s an emotionally tense occasion that causes Fisher to despair a few times. But when it’s all over, the two collapse on the couch when they're back safe at the compound, and amuse everyone with an impromptu version of "There's No Business Like Show Business" as if they were casually conversing about their own lives.

It’s a brilliant scene, and it makes for a sadder realization that these two remarkable women aren’t around anymore.

Bright Lights: Starring Carrie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds Directors: Alexis Bloom, Fisher Stevens Starring: Carrie Fisher, Debbie Reynolds, Todd Fisher.

12/04/2017

Star Wars: Captain Phasma

Journey to Star Wars: The Last Jedi - Captain Phasma Story: Kelly Thompson Art: Marco Checchetto Colors: Andres Mossa Letters: Clayton Cowles Covers: Paul Renaud  Star Wars created by George Lucas. Captain Phasma created by J. J. Abrams.
Journey to Star Wars: The Last Jedi - Captain Phasma
Story: Kelly Thompson
Art: Marco Checchetto
Colors: Andres Mossa
Letters: Clayton Cowles
Covers: Paul Renaud

Star Wars created by George Lucas.
Captain Phasma created by J. J. Abrams.

Captain Phasma was the new character from The Force Awakens who failed to impress the fans. This lukewarm reception was a byproduct of the disconnect between the hype surrounding her during the lead up to the film, and the limited screen time which ended with her being KO’d by Chewbacca, then tossed into a trash compactor by Han Solo after being easily forced to disable the Starkiller Base shields. What a pushover! Where was the badass we were promised? And what’s the point of casting Gwendoline Christie to play the role when Phasma is just as useless (and anonymous) as every other stormtrooper? With the next Star Wars film on the horizon, the character’s rehabilitation is in full swing. This year’s Journey to Star Wars comic focuses entirely on Phasma’s actions starting from the climax of The Force Awakens. Since it’s known that she will be back for The Last Jedi, how did she get of Starkiller Base? The answer given certainly paints her as a larger than life, if somewhat ludicrous figure.

The Shatterred Empire art duo of Marco Checchetto and Andres Mossa make their return, this time teaming up with writer Kelly Thompson. The concentration on a smaller cast and shorter time frame results in a much tighter story. But as in the older comic, it still begins with the final battle of the last film. Checchetto and Mossa display their usual prowess in portraying chaotic space combat with the Assault on Starkiller Base. Phasma escapes the compactor thanks to the Resistance attack inadvertently blowing a hole in its side. With only six minutes to go before the planet destructs and her troops in total disarray, Phasma’s first act is to cover her own ass by wiping the computer logs of any record of her disabling the shields. Computer logs that I presume won’t even be around for much longer.

Journey to Star Wars: The Last Jedi - Captain Phasma Story: Kelly Thompson Art: Marco Checchetto Colors: Andres Mossa Letters: Clayton Cowles Covers: Paul Renaud  Star Wars created by George Lucas. Captain Phasma created by J. J. Abrams.

Still, they provide her a motivation for the rest of the comic. Phasma discovers that a certain lieutenant Sol Rivas had accessed the shield systems a few minutes later. Because she can’t have Rivas tattling to anyone about who switched off the base defences, Phasma runs around looking for Rivas so she can exterminate him. It’s quite a sight as she dodges falling debris and multiple explosions. She even ziplines through a chasm like Captain America from his first film. At one point, Phasma even spots from a distance the lightsaber duel between Kylo Ren and Rey. Pffft! Who cares when there’s someone else who needs to be killed? Remember, all this wackiness takes place within those measly six minutes.

Like any First Order officer possessing a healthy survival instinct, Rivas has already escaped to outer space. So the remainder of the story is about Phasma tracking him down with the aid of a TIE Fighter pilot and a BB-9E droid. It’s not a spoiler to say that these throwaway characters won’t survive her wrath. And since she’s still in the First Order’s good graces by the time of The Last Jedi, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that neither does Rivas. But the trail of destruction she leaves in her wake is absurd and horrendous. A planet’s population is sacrificed to her scorched earth policy, including a bunch of merfolk and a few sea monsters. On the one hand, her single-mindedness is practically superhuman. But it’s also a testament to the First Order’s brainwashing (or Lucasfilm’s attachment to her) that Phasma doesn’t just follow the simpler path and become a deserter. It worked out for fellow soldier Finn.

Journey to Star Wars: The Last Jedi - Captain Phasma Story: Kelly Thompson Art: Marco Checchetto Colors: Andres Mossa Letters: Clayton Cowles Covers: Paul Renaud  Star Wars created by George Lucas. Captain Phasma created by J. J. Abrams.

Comic: Age of the Dragon

Complete original art by Charles Vess for “Age of the Dragon” from Epic Illustrated #21, published by Marvel/Epic Comics, December 1983.
Go to: The Bristol Board, by Charles Vess

11/30/2017

More NonSense: Eddie Berganza vs C.B. Cebulski

Eddie Berganza
Eddie Berganza

Thor: Ragnarok, which was inspired by Marvel's comics adaptations of the Norse apocalypse, and fan favourite story Planet Hulk, is the 16th film from the ongoing Marvel cinematic universe. It's as solid an entry as any of them, with a healthy dose of swashbuckling space adventure more typically associated with Guardians of the Galaxy. But as a continuation of several plot threads going all the way back to 2011, it works very much like the middle chapter to a bigger story. This hasn't hurt its box office performance or dampened enthusiasm for the MCU. If anything, people want to know how it will pan out in the end.

What does set it apart is how it ties together Thor's sordid family history into a pointed commentary on the revisionist nature of imperialism.

Abraham Riesman lists five Thor comics to read before seeing the latest film. He also recommends eight comics for November.

Justice League is the other superhero tent film of November, and has opposite concerns. The news isn't good for those hoping it would build upon the positive reception of Wonder Woman. Much like Zach Snyder's past directorial contributions to DC's cinematic universe, Justice League is overstuffed with references  that are mostly unearned. It's a half-formed world trying hard to fool the audience into believing that it's a fully developed universe. Background information is haphazardly doled out about the new characters to make them more sympathetic. But the only reason why Flash and Aquaman are at all likeable is because of the performances of Ezra Miller and Jason Momoa. Overall, Justice League is notable for the ways it sets the stage for the future cinematic universe than for its own modest merits.

The modern superhero film is today's equivalent to the classic movie musical.

Publisher's Weekly lists its best comics for 2017.

Tony Isabella interviewed about his return to the character her created in 1977, Black Lightning.

These Calvin and Hobbes strips are a nice reminder of how we love to exclude outsiders. Seems particularly relevant today.

A page of Maus is lauded for its' aesthetic qualities.

Eddie Berganza was accused of sexual misconduct in a recent Buzzfeed article. Comics professionals reacted. Then DC first suspended Berganza, only to fire him a few days later. Even more women have since come forward. Rumours about Berganza's terrible conduct are nothing new, and DC was criticized in the past for its tepid response. The difference now is that these allegations are finding new life as part of a wave of similar allegations against other powerful male figures within the larger entertainment industry, and society in general.

What's particularly upsetting is how Berganza was tolerated despite having long developed a reputation within the comics community for being a jerk:
But Berganza’s editorial skills aren’t all he’s known for in the comics industry. At best, he developed a reputation for making offensive jokes or line-crossing comments in the presence of or at the expense of women; one former staffer recalls hearing Berganza tell a female assistant that a writer needed to make a character in a book they were editing "less dykey." Asselin recalled Berganza once telling her that the reason he didn't hit on her was because he had too much respect for her spouse. But at worst, he’s alleged to have forcibly kissed and attempted to grope female coworkers. One woman said when she started at DC, she was warned about Berganza — advised to keep an eye on him, she said, and to not get drinks with him. "People were constantly warning other people away from him," said Asselin, a vocal critic of gender dynamics in the comics industry.

Berganza's reputation spread throughout the comics industry, so much so that Sophie Campbell, an established writer and artist, turned down an opportunity to work on a Supergirl comic two years ago because Berganza was the editor overseeing the project, even though she wouldn't have had to speak directly to him during the job. It would've been a cool gig, Campbell told BuzzFeed News, but it also "felt scuzzy and scary."

"I didn't like the idea of being in professional proximity with him or having his name on something I worked on," she said.

A former DC employee said Berganza’s reputation was "something that I didn't like, but I stomached it. Everybody did. It was a gross open secret."
C.B. Cebulski at the Singapore Toy, Game & Comic Convention (STGCC) at the Sands Expo & Convention Centre 2013.
C.B. Cebulski

Meanwhile, editor C.B. Cebulski replaced Alex Alonso as Marvel's Editor in Chief, in a year the publisher experienced weak print sales while making controversial statements. He then admitted on Bleeding Cool that he once masqueraded as a Japanese writer by naming himself Akira Yoshida. He found himself penning comics such as Thor: Son of Asgard, Elektra: The Hand, Wolverine: Soultaker, and Kitty Pryde: Shadow & Flame. This was done to get around Marvel's policy of not allowing staffers to write or draw any of the publisher's comic books.
I stopped writing under the pseudonym Akira Yoshida after about a year. It wasn’t transparent, but it taught me a lot about writing, communication and pressure. I was young and naïve and had a lot to learn back then. But this is all old news that has been dealt with, and now as Marvel’s new Editor-in-Chief, I’m turning a new page and am excited to start sharing all my Marvel experiences with up and coming talent around the globe.
Rewarding an employee who once lied to the world about being an Asian man. Way to go, Marvel. That the two biggest publishers in American comics can put up with the actions of a known sexual harasser, and a self-admitted fraud who brushes off his past indiscretions as acceptable for a person of his lofty position, indicates something rotten within this industry.

Sana Amanat has responded to Cebulski's confession by actually defending him. The revelations have also inspired a hashtag bringing more attention to Asian comic creators. Cebulski is part of a long line of writers creating orientalist portrayals at Marvel, and within the comics industry. Though I can't think of any industry insider who went so far as to extend the practice to fudging their race and nationality for pure economic advantage.

Jim Shooter, Marvel's legendary former Editor in Chief, interviewed  by Chris Hassan.

Nobuhiro Watsuki, best known as the creator of the manga Rurouni Kenshin, has been arrested for possession of child pornography.

11/18/2017

5,000 km Per Second

5,000 km Per Second, By Manuele Fior Translation: Jamie Richards Book Design: Michael Heck.
By Manuele Fior
Translation: Jamie Richards
Book Design: Michael Heck

5,000 km Per Second is a love story spanning the lives of two Italians named Lucia and Piero. The comic begins with their first teenage flirtation after Piero notices Lucy settling into an adjacent apartment and is immediately smitten by her appearance. Egged on by his best friend Nicola, the chapter ends with Piero making an awkward effort to catch Lucy’s attention. The narrative feels set to explore the unfolding tale of their first love. Instead, the start of the next chapter is set several years later and in a different country. Lucy and Piero have since broken up and are pursuing their separate careers. The succeeding chapters flit back and forth between their respective lives. And it ends with a bittersweet attempt to reconnect from the now two middle aged former lovers, significantly worn down by the intervening years. This is a story of how romantic relationships fail without showing the relationship itself, and without the plot contrivances usually employed in more glamourous Hollywood productions.

What compounds the deceptiveness is the ink and brushwork of Manuele Fior. The lush tones and bright palette are initially inviting and even indicative of a certain youthful naivete. And every change in location carries with it a sense of hopefulness. Fior’s expressionist figures are reminiscent of Paul Cezanne or a young Pablo Picasso. Their sensuous quality combined with the delicacy of Fior’s watercolors imbues every place with an exoticism that evokes the excitement of traveling to foreign places for the first time. Whether it’s Lucy studying the works of Henrik Ibsen while overlooking a lovely fjord in rural Norway, or Piero participating in an archeological dig in Aswan.

5,000 km Per Second, By Manuele Fior Translation: Jamie Richards Book Design: Michael Heck.

But the mood changes at the midpoint as Lucy and Piero slowly become disconnected from their environments. The initial excitement fades, only to be replaced by a sense of alienation. What once looked beautiful becomes oppressive. Time marches relentlessly forward, as expressed through the comic’s meticulous use of three-tiered rows of panels. The colors start to fade as if in response to their internal change. Lucy and Piero's attempts at cosmopolitanism only go so far. The local inhabitants remain mostly strangers or adversaries. The new country doesn’t become a second home. And returning to the old country doesn't provide any greater sense of belonging. When the much anticipated reunion finally takes place, Lucy and Piero’s accumulated life experiences and differing perspectives have created a vast gulf separating them. And yet, every relationship and heartbreak they’ve experienced separately is haunted by the shared memory of their first love. The memory which emerges from their meeting succeeds in interrupting the comic’s forward progress and allows for a flashback to circle the narrative back to the brightness of the first chapter.

But it’s only a momentary relief before life, in all its glorious indifference, forces them both to keep muddling forward.

11/11/2017

A User’s Guide To Neglectful Parenting

A User’s Guide To Neglectful Parenting, By Guy Delisle Translation: Helge Dasher.
By Guy Delisle
Translation: Helge Dascher

Guy Delisle has earned a reputation as a cartoonist who portrays himself as a hapless explorer. In my review of Jerusalem, I wrote “Noting the strangeness of a place may not be particularly insightful analysis, but it works perfectly for Delisle. His stockpiling of numerous insignificant details mirrors how most clueless Westerners experience the rest of the world. Delisle has become the spokesperson for early stage culture shock because he never achieves true mastery of his subject. Not that he seems to care.” I also observed how raising a family has been increasingly taking up more of Delisle’s time and energy, making his travelogues even more rambling and incidental. His post-Jerusalem work hasn’t shown an appreciable evolution in his basic narrative style, but his storytelling in books like A User’s Guide To Neglectful Parenting have become more manageable by tightening their focus on one aspect of the cartoonist’s life. In this particular case, Delisle collects random anecdotes about his less than stellar approach to caring for two precocious children. And unlike his travelogues, there isn’t an arc connecting these separate incidents.

Delisle adapts the same everyman persona he’s used in the past. This works just as well in conveying his cluelessness when it comes to communicating with kids as it did with the locals of foreign lands. Only this time, he gets to be demonstrably angry and intimidating as a supposably adult authority figure. His level of self-absorption is just enough to be relatable to other harried parents. This results in the kind of dismissive condescension and obliviousness mixed with annoyance the average adult normally exhibits towards children. In the book’s opening story, Delisle neglects to replace his son’s fallen out baby tooth with money for two nights in a row. When the son begins to suspect his parents are the real Tooth Fairy (or its French equivalent), Delisle lies with “If it was us putting the money under your pillow, do you really think we’d forget two nights in a row?” When his son seems unimpressed with the amount of money he received for yet another tooth, a visibly upset Delisle pulls out a one-cent coin and gives the game up by making the threat "Next time I'm gonna give you this here instead of two euros!" The son’s open mouthed reaction is subtle, and hilariously appropriate to the occasion.

A User’s Guide To Neglectful Parenting, By Guy Delisle Translation: Helge Dasher.

In addition to resorting to those kinds of white lies, Delisle engages in even more of the usual parental shenanigans. He pretends to be more informed about subjects where he knows nothing. He feigns interest in his children’s activities. He inadvertently (or deliberately) terrifies them. He occasionally harangues them, especially his son for not showing more interest in traditional manly activities like fixing the house plumbing. Anyone who’s survived their childhood and remembers the hurtful things parents casually heaped on them will understand the often impassive expressions of Delisle’s kids. But they’re also the straight man bearing witness to his inappropriate behavior. When free to write about characters he genuinely cares about without tying them to a larger, sprawling travelogue, Delisle’s humor shapes up to be sharper and funnier.

In the book’s most curious anecdote, Delisle gets to be the curmudgeonly artist reflecting on his own status in the industry. When his daughter brings him one of her drawings for inspection, Delisle does what is expected of any parent and praises her young efforts. But after a slight pause, his inner editor takes over and he begins critiquing the drawing like it’s another magazine submission. He points out all its various technical flaws, then gathers himself once again and launches into an extended rant about young cartoonists and their unwillingness to put in the work and learn proper drawing skills: “I know what you're going to say ... You're going to tell me it's your ‘style’ and that you did it on purpose. Well, kiddo, let me tell you, there's a hell of a difference between drawing like a hack and having some kind of style. Not everybody's Art Spiegelman, you know."

Heh. I wonder from where a younger Delisle heard that from?

11/04/2017

Love and Lies Vol. 1

Love and Lies Vol. 1, By Musawo Translation: Jennifer Ward Letters: Daniel Cy Cover Design: Phil Balsman.
By Musawo
Translation: Jennifer Ward
Letters: Daniel Cy
Cover Design: Phil Balsman

At first glance Love and Lies possesses an interesting premise. To combat declining birth rates (an issue of real concern in present-day Japan) the Japanese government enacted the “Yukari Law.” The state was empowered to match every single 16 year old with each other into arranged marriages for the purpose of optimizing procreation. The law didn’t just aim to stabilize the Japanese population, but to improve it through the use of eugenics. Basically, the government has the genetic information of every citizen on file in order to to find the best possible marriage partner for every individual. At the beginning of the manga, members of the original generation affected by the law (known as the “Yukari Generation”) have grown up and are presently raising children of their own. The program is widely touted as a success, and their offspring have been declared to be “mentally and physically gifted.” Those children who're coming of age are currently receiving their government approved marriage notices. But will this generation prove to be as acquiescent as their parents?

Anyone raised to cherish ideals like “democracy” or “inclusiveness” will be horrified at the prospect of living in such a xenophobic and oppressively heteronormative society. They would probably compare the story's premise to fictional dystopias like Brave New World or The Handmaid's Tale. But that would be very very far from the image Musawo paints in the manga. A couple of confused teenagers do express discontent for the status quo at the very beginning, only for the scene to be played as comic relief. Love and Lies is first and foremost, a boilerplate high school romance. And not necessarily a challenging one at that, based on reading this volume and viewing a recent anime adaptation. The near future sci-fi elements are pushed so much to the margins that the story might as well be a dramedy set in the present about an arranged marriage involving the usual love triangle.

Love and Lies Vol. 1, By Musawo Translation: Jennifer Ward Letters: Daniel Cy Cover Design: Phil Balsman.

The introduction to aforesaid triangle is main protagonist Yukari Nejima, unfortunately named after the very law responsible for his existence when it brought his parents together. Yukari is the archetypical nonentity of a male character found in so many shonen manga. You could even say he’s actually an argument against the success of the law, because he’s as dumb as a sack of hammers. Naturally, his earnest ineptitude is considered an attractive quality to the much more charismatic characters surrounding him. This includes the hottest girl in his high school class Misaki Takasaki. Yukari’s had a crush on Misaki since the fifth grade, but couldn’t muster the courage to talk to her. However, he discovers that she reciprocates his feelings on the very night he receives his notice. Her opposite and Yukari’s arranged future wife is the doll-like Lilina Sanada. She quickly exhibits greater wit and initiative in their first meeting. And of course, there's best friend and aloof popular boy who has his own adoring coterie of female fans, Yūsuke Nisaka.

Funnily enough, there’s a more ambitious story struggling to break through the more familiar material. Misaki and Yusuke haven't received notices despite their age. And this could be connected to a shared secret they’re both hiding from Yukari. Yusuke even drops a bombshell on the reader at the end of the book. But most intriguing is an early but all-too brief hint that things may not be alright with the government agency playing matchmaker to the nation’s 16 year olds. Two officials practically stalk Yukari in a park at night just to hand him his notice. And that’s after he receives the notice in the form of a suspiciously glitchy email. Who does that in real life? But this gets drowned out by Yukari’s unceasingly inane dithering,  the awkward and inappropriate conversations between the two female leads about what makes Yukari such a catch, the fanservice oriented art surrounding Lilina and Misaki, or Musawo’s not so subtle fetish for getting characters to engage in big, sloppy kisses. Yum.

Love and Lies Vol. 1, By Musawo Translation: Jennifer Ward Letters: Daniel Cy Cover Design: Phil Balsman.

As gross as that last part sounds, it does point to what’s good about the story. Love and Lies may be weak in the world-building department, and its social analysis is at best, insubstantial. But at least it gets one thing right about its characters. They’re still horny teenagers. No matter how jaded they claim to be, they're grappling with emotions brought on by puberty. Given half the chance, some will even flout authority by sticking their tongues down each other's throats.

10/31/2017

More NonSense: Cartoon Diversity

Marvel Comics serials

CXC as an example on how to build a comics festival.

Marvel's diversity efforts graded by various industry professionals.

Classic Peanuts understood how people dealt with tragedy.

Gene Luen Yang profiled bt SFGate.

Dave Gibbons won't be reading Doomsday Clock. “I wasn’t told anything at all – I know just as much as anybody else.”

Fredric Wertham's 'Seduction of the Innocent examined by R.C. Baker.

Joe Quesada's art collection was stolen. He tells us how you can help.

Gail Simone and Fabian Nicieza demonstrate that even pros are just fans screaming at each other.

Heidi MacDonald reacts to the Harvey Weinstein scandal.

Becky Morton on the "boys club" of British political cartooning.

Liz Bourke on the popular objection used by straight white cisgender males, “But what about the quality?”


10/21/2017

She and Her Cat

Story: Makoto Shinkai Art:Tsubasa Yamaguchi Translation: Kumar Sivasubramanian Original Story: She and Her Cat: Their Standing Points (1999) by Makoto Shinkai.
Story: Makoto Shinkai
Art:Tsubasa Yamaguchi
Translation: Kumar Sivasubramanian
Original Story: She and Her Cat: Their Standing Points (1999) by Makoto Shinkai

She and Her Cat is one of many tales told around the world about pets showering their owners with unconditional love. Expanding on a five minute animation created by Makoto Shinkai, the manga goes a bit beyond the usual portrait of animal companions and their owners. The titular cat Chobi isn’t the main point of focus, but a POV character who provides a peek into the life of his owner, a young woman named Miyu. Because Chobi is just your average house cat, he doesn’t truly comprehend her behaviour. As a creature of habit, he simply notices when Miyu is becoming more anxious and slowly deviating from her daily routine. Then one day, she doesn’t come home. Unlike Chobi, we the readers have already surmised that Miyu is undergoing a bout of depression brought on by pressures from work and her personal life. Though the specifics will mostly elude us.

Shinkai isn’t really able to maintain the illusion of seeing events through Chobi’s limited perspective. There are a couple of scenes with Miyu were Chobi is entirely absent. And Chobi sometimes resorts to human concepts which should be beyond the understanding of any cat. But as a framing device, Chobi allows us to view Miyu’s life as a series of vignettes. The story begins in spring and takes place over the course of a single year. Chobi’s narrative voice makes the most sense when the cat is paying a high degree of attention to the tiny details, particularly those details pertaining to the changing seasons. His loving description of his own surroundings evinces an unexpected sensuality which is complimented by the atmospheric artwork of Tsubasa Yamaguchi, who’s particularly attuned to the varying quality of ambient light as it’s filtered and diffused by the environment. When matched with Shinkai’s quiet narrative, Miyu’s descent into depression synchronizes with the looming cold around her in a way that almost feels inexorable.

Story: Makoto Shinkai Art:Tsubasa Yamaguchi Translation: Kumar Sivasubramanian Original Story: She and Her Cat: Their Standing Points (1999) by Makoto Shinkai.

As Miyu gradually withdraws from all human contact, it would seem that the ingredients are being gathered for the making of a desolate winter. And this tracks with Shinkai’s penchant for bittersweet endings. But for once, this is a sunnier conclusion from him. He swerves away at the last minute, thanks to a timely intercession from Chobi. Shinkai charts a new course which renews his characters, thanks to the healing power of pets.