Tag Archives: Monster

MMF: My Reaction to Barefoot Gen 1 & 2

This post is part of the February Manga Movable Feast on Barefoot Gen by Keiji Nakazawa, hosted by my good friend Sam Kusek at A Life In Panels. You can see more commentary on Barefoot Gen on his blog.

I feel like I had an atypical reaction to Barefoot Gen. Sure, it was a depressing read. So much so that my boyfriend noticed how down I was at our Valentine’s Day dinner. I was thinking of the way I wanted to approach Barefoot Gen and write this MMF post. (We did had a great time once I decided to banish all thought of Barefoot Gen for the evening.) Despite that, I wasn’t moved to tears by Barefoot Gen. I realized today, that’s because I’ve already seen it before.

This requires a bit of explanation:

I’ve mentioned before that members of my family are Holocaust survivors. That’s one thing, considering how one generation was too young to remember anything and the other generation was too scarred to speak about it. A lot of exactly what happened to my family is either buried along with the older generation or on a Shoah Foundation tape that my mother and I have felt too unprepared to watch yet. But I went to a private Jewish school for seven years for middle school and high school. I don’t know how the Holocaust was taught to the younger grades in my school, but they were pretty thorough with the older kids. As a result I’ve read a lot of literature on the Holocaust. All the well-known novels and some less-known ones. We were also treated to films, speakers, slide shows and extensive history lessons, especially around Yom Ha’Shoah, which is an Israeli/Jewish holiday mourning the victims.

The horrific bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki aren’t the same as the Holocaust, but a different kind of genocide altogether. Oddly enough, I had already read John Hersey’s Hiroshima as part of a high school physics lesson that was probably supposed to teach us about how mighty nuclear power is. So the imagery of Barefoot Gen was not as surprising as it was for some. I already knew about the eyeless victims with their flesh melting right off them and the bodies floating down the river and the fires that killed thousands. That didn’t surprise me, although I was thankful for Keiji Nakazawa’s cartoon-y style of drawing. As often as his odd facial expressions bothered me (why were there so many awkward, winking faces?), I don’t think I could have stomached something more realistic and I cannot really imagine the true terrors that Keiji Nakazawa and the survivors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki saw in August, 1945. I don’t really want to because then I won’t be able to sleep well. I’ve had dreams about being in concentration camps before and they are pretty terrifying, let me tell you.

So I didn’t cry over Barefoot Gen. It’s not like I haven’t cried over manga before. The later volumes of Naoki Urasawa’s Monster made me cry. To be honest, if I were watching Keiji Nakazawa or another survivor talk about their experience, I would be crying uncontrollably. There’s something about seeing actual human emotion that definitely affects me more. I’ve cried in more movies than I can remember. I cried when Ongina revealed he had HIV on RuPaul’s Drag Race. I could see and hear those people. Much like horror manga, I guess sad manga doesn’t affect me as much as it’s moving counterparts. I should probably watch the movie versions of Barefoot Gen.

But  got me thinking that 1) large swaths of the world must have gone nuts in the 1930s and 40s to kill so many people so brutally and 2) the American government is definitely guilty of genocide, something I hadn’t really thought of before. I’m not a fan of a lot of typical American views and politics, but this goes beyond that. This country thought it was a great idea to end the war by replicating a lot of Nazi practices, everything from putting Japanese-Americans in camps to bombing Japanese civilians, then taking it to the next level with the atomic bomb. While America didn’t kill as many people through these methods as the Nazis did, they did unleash a different kind of horror upon the world as we know it. It disgusts me that this country, which has preached about peace and freedom for everyone, became so hypocritical as to copy their enemies’ techniques. I know, somewhere in my mind, that America probably didn’t make the decision to drop the bomb flippantly, but it strikes me  as odd that the American politicians involved couldn’t see this big, blinding, hypocritical mistake staring them in the face.

But I digress. What struck me throughout was that these were events that had happened to Nakazawa and other survivors. I think a fictional account of the bombings by someone who hadn’t survived it wouldn’t work at all. I’m grateful to the people who have spoken out about atrocities like this because, as heavy as the knowledge and hindsight of these events are, at least the world knows now. Barefoot Gen‘s existence in the world is only one of many survivor’s tales, but it teaches us things we never knew or realized before. It makes us think about who was killed, not just faceless bodies, but people who suffered. Even if it’s just a cartoon-y face that doesn’t quite hold the visual impact you want it to, those faces are someone’s.

To end this post, since it seems to be getting a little preachy and I didn’t really want to do that, I want to thank Sam Kusek for bringing Barefoot Gen to the Manga Movable Feast. Truly, it’s not a manga I would have gotten into easily without this reason to, mostly because it’s not widely available anymore, but also because it’s a tough read. Glancing at some of the other posts that have been written by other bloggers, Barefoot Gen has truly rocked a few people’s worlds. It’s not the best manga in a lot of senses, but it encompasses the idea often touted by Jews–“Never Forget.” People think that just applies to the Holocaust, but that’s not true. It’s important to learn about the Holocaust, the bombings of Nagasaki and Hiroshima and other atrocities so that we learn from past behavior and take to heart the goal of becoming better, less hateful people. It’s best to learn from primary sources like Keiji Nakazawa because they’ll drive that all-important message home.

Here’s a little something to cheer the MMF participants up: (Warning, link contains adorably catchy song.)

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Discussion: How Do You Pick Your Favorite Manga?

Today, a friend asked me on Twitter what my favorite manga was. I could give her a pretty quick answer of some of my all-time favorites (From Far Away and Monster) and some current favorites (Ooku and Bunny Drop), but I hesitated a moment and looked at my bookshelf, scrambling to pick just a few titles out of the many I’m collecting and reading.

It was really hard.

I read a lot of manga and I truly like about 95% of it, it not more. How do I pick from great shelf of titles when I’ve got Black Jack, Pluto, Basara, Emma, Otomen, Kimi ni Todoke, etc.? It’s extremely difficult to choose favorites! There’s so many different kinds of manga. Can I choose one each from different genres or gender spheres? What do parameters do I use to judge a favorite? Do I want to re-read it often? Do I search for a new volume (if the series is ongoing) in stores like a hawk? Do I go out of my way and buy the volumes I’m missing for higher than the cover price? There are manga that fit any one of those parameters, but they don’t *feel* like my favorites. Are they greatly loved? Oh yeah, and I’ll enthusiastically recommend quite a number of them to the right person. But are they an absolute favorite? No, not really…

My favorites are must-reads. I’ve read them all more than once and they’re titles I think I’d recommend to almost anymore. But more importantly, I’ve carried them with me through all the moving I’ve been doing in recent years and haven’t let these titles leave my bookshelves for a long time. There are very few non-favorites that have moved around with me through my college and post-college years.

So what do you use to judge what is your favorite manga? How do you make the final decision and what are some of your absolute favorites?

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Viz begins to accept original submissions/Naoki Urasawa’s “Monster” makes SyFy Debut

VIZ_Media ES: Show us what you’ve got. VIZ Media is now accepting submissions and pitches for original comics. Go to http://bit.ly/1iH8la for details.

This is pretty big news. I think it’s pretty unprecedented for Viz, seeing as they are pretty much a medium for Japanese publishing giants Shogakukan and Shueisha’s manga titles.

Deb Aoki, a prominent manga writer, editor and cartoonist talked to Viz editor Eric Searleman (who tweeted the big news) about this major decision:

“Eric Searleman: ‘We’re considering everything. The format will suit the material. For example, there’s no law that says our original comics need to mirror our manga trim size. Let’s mix it up.’

“We want to do something fun and fresh. Why bother otherwise? We want our books to be an alternative to what’s already out there. It’ll be hard work, but we are confident we can get it done. The bottom line is this: the quality of the comic takes precedent over everything else.”

Here’s a link to the rest of that article.

While Viz isn’t the only U.S. manga publisher to put out original (non-Japanese) content, original English manga (OEM) in the past has been either substandard or hard-to-sell. Currently, Tokyopop, the former bastion of OEM publishing, has scaled back its OEM efforts to only those manga with huge fan following or commercial ventures due to economic hardships. Other manga publishers only have small lines of OEM content, if any at all.

Can Viz do it? Probably. Despite closing the girls’ manga magazine Shojo Beat earlier this year, Viz opened the New People building in August with much success. In other words, I think Viz is becoming more experimental. The company is just cutting out what no longer makes them money and trying new and exciting things they think could work.  Obviously they wouldn’t try it if they thought it would be completely unsuccessful.

On another note, Tokyopop’s original content submission rules have been under a lot of criticism by aspiring cartoonists and others for being legally iffy and unfair to the submitters. While Tokyopop is a considerably more experimental company than Viz, Viz is usually more successful at similar endeavors so maybe we’ll see more fair submission guidelines from Viz.

Will Viz do it better? Odds are in their favor, but we’ll see when the first examples of original content come out.

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On another topic, also related to Viz, Naoki Urasawa’s “Monster” will be debuting on the SyFy Channel tonight at 11p.m. Pacific. My twitter feed is positively abuzz about it too.

monster

I’m pretty excited for this because “Monster” is one of the greatest manga I’ve ever read. Its a powerful, suspenseful drama about Dr. Kenzo Tenma, who has been wrongly accused of murder. In an attempt to clear his name and to erase a past mistake, Tenma goes into hiding and chases after Johan Liebert, who is the real mastermind behind the murders sullying Tenma’s good name.

Throughout the manga we see the extent of Johan’s evil and genius contrasted against Tenma’s tenacity, skill and inherant goodness. It is the kind of manga where you get to know the characters and when you put down each volume you’re excited about what happened and eager to read the next one.

I can personally vouch for this as I saw the manga be introduced to my anime club and then circulated so widely throughout the members that there were waiting lists for certain volumes. Each and every person I spoke to about the manga had the same excited reactions as everyone else.

The series, published by Viz, recently ended, so I am quite excited to see the anime go on air so that new fans can be pulled in. “Monster” is one of those classic titles that has been underappreciated except by hardcore fans.

See the reaction to “Monster” on Twitter.

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