Thursday, November 15, 2012

Mini Reviews: Comics

I can see why this comic is so popular.  Naruto has a lot of action and humor and a rich setting.  Watching Naruto's antics, the fight scenes, and immersing yourself in the mythology and ways of the world it's set it is a lot of fun.  Plus, it's about ninjas. The story has a lot of heart as well though.  Naruto has the spirit of a demon that tormented the town trapped inside him and as a result the villagers have never really accepted him.  He acts out to get them to notice him and has big goals to prove them wrong--that he does have what it takes to lead the town and be a force of good.  As he learns the ways of ninjitsu he also learns about teamwork and discipline.  He refuses to sink to the level of his bullies and defends the town even when it's tempting to do otherwise.  There's a lot of good lessons for the real world to be learned in this manga.  Due to the ample and bloody fight scenes and Naruto's famous Ninja centerfold move I'd save this for teenage manga fans.  Naruto: Volume 1 &2 by Masashi Kishimoto: Buy it or check it out today!

This manga is about a girl who can see fairies who ends up on a quest to find a lost artifact in the service of a handsome man with a mysterious and dangerous past.  She has to solve riddles and uncover clues while unraveling layers of deception and deciding who to trust.  Did I mention she has a talking cat who isn't really a cat but a fairy?  What more could I ask for?  Gorgeous costumes stemming from a setting in 19th Century England?  Wait, it has that too.  It's certainly not the most thought-provoking thing I've ever read but darn is it diverting!  I'm looking forward to breezing through the rest of the volumes in this series.  The Earl & the Fairy Story and art by Auyko, Original Concept by Mizue Tani: Buy it or check it out today!

This nearly wordless, surreal gem is exquisitely strange and absolutely delightful.  It stars a little girl who literally eats herself out of house and home as she consumes everything in sight and is sent to the market.  There she finds an egg that hatches into a shapeshifter and leads her on a series of strange journeys including one seemingly meta-fictional one where she calls a time-out and asks that Forsythe alter his drawing.  Being nearly wordless it would be great to give to a child and ask them to describe what's happening in the story.  Adult fans of the surreal are sure to enjoy it as well.  Jinchalo by Matthew Forsythe: Buy it or check it out today!

I enjoyed this manga about two middle school kids who team up to make manga together.  It has a nice quiet plot, but it takes time to develop the characters so that I really wanted them to succeed in their plans.  I think their struggle of whether they should do what is expected of them or follow their dreams is one that many middle school students will be able to relate to.  It was interesting to get a glimpse into the world of how manga gets made as well.  I have mixed feelings on the romantic subplot though.  On the one hand I like that the main character is a romantic and wants to exchange e-mails with the girl he has a crush on instead of seeing her in person.  On the other hand I am not okay with the way gender roles are portrayed.  One of the male main characters describes the female lead by saying "Azuki naturally knows that a girl should be graceful and polite...and because she is a girl, she should be earnest about things and get average grades.  She knows by instinct that a girl won't look cute if she's overly smart."  While they are serious about their goal of making manga "'the reason she's thinking about becoming a voice actress is she naturally chose a dream that many girls have nowadays, and she's just trying to fully enjoy her life as a girl.  She doesn't feel any pressure like we do about our future and whatnot.'  'Because she's a girl?' 'That's right.  She knows what it means to be a girl she knows by instinct that the best thing for a girl is to get married and become somebody's wife...and until then--no, even after she's married, she'll remain graceful and polite.'"  Excuse me!  I'm really hoping that this is just an example of how the characters are clueless about girls and that in later issues they learn how wrong they are because I enjoyed this comic otherwise.  If they don't join the rest of us in the 21st century though I'd be hesitant to recommend it.  Bakuman by Tsugumi Ohba and Takeshi Obata: Buy it or check it out today!

I absolutely loved this irreverent, Scheherazade-esque take on American history.  Nathan Hale is about to be hanged when he utters his famous last words and the Big Huge Book of American History swallows him up.  This infuses him with knowledge beyond his life and allows him to stay the hand of the executioner as he regales him with historical tales.  This first volume is all about Nathan Hale and the Revolutionary War and despite wars being my least favorite part of history to study I was just as rapt as the executioner, and learned a lot that I had either never learned or forgotten due to lack of interest.   I particularly enjoyed reading about Henry Knox, the kick-butt bookseller.  The book definitely has an American bias, but it doesn't view American history as sacred.  When Nathan Hale encounters the ghost of Crispus Attucks and they tell the hangman that they're in the brotherhood of American Martyrs the hangman asks "What's a martyr?" their response: "Nothing. What's a martyr with you?"  It takes a special kind of person to make puns about martyrs, and that is a kind of person whose work I want to follow.  Even the notes at the end of the book were entertaining: Nathan (the author) introduces us to the people who helped make the book and the team of adorable babies that he put in charge of research.  He has a panel with all of his references arranged in two stacks with the title, author, and pub year showing on the spines.  Perhaps not MLA formatting, but very attractive.  Nothing about it is conventional but it is actually something that kids will read as opposed to most backmatter which I'm sure is entirely passed over even by adults.    Nathan Hale's Hazardous Tales: One Dead Spy by Nathan Hale: Buy it or check it out today!

1 comment:

  1. Ooh! Thanks for the review of One Dead Spy! I just read your Bakuman comments aloud to my wife, we were laughing. I like Bakuman because of the uncle character who DIED from working so hard on manga. He's a hero.