Scott Pilgrim vs the World (in color!)

I read Scott Pilgrim in its original manga-sized, black and white form when it first came out. With the final volume of the color version coming out this year, I thought it would be a great time to revisit the story as well as looking at how the addition of color changes things. I’ll be exploring the story and themes volume by volume. This time, volume 2.

Scott Pilgrim vs The World - Ultimatum: Break up with Knives or Else
Scott Pilgrim vs The World – Ultimatum: Break up with Knives or Else

Beginning by revisiting the themes from last time, there is again the theme of extended adolescence. O’Malley does not add much to this over the last book. Nearly all of the characters are in the same place as they were before. O’Malley adds a few more examples of Scott’s extended adolescence and immaturity in this volume. Last time I wrote about how his dating of Knives Chau was a prime example of how he didn’t want to grow up after his last breakup left him devastated and against being an adult in relationships. Unfortunately for Knives, he meets Ramona soon thereafter and begins cheating on her. In this book Wallace once again tells him to breakup with Knives. He declines saying he doesn’t want to “because it’s hard”. He only finally agrees to break up with her when Wallace threatens to tell Ramona about Knives if Scott doesn’t do it. As I mentioned before, while there are adults that don’t want to deal with the pain of breakups and sometimes just let relationships drift into nonexistence, it is still a sign of immaturity. Scott needs to think about others, particularly the young and vulnerable Knives who he will hurt more the longer the charade goes on. Continue reading Scott Pilgrim vs the World (in color!)

Understanding Japanese Culture, Humor, and Gender Through Love Hina Part 11

note on all the image scans: they are correct manga-style so they are read right to left

Spend enough time doing critical readings of media and you come across the assertion that all media tells you about the culture it was written in. Sometimes, as in contemporary media, this is easy to tease out. Other times, as with science fiction, it’s by extrapolation. So I thought it might be interesting to re-read Love Hina, by Ken Akamatsu, as a way to to understand Japanese culture.  Part One can be found here.

Story

The story picks up where we left off before. Keitaro is going to go overseas with Seta to do some archeological work. The first story is a light story dealing with the Naru keeping Keitaro company while he waits at the airport for a delayed flight. Their relationship continues to thaw as Keitaro continues to gain respect for growing up and being less of a loser (at least by the standards shown in this book).

The second story appears to have Naru going temporarily crazy (perhaps because she misses Keitaro) which allows for some girl/girl sexual fan service. Actually, it’s Keitaro’s sister Kanako who has an uncanny ability for impersonating people. Through a combination of masks and changing her voice, she’s able to pretend to be anyone. She turns the dorm back into an Inn. (Which is what Keitaro thought it was when he first took over as the manager) The girls don’t just roll over and accept this. They constantly battle Kanako for control of the inn/dorm. While the fan service and constant wondering whether the person speaking is genuine or Kanako gets tedious pretty quickly, there is one redeeming quality to this chunk of the book. Kanako treats the girls the way they treated Keitaro when he first started: she gives them lots of work, they have to bathe in the tub instead of hot springs. In the middle of a ridiculous book, it’s an emotional anchor as some of the girls realize how unfairly they treated Keitaro in the beginning. In the remaining books Naru will continue to pound Keitaro whether or not he deserves it (as before he often doesn’t) but she gets a taste of her own medicine from Kanako and she is a little more aware of what she does to Keitaro going forward.

Culture

Love Hinda Book #11 - To Ward Off Evil
Love Hinda Book #11 – To Ward Off Evil

When Keitaro is leaving, the Motoko makes him a strips of paper to ward off evil. While I’m certain the Japanese are not the only culture that assigns a special significance to the putting fortunes into writing, it is certainly a large portion of the culture. It finds its expression in three different forms and, from the translation, I’m not sure exactly which is being referenced in this book. The most unlikely type in this instance (but which we have seen in other volumes of Love Hina) is the O-mikuji. These are the are the fortunes Japanese get from Shinto and Buddhist temples which we usually see during the festival issues of manga. These are random fortunes (leading to comedy, tragedy, and drama when necessary in Japanese stories) so not quite the same as what’s taking place here. However, it does bring to mind that at the same festivals there is the writing and tying of fortunes that demonstrates again the power of writing fortunes. Closer to what’s happening here are the Ofuda and Omamori which contain inscriptions or the names of kami which bring luck.

Sex and Gender Norms

Love Hina Book #11 - Kanako messes with Motoko
Love Hina Book #11 – Kanako messes with Motoko

In the scene above Kanako’s masquerading as Naru pushes the comic to a pretty dark place. (Especially when Motoko later complains about what was done to her) Other scenes with Kanako pretending to be Naru in this book once again demonstrates the tension in Japanese culture between being comfortable enough being nude in public baths and speaking frankly about breasts and so on on the one hand and crossing the line into violating personal space and touching/grabbing. While it’s not surprising to find that the Japanese don’t like their personal space invaded (it’s probably pretty close to being a universal human feeling), we certainly have less opportunity for that in the US as we have less public spaces where we are nude together. Interestingly, I have recently learned that it wasn’t that far in the past when Europeans/the West would see public restrooms as a place for conversation and gossip as there were not any walls dividing the stalls.

Well, that concludes book 11. This one and the next one are a bit more thin on culture and sex and gender norms as the story is wrapping up and so there aren’t as many new elements being introduced.

 

This post is part of the thread: Understanding Japanese Culture Humor and Gender Through Love Hina – an ongoing story on this site. View the thread timeline for more context on this post.

Is Wayward the new Buffy?

Back in April 2014 I mentioned that Image had a new series coming out and the subject line for the press release was: “The perfect new series for wayward Buffy fans.” I’ve made my way through the first five issues and it’s a good time to see if the comparison was apt.

There are quite a few ways in which it is accurate. Our main character, Rori Lane, is a high school girl who is living with her divorced mother. She just transferred to a new school and new city (technically a whole new country). Her mother has no idea what she’s up to. She’s fighting demons – Japanese demons instead of vampires. She meets up with a few other high school students and they’re working together.

I can see where Image Comics marketing thought, “Hmm, I think we can see some overlap with Buffy fans.” But Wayward is not just Buffy in Japan. That could be interesting on its own, but would probably also seem a bit too derivative. So it’s great that the above paragraph is where the similarities end. Continue reading Is Wayward the new Buffy?

Who is the Green Hornet? Part 1: Kevin Smith

As I mentioned in my John Carter first look, I’m somewhat new to Dynamite’s properties; more accurately, their licensed properties. When I attended the Pulp Panel at Baltimore Comic-Con 2014, I was interested in the Green Hornet for the first time. My only previous exposure was the trailer for the Seth Rogan film. I knew it was an old character from the time of the radio serials, but not much else. But after hearing about Mark Waid’s take on it, I flagged it as something to check out.

Luckily for me, this year Dynamite did a Humble Bundle which included Kevin Smith’s Green Hornet. With the current near glut of comic book movies going to the silver screen, it was interesting to learn that Smith’s run on the comic was based on a Miramax movie script he wrote, but which was never produced. As a Kevin Smith fan, this intrigued me. Let’s first take a brief walk through the plot before looking at some of the themes Smith employs as well as any cinema-ness that sticks out compared to traditional comics.

Green Hornet Vol 1 - A Lil Rascals Reference
Green Hornet Vol 1 – A Lil Rascals Reference

The story open in what, at least to me, appears to be an unspecified time period. Smith seems to be deliberately leaving it open to interpretation whether this takes place in the 1930s of the original Green Hornet stories or a more modern time. The Green Hornet (Britt Reid) takes out the last crime family and retires. Unlike Batman, his appearance does not lead to escalation of ever crazier criminals. Perhaps unrealistically, he has now reach his goal and instead of being corrupted by power, he’s just happy that his city has been rid of all the crime families. His wife knows he’s the Green Hornet, but his son does not. Continue reading Who is the Green Hornet? Part 1: Kevin Smith

Exploring Reality (and other themes) in Joe the Barbarian

Grant Morrison can be a tough read. His comics are almost always filled with metaphors, allusions, references, and Easter eggs. Sometimes this works masterfully like his run on Batman and Robin Vol 1. Sometimes it falls flat like his run on Action Comics Vol 2. Other times, like his run on Batman Vol 1 or Batman Inc Vols 1 and 2, it contains individual stories that are great, but fails to achieve a cohesive whole. I feel that Joe the Barbarian has most of Morrison’s best attributes and only a few of his weaknesses. Continue reading Exploring Reality (and other themes) in Joe the Barbarian

Scott Pilgrim’s Precious Little Life (in color!)

I read Scott Pilgrim in its original manga-sized, black and white form when it first came out. With the final volume of the color version coming out this year, I thought it would be a great time to revisit the story as well as looking at how the addition of color changes things. I’ll be exploring the story and themes volume by volume.

I’d like to start by taking a look at how the conversion to color has affected the story-telling. Scott Pilgrim is an example of manga coming full circle. Osamu Tezuka, the originator of manga, was originally inspired by early Walt Disney. In turn, my generation has been influenced by manga as we create our comics. The original volumes went with manga’s small-size and black and white “coloring” both for authenticity reasons and for practical reasons – coloring and color printing is expensive. In a CBR interview O’Malley says, “Initially, I was resistant to color because the books were always intended for black and white. That was part of the manga aesthetic I was going for.” But manga-inspiration is not the only reason for black and white in comics. Robert Kirkman has stated that Walking Dead wouldn’t have the same impact as it does if it were in color. It’s better for the mind to fill in the gory details. In a strange way, even though O’Malley’s art is already manga-cartoony, the colored version definitely feels less “real” to me. With my look into East of West I spent some time talking about how colors can affect the mood of a book and how Hickman has two very different color schemes in East of West and Manhattan Projects. So I feel as though the colors in this version somewhat rob some of the reality from this admittedly fantastical story. Continue reading Scott Pilgrim’s Precious Little Life (in color!)

Understanding Japanese Culture, Humor, and Gender Through Love Hina Part 10

note on all the image scans: they are correct manga-style so they are read right to left

Spend enough time doing critical readings of media and you come across the assertion that all media tells you about the culture it was written in. Sometimes, as in contemporary media, this is easy to tease out. Other times, as with science fiction, it’s by extrapolation. So I thought it might be interesting to re-read Love Hina, by Ken Akamatsu, as a way to to understand Japanese culture.  Part One can be found here.

Story

We move into a book I hadn’t read on a previous read of the series. It appears that Akamatsu is stalling a bit after the last book’s reveal. This book starts off with Naru claiming she didn’t mean it and then, after a night of zany hijinks alone in the house – Mutsumi invites them to Okinawa. Continue reading Understanding Japanese Culture, Humor, and Gender Through Love Hina Part 10