The Osamu Tezuka Story – Toshio Ban

January 5, 2017 § 4 Comments

First published in the Japanese in 1992
Translated into the English by Frederik L. Schodt in 2016

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Being a huge fan of manga, I’ve known for some time now that Osamu Tezuka is considered the “god” of manga, especially in the land of manga, Japan. Despite this, very little is known of the man outside of his own country. That doesn’t stop me from feeling somewhat ashamed that I don’t know more of his work, but then again, because I don’t know the Japanese language (yet!), I’m very dependent on work that has been translated into English. That it has taken so many years for this tome of a biography to be finally translated and published for the English-speaking world is yet another indication of how late we are in appreciating the master of manga.

Aptly written in the form of a manga biography, it starts from when Osamu Tezuka was a very young child, ending only at his death, when he was 60 years old. And his life was indeed full of manga, anime and film. Right from the start, it seems that Tezuka has never had any other dream—all he wanted to do was make manga and anime.

There were loads of mini nuggets of information and trivia within the pages that I found very interesting. At the same time, the zeal and tenacity at which Tezuka insisted on accomplishing his almost impossible goals has left a strange feeling in me. He never wasted any time, never gave up, never left the path that he believed so strongly that he was meant to be on. As I read the book, I found myself constantly reflecting on how I’ve been working on achieving my own goals, if I had even half the kind of devotion that he had.

As I reached the last quarter of the book, I started to realise that this volume was somewhat different from the kind of manga that I’ve gotten used to. Perhaps it was Ban’s intention to draw a manga that best reflected Tezuka’s style, which is, of course, quite “old-fashioned”. Perhaps, also, because it was originally drawn way back in the early 90s, which could explain how different it is from the manga of today. So in a way, I felt like this book was a little less organic in its style and presentation.

The story itself was also a little dry. All the little details were there, of course. How he went about rushing deadlines and how his country and the world was changing. But the whole book was more of a recollection of information, more than a telling of a story. There were countless points in the book where I had hoped I could get more information, or more elaboration, or even just a little more illumination, but Ban kept to the main frame of the story, which was a little disappointing to me.

Still, it’s a book much worth reading, especially for those who are manga fans, or even just fans of Japanese culture.

It’s a great book to start the year with. I’m hoping some of that passion will rub off on me.

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Solanin – Inio Asano

December 5, 2016 § Leave a comment

First published in the Japanese, 2005-2006
《ソァニン》, 2 volumes (complete)

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My brother has been on my case about this manga for a long time now. He read it online almost half a year ago, and said I should do the same. But I’ve got this thing about reading “books” from a screen—I don’t like it. The occasional articles and Facebook stuff, sure. But in my head, I just haven’t gotten to that place I need to be to fully enjoy a book that’s got light glaring back at me.

So when we found this book, 2 volumes in one, in the library that day (I’m in New Zealand at the moment, by the way, which explains why I was able to find this book), we knew we had to bring it home. And I have to say, my brother has got good taste in manga.

The story is really so simple. It’s about this young girl who’s tired of working at an office, and decides to quit. She lives with her boyfriend who does part-time design work but whose real dreams involve singing in a band. In essence, it’s about how these two go through life, how they make decisions, and how they cope with the pressures presented to them in the real world.

Their problems are not our problems. But in some way, we all have our own problems with the real world—it’s nothing like how we imagined it would be when we were still so young and free and naive. We’ve all had those dreams; dreams of making it big and living just how we want to without a care in the world; of not conforming to the norm and going all out for the things we love most. We look at society and we believe so deeply that we won’t be one of those who give up on dreams just to survive. We’ll more than survive; we’ll realise our dreams. We’ll never sell our souls.

We struggle with it, once we reach the real world. Some of us meet with a little less resistance, some of us fold on the get-go. Some of us almost kill ourselves trying not to give in, and some of us, very few of us, make it all the way to the end.

For me, that’s what Solanin was about. When there’s something you love so much, but the real world is telling you that you can’t love it anymore, what do you do?

Assassination Classroom – Yūsei Matsui

September 13, 2016 § Leave a comment

First published in the Japanese, 2012-2016
《暗殺教室》, 21 volumes (complete)

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I am a huge fan of manga.

This series is the best one I’ve read yet.

The setting is excellent, and so very simple to understand. A “creature” has destroyed most of the moon (so that it’s permanently in its crescent shape), and has threatened to destroy Earth a year after. It then offers humankind a way out. It will become the homeroom teacher for a class, 3-E, in a top-rated private school. It will teach the students to become highly skilled assassins. And in this one year, the students can use every chance they get to try and kill this “creature” before the one-year deadline is up, and Earth is destroyed.

Putting aside the seemingly morbid setting, the story is absolutely hilarious. It’s much like Great Teacher Onizuka (GTO), where each student goes through a life-changing and coming-of-age experience, and the teacher (in this case, the “creature”) plays a critical role in that experience. Adding to that the amazing ways the students think up of to attempt assassination, and you’ve got yourself the perfect combination.

I don’t know how he did it, but in the midst of all the comedy, the author managed to get me really attached to each of the students, and the teacher as well. I got so attached, I cried throughout the last 3-4 volumes of the series.

This manga has been made into an anime (2 seasons). I’ve been told it is good.

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All the manga I own is translated into Mandarin. That’s how I first learned to read the language, through manga. I’m hoping that one day, I’ll be able to read manga in its original language.

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