by Seimu Yoshizaki
published by Viz; $12.99 US
I don’t have much new to say about this volume, since the appeal is the same as in the first book, only with different titles featured. How can I not love a series about how the right comic book will inspire you to change your life?
(In my case, it was Understanding Comics. Without it, I wouldn’t have gotten back into comics in grad school, which means I wouldn’t have begun reviewing, which means I wouldn’t have met my husband or established this now-almost-teenaged website. So thanks, Scott McCloud.)
In the stories in this volume:
- A quiet high achiever wants something different in his life, and he’s finally inspired to take action by Osamu Tezuka’s Adolf.
- A manga speculator learns to appreciate books for more than their resale value in a story shedding new light on the weirdnesses of Kingyo bookseller Shiba (shown on the cover).
- A bar hostess bonds with a little girl over Kenji Miyazawa’s fables in a story that works to seem innocent a bit too hard, but the determination of the child is funny in her single-mindedness. And the image of her unsure of where she’s going, clutching her beloved book, is a real “aw” moment.
- We learn more about Natsuki, the shopkeeper minding the bookstore for her grandfather, and her uncertainty over her role. Then her parents, both of them ridiculous, show up in a humor chapter.
The art is skilled at creating just the right mood through its everyday presentation, overlaid with narration that guides the reader through the emotional arcs. It requires attention to expression as well as the text, demonstrating what makes comics so unique and fun to read.
Two things about the first story particularly touched me: First, that the student opens up to others through writing a review, but also that there’s an unspoken cross-generational message. When we’re talking about older or classic manga, especially, it’s neat to see how much can be learned from someone who’s not necessary part of your age group, and that something not new still has value.
The book ends on a high note. The next-to-last chapter is about a tough guy who learns not to be ashamed of his liking for a particular shojo manga, released only once a year. (And I thought it was difficult waiting for American releases!) I love the message, about being true to your interests regardless of what others think. The next story is another heart-breaker, with Galaxy Express 999 revealing a classmate’s family problems. The imagery of riding trains at night is striking.
The biggest problem with this series is how many manga series it recommends that aren’t available in English and are unlikely to be. The short one-page essays at the back make them all sound wonderful, but when it’s talking about series that have run for 20 or 40 years, it’s like expecting all of Blondie to be imported into Japan. It’s just not likely to happen.
You can read sample chapters of this book at the publisher’s SigIKKI website.