Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Quick Manga Reviews

Bambi and her Pink Gun, vol. 1
by Atsushi Kaneko

Take the Mature Readers rating on this volume very seriously: it is brutal, violent and nihilistic (and there's a good dose of sex and nudity too). Teenager Bambi doesn't seem to be quite all right in the head, but she's got pink hair and a pink gun, knows her way around a fight, and has kidnapped a young boy to deliver to the mysterious "Old Men." There's now a 500 million yen bounty out for her head and the safe return of the boy, but she's not going to let him go without a fight. Kaneko is a masterful storyteller: he brings us right in the middle of the action, and doesn't let up as he propels the story forward and fills us in on the backstory as we go along. The art doesn't look like typical manga, nor does it look like anything else either; the closest I can compare it to is the work of Eduardo Risso on 100 Bullets. It's also printed in a red/pink/brownish ink, which gives it a unique look as well. This book certainly isn't for everyone, but if you're in the mood for stylized violence and nihilism, this is the book for you.
Rating: 3.5 (of 5)

Blue Spring
by Taiyo Matsumoto

Confession time: I'm not a big fan of Matsumoto. Despite all the critical raves his work gets, I've never quite gotten it myself. part of it, I think, has to do with the reaction I had when I first encountered his work in the form of Black and White (in the pages of Pulp). I had an intensely visceral reaction to the art: it made me nauseated. Oh, I tried to read it, but could never quite wrap my head around what was going on on the page. At one level I suppose that I admired what Matsumoto was able to do, in being able to disorient a long-time comics reader such as myself; but that didn't mean I had to like it. Combined with the thouroughly unlikable characters, it was the one feature in Pulp that I eventually just skipped over. Blue Spring is likewise filled with unlikable characters--in this case a bevy of bored juvenile delinquents--but at least the art, while still distinctive, is toned down to the point where I can at least stand to look at it. In fact, I find much to admire in the art here, particualrly in the way it is layed out mre like a western comic that typical manga, with what would seem to be the influences of Gene Colan & Neal Adams. Truth be told, I spent more time examining the art than paying attention to the stories, which I really couldn't connect with at all (perhaps I'd have a better chance of doing so if I were a disaffected youth). Blue Spring falls into the category of comics that I realize have merit, but don't appeal to me personally.
Rating: 2.5 (of 5)

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