Greek comics creators are taking the English-speaking world by storm! … well, OK, maybe not. But Eugenia in Athens has pointed out there are at least two recent examples of comics by Greeks that have been released by American publishers. This week she talks with Tim about two of them: Falling for Lionheart by Ilias Kyriazis, and Amala’s Blade by Steve Horton and Michael Dialynas.
By Kory Cerjak
Deconstructing Comics’ own Kumar Sivasubramanian translated Dark Horse’s weird and usually cerebral manga MPD Psycho into English. And it’s a good thing he did (rather, that Dark Horse licensed it in the first place) because it is the detective/crime thriller that I always look for.
MPD Psycho is about a detective named Yosuke Kobayashi who, after having his girlfriend literally mailed to him in a freezer, goes crazy and hunts down the man who did it. As a result of these events, he develops multiple personalities. The bulk of this information is given intermittently throughout volume one, which is an interesting storytelling tactic. It allows the reader to weave through the mystery him/herself while simultaneously setting up for the rest of the series with scenes like Kobayashi and future employer Machi Isono. In fact, his “transformation” to cold-blooded killer Shinji Nishizono is only revealed to us through Isono seeing a video made by a reporter.
This is why I call the manga “cerebral”. Much of what’s going on is presented to us in the first person, but it feels very much like a third person point of view. But it gets confusing because we’re looking through the eyes of Kazuhiko Amamiya (the now-dominant personality) as well as Nishizono and later Kiyoshi Murata. We’re most definitely inside of Kobayashi’s head, but we’re never immediately sure of whether it’s Kobayashi-Amamiya, Kobayashi-Nishizono, or Kobayashi-Murata. Thankfully, Otsuka clears that up quickly.
The plot itself centers around a serial killer who Isono and Amamiya’s agency is trying to track down, dubbed the “Lucy Seven” case according to Wikipedia. Those individual cases aren’t made evident to be more than just a murder. Once they solve it, it’s revealed to be part of the Lucy Seven. Lucy Seven itself is very complex, because we not only have to weave through the individual cases, but also how it ties in to the larger whole.
Despite the fact that we’re inside one of Amamiya’s many personalities at any given time, we’re still left piecing together the mystery. Amamiya isn’t aware of what Nishizono is thinking, and neither is aware of what Murata is thinking. So we, the reader, are left with bits and pieces of information that only make up a fraction of the whole.
It’s hard to write detective fiction this compelling and this interesting, and it’s a testament to Otsuka that he did it this well. It relies heavily on shocking imagery (like Kobayashi’s girlfriend being mailed to him and other dismembered bodies) early on, but it lightens up on that and becomes more than just a shock story. It’s good that it does, because Otsuka is certainly good at writing this kind of detective fiction. He can string you along and make you believe you have all the pieces of the puzzle, because Amamiya thinks he has all the pieces to the puzzle. In reality, Nishizono has a few of the missing pieces and Murata might have a few more missing pieces. We’re able to piece it all together, but it’s so interesting to watch the character work his way through it.
I don’t mean to knock on the translation of a fellow Deconstructing Comics-er, but I question one thing, and one thing only: the original Murata Kiyoshi’s speech patterns. It seems like it’d be a lot like Kugeyama from Genshiken, in that he’d have a stutter, but instead it’s just drawn out and slow. Since I don’t know what the original was, I can’t comment on whether that’s accurate, but it seems off and slows me down reading the broken up sentences. But what do I know, I don’t even speak Japanese. Also that could be an editorial decision, not of the translator.
The artwork in MPD Psycho is absolutely spectacular in places and mediocre in others. The faces of Amamiya (and I do mean faces) are spectacular. The differences in expression and hair make it easy to tell which personality is in control. However, the faces of background characters seem to be the same old face with new hair. Most of the other main characters are great, but not to the level of Amamiya. The background art is fine. It adds to the ambiance as backgrounds, but it’s never great like it could be in Kare Kano. Overall, the art does what it needs to do in a story like this, and that’s support but not lead.
I love things like Dexter, Satoshi Kon’s Perfect Blue, and Blade Runner, so it’s only natural that I’d like MPD Psycho as well. It has the interesting maybe-right-but-probably-wrong serial killer, the sort of noir or neo-noir detective feel, and a mystery that isn’t told to you outright nor is it held in front of you like a carrot (I’m looking at you, J.J. Abrams).
Best of all, in volume four, MPD Psycho basically predicted the Rebuild of Evangelion.
MPD Psycho is in print by Dark Horse and easily findable at Amazon, Right Stuf, and probably your local bookstore—though it’ll most likely be shrink-wrapped. It’s also available on Dark Horse’s digital store, which is where I’ve been reading it.
Mulele bought a print comic from one of his favorite online artists, the mysterious creator of the Tanglefoot page on Tumblr. The comic, Dime a Dance, is a fun silent story with dynamic art. Too bad it doesn’t have more room to breathe.
Tim and Mulele also look at:
Then Tim is joined by our new manga reviewer Kory to discuss Kiyohiko Azuma’s hilarious Yotsuba&!, a slice-of-life (yet slightly wacky) manga filled with memorable characters and the intriguing relationships among them.
In more than seven years of doing this podcast, our coverage of European comics has been, um… underwhelming. This week, Tim tries to change that, discussing two European comics with European co-reviewers!
First, Nemi, the overzealous goth girl from Norway, whose eponymous strip by Lise Myhre has become popular in numerous European countries. Norwegian Line Olsson (of the Boston Comics Roundtable) joins Tim to discuss.
Then, the second Blacksad installment, “Arctic Nation”, by animators Juan Diaz Canales and Juanjo Guarnido. Is racism the point of this noirish “furry” tale, or is it just the framing device for something else? Eugenia Koumaki in Athens co-reviews with Tim.
No one’s really sure of the answer to the second question, but its a good springboard for podcast discussion of comics evangelism and the state of the industry in general. What role will digital comics play? In the first installment of an occasional series, Tim bounces these questions off our friend Tom Spurgeon.
In the early ’90s, girls’ comics in Japan took a superheroesque turn with the appearance of Sailor Moon. It was shortly followed by CLAMP’S Magic Knight Rayearth, featuring three 14-year-old girls in a world that reminded them of RPGs.
A few years later, Tokyo Pop and other US publishers took the risk of releasing girls’ comics stateside, with unexpected success. Yes, American girls WILL read comics!
Manga critic Shaenon Garrity joins Tim to talk about the ’90s evolution of shojo manga and its debut in the States, and the place of Magic Knight Rayearth part 1 in that mix.
Written by Neil Gaiman
Art by Dave McKean
Dark Horse Comics, 2007 (New Edition)
Originally serialized in a magazine called The Face (United Kingdom) and collected into a single volume in 1992, this book represents some early usage of digital manipulation, photographic collage and highly expressionistic Dave McKean artwork. Dave McKean has an ability to use a Canon laser photocopier the way many traditional illustrators use pen and ink.
The narrative is essentially about millenarianism. Being written a decade before the year 2000, this book was also accurate in its predictions about how the millennium would result in the changing of more or less nothing. The presaged view of the ten years in the future may not be the most exciting depiction of pre-millennium tension that I have ever read, but after the fact and with the element of hindsight it is probably one of the most accurate. Unlike other works which tie into the Y2K cultural experience, this book manages to transcend such a time-dependent experience to capture the feeling of impending futurism mixed with dread and presents the more rational, grounded view which we experience with our mundane memories of that millennium event. Continue reading REVIEW: Signal To Noise
We begin a two-review series on comics that ask hard questions about whether murder can ever be justified. This week, Mike Baron and Steve Rude’s Nexus. Beginning in the early ’80s, Baron’s philosophical writing and Rude’s increasingly polished art presented the story of a the far future in which a man kills mass-murderers not out of revenge, but because he feels forced to “in self-defense.” Tim and Paul review.
Dave Stevens’ The Rocketeer was part of the early ’80s wave of indy comics that brought us American Flagg! and others. It features a ’30s setting, an un-heroically motivated protagonist, and enough cheesecake to fill a bakery. Tim and Kumar evaluate the value of the work 30 years on.