Thursday, February 09, 2006

THINK ABOUT COMICS: Manga

A Column by Patrick Markfort

Hello, and welcome to another edition of Think About Comics. This week, it’s another all-manga editon, as I’ll be taking a brief look at some manga I’ve read recently.

Naoki Urasawa’s Monster (Volume 1): This had been one of my most anticipated releases for 2006, and I wasn’t disappointed. Urasawa begins his tale of a young doctor being terrorized by a monstrous former patient with the skill of a master storyteller, building tension throughout this first volume and leaving me wanting more, while at the same time providing a satisfying reading experience. You’ll want to track this one down.

Cromartie High School (Volume 2): While I didn’t find myself laughing quite as much while reading this second installment of Eiji Nonaka’s comedy series as I did reading the first, it is still one of the best humor comics currently being published, and one of the strangest manga I’ve ever encountered. As I said when I reviewed volume one, I recommend flipping through this one at your local store and reading a few pages…..that should give you a good idea whether or not the style of humor on display here is in tune with your own.

Dragon Head (Volume 1): If you were only to read one manga from this list, I think it should be this one. I was absolutely blown away by this compelling story from Minetaro Mochizuki. When high school student Teru Aoki awakens amidst a terrible disaster, he finds himself trapped beneath the streets of Tokyo. The subway train he and his classmates had been on has been derailed, and nearly all of the other passengers are dead. This first volume takes place entirely underground (despite a couple of brief flashbacks to Teru’s home life), which creates a feeling of dread and paranoia essential to good horror stories. This first volume was flawless, and I really hope Mochizuki is able to maintain the level of quality on display here throughout the series. I can’t wait to read more of this.

Naruto (Volume 1): This is basically Harry Potter with Ninjas. Naruto is a young ninja-in-training (and also a demon fox, although that aspect of his being is dormant…long story), and he and his friends must graduate the Ninja Academy and survive the brutal training they are subjected to by their teacher, Hatake Kakashi. The story takes place in a magical other world, where ninja skills are mixed with magical abilities…Naruto’s signature move is to make duplicates of himself. I really liked this book. Creator Masashi Kishimoto draws in an appealing art style, writes engaging characters, and is a master of really terrific action sequences. I’m not at all surprised that this is so popular with young boys, and I plan to keep reading myself, although I think my continued interest will depend on whether the plot advances the story of Naruto’s journey, or if it falls into a formula of endless battle sequences. We’ll see, but for now, I’m on board.

Well, there you have it. Lots of good manga that is probably worth your time to seek out. I’ll be back in one week with something different.

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