Monday, October 03, 2011

Manga Monday: Velveteen & Mandala

Jiro Matsumoto

Velveteen & Mandala marks the English-language debut of Jiro Matsumoto, a manga creator known for being very explicit.  Vertical picked the perfect title to showcase just that, as this book features two teenage girls armed with rifles in a world populated with zombies.  Matsumoto doesn't shy away from the violence and gore in this book at all, and doesn't bat an eyelash at nudity.  One scene that will give you an idea of his sensibilities involves one of the girls leaving the tank that they sleep in, because she's sick from both ends, when a horde of zombies decide to take advantage of the situation and try to gang bang her for her earlier sexual taunting.  There's a sense of humor in its over-the-top ridiculousness, but it's certainly not for everybody.  I'm still not quite sure how I feel about it, to be honest.  I definitely enjoy Matsumoto's gritty art, depicting this ugly world, but the story is pretty out there.

Velveteen and Mandala have an antagonistic relationship.  They kind of live in their own little worlds, but will irritate each other to no end if they get the chance...and shoot each other, and lock the other out of the tank for the zombies...it's pretty screwed up.  There's also a man in the area in charge of disposing of the zombie bodies dropped from airplanes overhead, who kind of takes care of them in a roundabout way, but for the most part, it's the two girls kind of fending for themselves.  The book features some very surreal moments and sometimes you just don't know if what you're reading is actually happening or not, since it has this sort of dream-like quality to it, but the twists and turns that get sprung on readers toward the end of the story kind of frame it all nicely, and are really pretty smart.  Velveteen & Mandala is definitely a unique read and despite its over-the-top storytelling and explicit art, it's kind of a sophisticated story with how the story is presented to the audience.  I kind of don't want to like it for many of the elements that I mentioned earlier, but in the end, I can't help but be impressed.  Definitely not for the squeamish, this will however remain one of the most interesting manga debuts of the year.

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