Tag Archives: manga

The city doesn’t need a sky: miniature masterpieces by Yoshihiro Tatsumi

Yoshihiro Tatsumi writes manga short stories about the common man. But his common men are anything but – in his works you’ll meet sewer cleaners, casual murderers, factory workers, prostitutes, monkeys, and amputees, among others.


The stories in the three books shown above, Abandon the Old in Tokyo, The Push Man and Other Stories, and Good-Bye, were all written in the late 60s and early 70s, so in many ways it’s like looking at a world that’s long since vanished. There are little touches here and there (space heaters, turntables, and rabbit ears) that seem surreal to me now, even though they’re all items that I remember from my early days.

Common themes, situations, and characters tie these books together – at one point, I found myself wondering if factory workers were allowed to date anyone other than bar hostesses, and if all businessmen nearing retirement age had ungrateful wives. But there’s always a surprising twist somewhere – a rat and her babies, a man who loves shoes, a little cross-dressing, a hidden story behind a photograph, a toothless dog, or maybe just a bit of revenge.

Image from Drawn & Quarterly website.

If you’d like to learn a little about the man himself, here’s a wonderful NY Times review of his autobiography, A Drifting Life. For a little more, try this interview from the Toronto Comic Arts Festival. And if you’d like to know a lot more, try reading A Drifting Life itself. It’s a hefty undertaking at 855 pages, but it’s definitely worth your time.

– Amy

(P.S. The title of this post is from the short story My Hitler, on page 181 of The Push Man and Other Stories.)

1 Comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Manga for everything.

Foyer of the Kyoto International Manga Museum*

I’ve heard that in Japan there is manga for everything, but as I do not read Japanese or live in Japan, I have to wait for the library to purchase English translations. And while we don’t have manga for everything, we do have manga for some mighty odd things. For instance!

Agriculture – Moyasimon – College student Tadayasu can see (and talk to) bacteria. This leads to all sorts of adventures involving fermented seals, sake brewing, athlete’s foot, food poisoning, mushroom cultivation, and more. There’s a good deal of science sprinkled throughout the series, and the bacteria are adorably drawn. Who knew that an agricultural college would be such a crazy place?

Autism – With the Light – This series follows the Azuma family and their autistic son Hikaru from his birth to his middle school years. It’s hard to describe fully, because there’s a lot going on here. My favorite parts aren’t about Hikaru; they’re the chapters that show how Japanese society treats people with autism. Unfortunately, this series was forced to an early conclusion by the author’s death, which is a loss for all of us.

Becoming a Manga Artist – A Zoo in Winter –  The mostly autobiographical tale of Hamaguchi, a young man who joins a manga studio in Tokyo in the 1960s, when everything was done by hand and moved at a different pace – well, except the deadlines. Apparently deadlines haven’t changed much.

The Bombing of Hiroshima – Barefoot Gen – This is quite possibly the most depressing manga I’ve ever read, because it’s a true story. Gen’s older brother is in the army. Gen’s father is ostracized for opposing the war. Half of Gen’s family burns to death in the fires started by the atomic bomb while Gen and his pregnant mother are watching. And then it gets bad. Seriously – even Maus is a cake walk compared to this one. (Bonus: movies!)

Chinese Food – Iron Wok Jan – The first example on our list of the “son of a famous blah blah blah displays his knowledge and triumphs over adversity” genre. It’s about a cocky young fellow named Jan (who is the son of a famous chef), and apparently takes place in a part of Japan that has an awful lot of Chinese cooking competitions. Also, the female lead’s, erm, assets, increase dramatically by the end of the series. I don’t know how she can even see what she’s cooking.

Football – Eyeshield 21 – Sena, a scrawny kid who’s good at dodging bullies, accidentally develops some impressive running skills and is drafted by (read: forced to join) his school’s failing football team. Will they be able to rebuild the team? Will they make it to the fabled Christmas Bowl? Well, of course they will – it’s that kind of manga. But you’ll learn lots and lots about football along the way. This is the first “underdog sports team triumphs over adversity” title on our list. (Also, “Eyeshield 21” is a pretty dumb nickname. Maybe it sounds better in Japanese.)

Japanese Food – Oishinbo – Number two in the “son of a famous dude” genre. Shiro (our hero) is pitted against his father, who is apparently the Best Food Critic Ever. The two work for rival newspapers, and are competing to create the ultimate Japanese menu (sure, why not). Anyway, each English-language volume is based on a theme (sake, pub food, rice) which is mighty educational but chronologically confusing. Why is the main character meeting his future wife in volume one, dating her in volume three, and getting married in volume two? But still, any book that claims to bring lovers together with the powers of asparagus is worth a read.

The Silk Road – A Bride’s Story – Twenty year-old Amir and her twelve year-old husband settle down with his extended family somewhere in central Asia. It’s fun to see the cultural differences between Amir and her new family, especially since you’re learning about both cultures at the same time. Throw in a Brit for some slapstick comic relief, fill it with appallingly beautiful and detailed artwork, and you’re good to go.

Tennis – The Prince of Tennis – This one combines the “underdog sports team” and “son of a famous dude” genres quite nicely, and has lots of pretty high school boys, too. Alas, I gave up on it halfway through the series, because the tournaments just go on forever – do I really want to watch poor Ryoma swat at balls for 42 volumes? Hell no. But there’s scads of tennis vocabulary and it’s obviously well-researched. Good enough, if tennis is your thing (or you get it for free from your library).

Victorian England – Emma – Being a maid is hard work. Really hard work. Even if you’re Emma, and you have a super liberal employer who buys you glasses and teaches you how to read. And then, you get abducted and shipped to America because your boyfriend’s fiancée’s dad doesn’t like you. Maybe you would have been better off in that brothel. (No, not really.) But the artwork is amazing (same author as A Bride’s Story), and the history is spot on. (Bonus: anime!)

Wine – The Drops of God – Another “son of a famous dude” manga. This son, Shizuku,  is competing with his adopted brother in a contest (“son of a famous dude” manga almost always has a contest in it somewhere) to see who will inherit famous-wine-critic dad’s wine cellar, which is worth scads of money. I’ve never learned so much about France from a Japanese book. So yeah, the format is predictable. It’s the content that really sets this one apart.

Window Washing – Saturn Apartments – Okay, I’m kinda faking it with this one, because there’s not much window washing instruction in here. But it is a manga about a group of window washers and their newest hire, the adorable teenager Mitsu. And they work on a space station, too. That’s pretty cool, isn’t it? Trust me, it is.

Those are just a few of the titles that have been translated into English. I’m almost afraid to see what will cross the ocean next.

– Amy

Children's room of the Kyoto International Manga Museum*

*Photographs courtesty of Flickr user threefishsleeping via Creative Commons license.


Filed under Uncategorized

Unlikely Rare Books: Sailor Moon

Back when I started college and got my first credit card, I built a pretty impressive manga collection. But when I finished college and had to pay that credit card bill, I sold most of my books and only kept the sets that I thought were particularly nifty.

One of the things that I kept was Naoko Takeuchi’s 18 volume Sailor Moon, which (in the English version at least) contains three titles: Sailor Moon (vols. 1 – 11), Sailor Moon Super S (or Supers, or SuperS, vols. 1 – 4), and Sailor Moon Stars (vols. 1 – 3).


And boy, am I glad I kept these. And that I kept them in super pristine “I’m a librarian” condition. Why? Because they’re out of print, and have been for a few years now. Suddenly I’ve become a rare book collector.

I know. Sailor Moon. Really. Who’d have thought it?

Of course, a rare book is only as valuable as what someone is willing to pay for it. So if you think you have a rare book and you want to see what it’s worth, where do you go?

The easy way is to start on the internet with sites like these:

  • AbeBooks.com – One of my Sailor Moons goes for $145 here, but that’s pretty unusual.
  • amazon.com – Prices here vary from $38 to…$1,499. Wow.
  • eBay.com – About $25 here, which is the most reasonable.

Prices vary based on the condition of the books as well. For example, if you just want to read the darn things and not preserve them for the ages, you can easily get a copy for $10 or less.

If the internet is not for you, use the library’s trusty price guides (though I doubt you’ll find Sailor Moon in here):

And you can look under these subject headings:

Now that I know what Sailor Moon is really worth, you can bet your Silver Imperium Crystals that my books are insured and properly stored. And no, you can’t borrow them.

If you would like to read Sailor Moon, there are a few stray volumes floating around our wonderful county libraries – but don’t get any ideas about them. By the time a library gets through with a book (laminating, recovering, stamping, stickering, and barcoding) it loses its resale value.

The moral of this post? Be nice to your books; you never know what will turn out to be valuable!

– Amy


Filed under Uncategorized

poems + comics = pomics

It’s my turn to post again, so odds are that today’s Eleventh Stack spotlight will shine on either poetry or graphic novels, right?  Double right!   Today’s post is about both poems and comics, and the weird hybrid animal that spawns from their combination: “pomics.”

We’ve got evidence proving that poets were hip to the comics scene as early as 1946, when E. E. Cummings wrote the introduction to a collection of George Herriman’s Krazy Kat comics.  In fact, he portrays the strip as an analogy for the dynamics of love and wisdom, democracy and individualism.

Matthea Harvey is a contemporary poet who has professed her love for comics, especially in this interview with Poetry Foundation, in which she and Jeannine Hall Gailey discuss the inspirational themes of dozens of graphic novels, manga and anime titles and authors, including Paul Hornschemeier‘s Three Paradoxes,  Osamu Tezuka‘s Astro Boy and several of Hayayo Miyazaki‘s works.

Not only is Jeannine Hall Gailey another comics fan, she’s also a pomics creator.  Her book, Becoming The Villainess, includes the poem “Wonder Woman Dreams of the Amazon” and several poems from her chapbook, Female Comic Book Superheroes, which you can listen to her read here.

Poetry Foundation.org has taken a clear stance on the side of pomics by initiating their creation in its feature, “The Poem as Comic Strip.”  So far, the series has included collaborations between Ron Regé, Jr. and Kenneth Patchen, David Heatley and Diane Wakoski, Gabrielle Bell and Emily Dickinson, and Jeffrey Brown and Russell Edson.

The 1960’s must certainly have produced some impressive cross-genre overlap with its combination of psychedelic poetry readings and mind-warping underground comics, both exploding in San Francisco.  One example is Ginsberg’s Illuminated Poems, which graphic novelist Eric Drooker illustrated.  According to Graphic Witness: Four Wordless Graphic Novels, Ginsberg credits Lynd Ward’s silent graphic novels as the inspiration for his famous poem “Howl.” 

The symbiotic relationship between poetry and comics is so far-reaching that I’m sure I’ve left out some approaches–but if you know of any more examples, I’d love to read them.



Filed under Uncategorized

Shelf Examination: Manga and Graphic Novels

Thanks to the success of graphic novels like Fun Home and Persepolis, more and more adults are discovering the power and pleasure of contemporary comics. Today’s Shelf Examination celebrates the renaissance in graphic literature for adults, featuring fiction and non-fiction titles that can entertain, inspire, or educate via the marriage of well-drawn images and thoughtful text.

The Series:  Essex County, Jeff Lemire.

Start With: Tales From the Farm.

The Plot:  Lemire populates a farming community in Southwestern Ontario with an assortment of quirky, yet dignified characters, each coping with life’s privations in her/his own style.  Tales From the Farm focuses on how adult role models help a young boy cope after his mother’s death.


The Memoir: Blue Pills, Frederick Peeters.

The Plot:  Peeters chronicles the delicate dance of creating a relationship with a woman and her son, both of whom have tested positive for HIV.  Images of the absurd and the magical weave through this touching, realistic story of love in a complicated world.

book jacket     book jacket  book jacket     book jacket

The Series: Old Boy, Garon Tsuchiya.

The Plot:  Goto wants some answers.  Why was he whisked away and imprisoned for ten years?  And why, suddenly, has he been released with no explanation?  Goto’s Kafkaesque search for the truth seemingly points to a teenage grudge, but can it really be that simple?


The Play: A Midsummer Night’s Dream, William Shakespeare, adapted by Richard Appignanesi.

The Plot:  Lovers flee to the woods, fairies hold grudges and make mischief, and Appignanesi illuminates all with light, delicate depictions of the otherworldly creatures into whose domains the hapless humans have stumbled.  Includes eight pages of character introductions.

As usual, the quick picks offered in today’s post are just the tip of the iceberg.  And if you’ve spent this entire post scratching your head and saying, “Huh?,” we can help you there, too.  For graphic novel picks appropriate for kids and teens, please consult our fabulous, knowledgable colleagues in their respective departments.

What readerly goodness lurks within the heart of the stacks?  Shelf Examination knows!  See you next time.

–Leigh Anne

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Robots and demons and schoolgirls, oh my!

How did you spend your weekend? I spent mine sitting in the one and only Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh Manga Reading room at Tekkoshocon, our fair city’s one and only anime convention – you can read all about it at the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh – Teen blog. Much thanks to Joseph for the lovely picture, to everyone who lent a hand, and to all of the busy readers who managed to eat 50 bags of corn chips but not get our books greasy, which is no mean feat.

So now that the convention is over, what better way to head off that dreaded anime/manga withdrawal  than by raiding the library’s collections? We’ve got all sorts of anime in Film & Audio, and the First Floor, Teen, and Children’s departments all have spiffy manga sections. And best of all, it’s free. But you knew that.


book jacket       book jacket       book jacket       book jacket       book jacket       book jacket

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized