June 29, 2012 | 2:23 p.m.
Anime Expo, the largest convocation of fans of Japanese animation and manga in the country, is now underway at the Los Angeles Convention Center — more than 125,000 are expected to attend. One of the guests of honor is Tatsuo Sato, the creator of an outrageous TV spoof of anime fan culture called “Martian Successor Nadesico,” which is a bit like inviting the Comic Book Guy from “The Simpsons” to speak at Comic-Con International. The Nadesico is a state-of-the-art space battleship (complete with crew jackets, Ping-Pong tables and vending machines) run by a crew of teenage misfits. When he’s not fighting the invading Jovian Lizards, the series’ unlikely hero, fry cook-turned-combat-pilot Akito Tenkawa, watches reruns of “Gekigangar 3,” a hilarious sendup of early giant robot shows in the “Gigantor” mold. Clips from the show-within-the-show feature a disco theme song, stilted animation, hammy […]
April 02, 2012 | 1:23 p.m.
Aboriginal sci-fi, madcap cartoon realms, a sexualized dreamscape and a garden of geometric surrealism – these are the unexpected ideas and fascinating settings presented by the nominees in the graphic novel category for the 2012 Los Angeles Times Book Prizes. This is the 32nd presentation of the Los Angeles Times Book Prizes but just the third year that the graphic novel category has been included. The winners in all categories will be announced at a ceremony at USC on April 20, right before the start of the 17th annual Los Angeles Times Festival of Books, the largest book festival in the United States. Here’s a look at the nominees in the graphic novel field: Joseph Lambert, “I Will Bite You! And Other Stories” (Secret Acres): Lambert’s dazzling debut effort, “I Will Bite You!” is a collection of short works (it includes some of Lambert’s self-published mini-comics […]
Oct. 10, 2011 | 9:36 a.m.
In the thinly fictionalized “Onward Towards Our Noble Deaths,” manga artist Shigeru Mizuki recounts the brutality with which the officers of the Imperial Army treated their own men, a story that has received less attention than their savage abuse of the Chinese and other conquered people. Mizuki drew on his painful experiences as a draftee during World War II, when he was sent to the island of New Britain off the northwest coast of New Guinea. He lost his left arm in battle and caught malaria — which kept him from certain death in a suicide charge ordered by his superiors. Private Maruyama serves as Mizuki’s stand-in: a grunt with a talent for drawing, struggling to survive short rations, miserable weather, tropical diseases and American attacks on the island. Like Willie and Joe, the dogface American privates in Bill Mauldin’s […]
Oct. 02, 2011 | 8:37 a.m.
REVIEW To my eye, Takehiko Inoue is the most extraordinary draftsman working today in manga or comics: His ability to draw the human figure in any pose and from any angle puts him in the rarified company of Burne Hogarth (“Tarzan”), Hal Foster (“Prince Valiant”) and Milt Caniff (“Terry and the Pirates”). “Vagabond,” a fictionalized account of the life of samurai hero Miyamoto Musashi, is his masterpiece to date. Musashi (1584?-1645) is a Japanese national hero: One of the greatest swordsmen in history, he was also a skilled artist (with works in painting, calligraphy, sculpture) and the author of “A Book of Five Rings,” a treatise on strategy. (It’s still studied in Japan, and gained a cult following in America during the 1980s as a way of understanding — and fending off — Japan’s surging economic power.) Inoue based “Vagabond” […]
June 03, 2011 | 2:11 a.m.
REVIEW: ”Hiroshima: The Autobiography of Barefoot Gen” “Barefoot Gen” Volumes 1 & 10 (c) Keiji Nakazawa. All Rights Reserved Seven-year-old Keiji Nakazawa was on his way to school in Hiroshima on Aug. 6, 1945, when he stopped to answer a question from a classmate’s mother. Before he could reply, “a pale light like the flash of a flashbulb camera, white at the center, engulfed me, a great ball of light with yellow and red mixed at its out edge.” The next thing he knew, he was half-buried in rubble with a six-inch nail driven through his cheek. Because he was standing behind a foot-thick concrete wall, Nakazawa survived. The charred body of his friend’s mother lay nearby. The horrors Nakazawa saw in the ruined city, the poverty and suffering he endured in postwar Japan, including discrimination against bomb victims, haunted him […]
March 31, 2011 | 7:49 p.m.
Works by artists from Pixar, LucasFilm, DreamWorks, Nickelodeon and other studios will be sold at a benefit Saturday in San Francisco to raise funds for Japan disaster relief. The auction is part of the One (Hitoshi) campaign, a series of artist-driven events that will also be held in Los Angeles, New York, Paris and Toronto. The impetus for these benefits comes from Daisuke “Dice” Tsutsumi, an art director at Pixar whose work includes “Toy Story 3.” Tsutsumi has helped gather artists for worthwhile causes before: In 2008, he organized a sale of work by scores of animators and illustrators for the Totoro Forest Project that helped to protect the Sayama Forest — the inspiration for the setting of Hayao Miyazaki’s beloved film “My Neighbor Totoro.” Tsutsumi and French illustrator Gerald Guerlais are finishing the Sketch Travel Project, a collection of […]
March 28, 2011 | 10:15 a.m.
REVIEW In Japanese, otaku simply means “you,” but in America, it’s used to describe a fan of Japanese pop culture: anime, manga, video games, J-pop and/or cosplay. American otaku range from casual enthusiasts to hard-core fanatics; the latter are the subject of the eight-part reality series/documentary “America’s Greatest Otaku,” which premiered on Hulu on Feb. 24. Stu Levy, the founder of TokyoPop, a major publisher of manga in the U.S., serves as host, assisted by six college students who are self-proclaimed otaku. Over eight weeks, they visit 20 U.S. cities, observing various aspects of Japanese fandom and interviewing candidates for the title of America’s Greatest Otaku. It’s an uneven series, veering from interesting to just plain silly and superficial. In one of the better sequences, the apprentice reporters visit the Texas headquarters of Funimation, the largest U.S. distributor of anime. After […]
March 18, 2011 | 6:52 a.m.
MANGA REVIEW Bakuman Volumes 1-3 By Tsugumi Ohba and Takeshi Obata Viz: $9.99 each, paperback; 194 pp. Thousands of kids in the U.S. and Japan dream of becoming manga artists; 14-year-old Moritake Mashiro, the hero of the new manga series “Bakuman,” isn’t one of them. He draws well, but he draws for fun. Moritake just assumes he’ll fulfill his parents’ wishes and become an ordinary white-collar worker, although the idea is hardly appealing. But when his classmate, A-student and aspiring writer Akito Takagi, sees Moritake’s drawings, everything changes. Akito proclaims, “Manga is the pride of our Japanese culture! We can become famous through it worldwide!” But Moritake’s not buying it. He lacks ambition, and his uncle Nobuhiro was a manga artist who scored one big hit, then worked himself to death trying to match it. Akito has also seen Moritake’s […]
Jan. 26, 2011 | 7:01 a.m.
Charles Solomon checks in with a farewell to Rumiko Takahashi’s long-running manga “Inuyasha,” which comes to a conclusion this month with the publication of Vol. 56. Rumiko Takahashi’s “feudal fairy tale” began as a serial in the magazine Shonen Sunday in 1996; it debuted in the U.S. two years later and has sold over 1.9 million books to date and, along the way, taken on the weight of a true epic and earned the affection of an old friend on the page. Kagome Higurashi, a normal 15-year-old girl, falls down a dry well in her family’s small Shinto shrine — and finds herself in the feudal past, 50 years after her ancestress Kikyo imprisoned the half-human/half-demon Inuyasha. After unwittingly freeing Inuyasha, Kagome fetters him with the help of her priestess-ancestor Kaede. As the reincarnation of Kikyo, Kagome possesses the magic Shikon […]
Nov. 29, 2009 | 2:38 p.m.
Hero Complex contributor Liesl Bradner offers an intriguing look back at a forgotten age of heroics in Japan… Five years before Lee Falk’s masked-man adventures with “The Phantom” began in newspapers, a hero called Golden Bat was saving damsels in distress in the streets of Depression-era Japan. He was first seen in 1931 (seven years before Superman first took flight and eight before that Gotham City fellow who dressed like a bat) and his exploits were told in kamishibai, which was street theater that used painted illustrations. Author Eric P. Nash examines the little-known art form and predecessor to modern-day anime and manga in his recent book “Manga Kamishibai: The Art of Japanese Paper Theater.” I wrote about the book and this long-gone street entertainment for Culture Monster, the arts blog for the Los Angeles Times. Here’s a bit from that piece that describes […]