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Comics Underground - Japan: A Manga Anthology [Paperback]

Kevin Quigley
3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)

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Most helpful customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Thought-Provoking Collection July 2 2001
By A Customer
As a teacher of Japanese history and popular culture, I have seriously considered using this collection for my class. Judging from some of the reviews appeared below, I am glad I eventually backed away. The majority of American public will not be able to relate to them. "Cartoons" or "manga" in Japan come in all stripes and shapes. The cartoons selected here are by no means ones enjoyed only by fringe lunatics. A few of the artists (Nekojiru, for instance) have a quite devoted following in Japan. I have run into far more outrageous and morally offensive comic books in Japan than those selected here, and some are truly exploitative, others are earnest efforts by would-be artists, yet others are unclassifiable, undescribable works of art. Nekojiru's "Cat Noodle Soup" is a good example of the third category, a sort of Zen Surrealism meets Felix the Cat. I know "Planet of Jap" and, to a lesser extent, "Future Sperm Brazil" are aggressively offensive but they are MEANT to be offensive. War is an offensive proposition, an offensive state of being (an idea the majority of Americans have trouble accepting, it appears to me, since they have never been defeated and occupied by a foreign enemy) and the current Japanese indulgence in nostalgic evocation of wartime glories are mercilessly satirized in both selections. I still will not use this book for a college course, but the majority of the works included here represent the indominatable spirit of the Japanese artists who fight against the crushing conformity of Japanese cultural industry. Recommended.
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This review is a response to a previous review that blasted this book for its content. The reviewer was correct in that the chapter "Planet of The Jap" by Suehiro Maruo is very vile and even pornographic, (Check into his "Mr. Arashi's Amazing Freak Show"--unnerving, but not quite so violent..). It is a very disturbing and sickening tale, and the fact that Books-A-Million would carry it is puzzling, but that does not mean that this book should be avoided entirely. It was never meant for children to see--the cover alone should tell you that. The name Comics UNDERGROUND Japan should also tell you that--it's not a collection of mainstream manga. If this book were a film it would be rated NC-17 or even X. Many of the tales are disturbing, especially "Planet of The Jap", but also "Future Sperm Brazil", "Bigger and Better", and the extremely dark "Laughing Ball." I tracked this book down in a privately owned comic shop, way on the top of a very high shelf, well out of the reach of children. Japanese culture has a very different take on sex and violence than ours. The level of these themes present in television series, even those directed at a younger audiences, is much higher than in the U.S....take Go Nagai's 70's DEVILMAN and CUTEY HONEY series for instance. The levels of violence and sexual content far exceed anything that could be shown on U.S. network television--even now. The accompanying manga series were even darker, but were aimed at older, more mature readers--much like this book. A broad range of underground manga is represented, with varying art and storytelling styles not present in many mainstream manga. I highly recommend it for those who would like to see a different side of manga--the very dark side. It's an interesting, if not frightening, look at the underbelly of another culture.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Interesting collection of manga shorts/ April 16 2000
Please read: Having gained some age and experience with manga since first reviewing this book, I decided to rewrite my review, and also be more clear about the violence in it.
This is a fantastic book if you want manga. It shows several brief short manga stories. All of them are drawn from the Japanese manga magazine "Garo", which features underground, free-thinking manga. While not all of these stories are visually appealing (some can give the sensation of having acid splashed on your eyes), all are interesting and thought-provoking. My personal favorite is "Steel Pipe Melancholia" a simple but fascinating story of a man who is asked to guard a broken pipe. Other gems in this book are "Mercy Flesh" (with stunningly beautiful artwork) and "Laughing Ball" (with it's dark portrayal of the lives of members of a freak show).
There are two problems with this book - one, the cover is foul. This book never leaves my home after one trip to the park where I recieved more than a few horrified looks. The other problem is the violence. Yes, some of these stories have horrific violence. A face being cut off and a child's head smashed against a wall are among such scenes. These are incredibly gruesome, even for one as hardened and desensitized as myself. It shouldn't be read by children. But this doesn't take the quality down any. If you are slightly put off by the violence, you can skip those stories. If you go sick at the sight of a drop of blood, then don't buy the book.
But if you can look through the gore to the stories beneath, trust me when I say that you'll find pure gold.
(One final thing. One other reviewer interpreted Planet of the Jap as being an attack on the American soldier's treatment of Japanese people after WWII. I disagree.
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