Kingyo Used Books 1

May 10, 2010

Seimu Yoshizaki – Viz – 2010 – 10+ volumes

On one hand, it’s crazy people like me that are the ones reading this series.  This covers a wide and fascinating array of popular and obscure manga from 1940 through today, and in addition to the characters constantly name-dropping series that are summarized in the margins, there’s also commentary in the back about the featured title from each chapter.  I learned a LOT about manga from this volume.  Remember how I wouldn’t shut up about how great A Drifting Life was last year?  This is the same sort of thing, except A Drifting Life is far better at contextualizing its series and giving them a place and historical significance.

Also, because it can’t be said enough times, a huge thanks to Drawn and Quarterly for translating Black Blizzard.  I’m still blown away I can read that in English.

On the other hand, I work in a used bookstore.  I read the first chapter of this on Viz’s Ikki site, and I nearly burst into tears because IT’S NOTHING LIKE THAT AT ALL.  I was happy that the entire volume wasn’t full of stories of weepy customers finding their way thanks to the manga in Kingyo, because even with the bonus manga history, I couldn’t have read it.  For every story of an old woman carefully wrapping her valuable books in plastic so that they wouldn’t get ruined in the event her roof caved in during a rainstorm, I think of a buy where a manager and I had to sift through ten boxes of rotten, moldy books with rubber gloves on in order to give a customer a fair price.  For every cheerful sedori in Kingyo, I think of the reseller who tries to harass me into giving them an expensive textbook at a deep discount.  For every American expat commenting on the peculiar aroma in Kingyo, I’m reminded of the powerful maple syrup odor a customer left behind that lasted several hours.

Don’t get me wrong, though.  Awesome job.  I can relate to Shiba, the big geek, since I’ve seen a ton of awesome stuff while working there.  And we have lots of great customers that love books.  But it’s the bad experiences that stick in your mind when you read an overly sentimental take on it like this.

I liked the series well enough.  The stories themselves are unremarkable, with each chapter dedicated to telling a story about a character (sometimes characters connected to Kingyo, sometimes strangers), and the stories always feature a manga series somehow, be it a re-discovery that makes them re-focus on what’s important, or bonding with new or old friends over a particular title.  It’s the manga history that really gives it its character, and with almost all of the series nearly unheard of in the U.S., there will be little name recognition for readers.  But for big geeks like me, it’s an amazing learning experience.

Basically, I liked nitpicking the bookstore setting, and I loved the manga history, but stripped of those two elements, I probably wouldn’t have liked it much.  That might change in future volumes as the main cast (the family that works at the bookstore and the possible beau/manga geek) is developed a bit more, but for the time being… I bought Magnolia Sho and Blueberry after reading it, for what it’s worth.

Also, they stress that comics outside Japan will occasionally pop up (one of the chapters featured Blueberry, a French comic by Girard/Moebius).  I’m holding out for a Judge Dredd chapter.

7 Responses to “Kingyo Used Books 1”

  1. DanielBT Says:

    Heh, I’d be reeeeeeeealy interested to see what a Manga version of Judge Dredd would look like. Heck, I’d be surprised just to see an European character in a Manga. Could you imagine Asterix or Tintin reinvented as Manga characters? In fact, I remember a caricature in a French comic magazine where Getafix was a warlock, Asterix was a Chibi-goku, and Obelix was a Gundam Mecha.

    The closest tribute I can think of is a Crumb poster in the background of 20th Century Boys. I’m sure that the Japanese audience would have almost no idea how to relate to the maniac energy of The Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers. My favorite storyline of that underground comic would be where they were given the responsibility to stay at a haunted house overnight, which led to uncovering enough drugs to last a year, which they used up in two weeks, which led to them camping out in the woods, which led to another Woodstock-like concert which led to… well, you’d have to read it to believe it. Hell, just describing the concept alone doesn’t describe the bizarre craziness of the storyline.

    Also, yes, the very concept of finding books relevant to people’s interests is something that resonates strongly with me, since when I’m told of a story, I INSTANTLY think of a comic, book, or article that’s EXACTLY like what that person’s talking about. EVERYTHING reminds me of a funny story. That’s why I was rather disappointed that so many of the stories in Kingoyo were rather sacharine.

    Eesh, I typed quite a bit about this, despite not being a big fan of this Manga. (I did enjoy A Drifting Life though, though I was surprised at how un-bleak it was compared to the works Tatsumi is most known for creating) I hope to see more of his works before he succumbs to cancer too soon. It would be nice to have a follow-up to that brick of an anthology, since it stopped JUST as things were getting interesting.

    Getting back to Kingoyo Used Books, I’m reminded of a relevant description of The Sandman; Lord Morpheus doesn’t give people the stories they WANT, but rather, the kind of stories they NEED.


  2. […] on vol. 4 of Honey Hunt (Manga Maniac Cafe) Erica Friedman on vol. 2 of Ichiroh! (Okazu) Connie on vol. 1 of Kingyo Used Books (Slightly Biased Manga) Ed Sizemore on vol. 1 of Natsume’s Book of Friends (Comics Worth […]

  3. Connie Says:

    I’ve heard at least one other person toss off The Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers as one of the strangest western comics they could picture being consumed by a Japanese audience. I haven’t read it myself, but my roommate’s a pretty big fan and I’m really going to have to take the plunge sometime soon. The idea of it being available in Japan was comical, but out of curiousity I looked it up, and just found English volumes being offered on Amazon Japan, as an out of stock first-party listing.

    They do have a lot of western comics over there (I see Batman references in manga from time to time), but I think they get harder to find the more you move off the beaten Marvel/DC path. I was surprised when I found out that Judge Dredd hadn’t been translated in Japanese, nor could I find any Japanese commentary on the series, which may mean British comics are hard to come by there (or that I’m terrible at spelling things in katakana). I know they have some bande dessinee presence over there thanks to Fredric Boliet, though it’s been awhile since I’ve read about that, and they do have Tintin.

    I do like looking at very early manga to see its western roots. I’ve seen a few articles, but the ones with the best pictures are this set written by Shaenon Garrity on The Happy Cog Factory and A Voyage to Mars, both 1940s Japanese comics by Noboru Oshiro. There was a third article written by Matt Thorn on Oshiro’s Train Journey, but the gallery isn’t visible anymore so it’s just a couple paragraphs of commentary. I’ve got a couple old volumes myself, but the series are more from the 50s and don’t look that much different than the stuff in A Drifting Life or that Black Blizzard volume by Tatsumi that came out recently.

    I would agree with you 100% on Kingyo Used Books, though. The nuts and bolts of it are good, and it’s a really interesting resource for off-the-cuff references to a tremendous number of popular and obscure manga I wouldn’t read about anywhere else. It’s a shame the stories that go along with it aren’t more compelling.

  4. Autsanaut Says:

    In the Cream of Tank Girl book there’s a Tank Girl page in Japanese, so I guess they got that over there. Although I find it insane to think that jokes about completely English comedians like Kenn Dodd and actors in domestic soaps have been translated to the Japanese market: it won’t make any sense to them, ever!

    The biggest shame of course is that we’ll never get to read most of the comics mentioned in the series, apart from Dr. Slump and Blueberry. Our appetites will be whetted but never sated. If we can’t get the next few volumes of Aria then there’s no way we’ll be getting the old old stuff. ;__;

  5. Connie Says:

    Ooh, I had forgotten about Tank Girl. I didn’t realize it was so heavily based in English pop culture, I just started reading it myself, but so far I’ve only seen the more recent stories. It sounds like the series changed into something much different when it moved to Rebellion.

    I often wonder how well pop culture translates when it comes to manga. I know it’s very important to shoujo manga, and I remember reading that many shoujo artists bow out after their first popular series as a new artist since it becomes difficult as you get older to relate to the target audience (though there are plenty of shoujo artists that stick around). I think most of the shoujo references are shallow and easily skippable though, and not intrinsic parts of the plot. I imagine we don’t get a whole lot of series here that lean heavily on Japanese politics and mature celebrities, and I think a lot of superficial references are re-written in English so they are less confusing.

    I agree with you 100% about the Kingyo series references being a tease. I can’t tell you how many of those I would have picked up in a second, but I know we’ll never see any of them here. It’s a shame classic manga series aren’t more popular in English.

  6. Autsanaut Says:

    Any of the TG stories written by Martin (the only good ones imo) contain vast amounts of corny English references. Almost too much, even to someone native here to be honest. Still good though.

    That’s kinda sad about the shoujo artists. Obviously they’re written for Japanese people alone and are more concerned with making fans in the magazines they’re published in than making sense to some Americans or Europeans. Perhaps a good reason as to why some of these series will never make it here. That’s what we get for hand-me-downs, sadly.

    I don’t know if you think this sometimes but while I love Japanese comics, I wish for more Western (not in the cowboy sense) comics that are easier to relate to, culturally and otherwise that also aren’t necessarily Superhero themed. Instead of having to read footnotes on the hyper politeness of Japanese society, just being able to read it and get it. Artists like James Stokoe and Brandon Graham are doing a real good job of it: the quality of Japanese stuff but with the cultural and societal themes of the West. If you’ve not read Wonton Soup 1 or 2 by Stokoe or King City by Graham I recommend a look: funny and easy to relate to. Cheap, also.

    Also keep an eye out for Peepo Choo by Felipe Smith, the only foreign artist to successfully work in Japan coming soon. They’re being released by vertical in English later this year, and will be very gory, funny and epic. That deals with what we’re talking about, how different pop cultures interpret each other and what the reality actually is. A guy with a Engrish gold medallion that says “Brooksaid” instead of “Brookside” for example.

    And after a little investigation I found one of the comics listed in KUB, Fujiomi and Chizumi. It’s ok but pretty dated and really abrupt. None of the others seem to be online, which is a shame.

  7. Pirkaf Says:

    Beautiful book. Heartwarming stories. Total pleasure for any manga lover. ‘nough said.


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