I spotted this in a used bookstore a couple weeks ago and went back for it after I read Comics Underground Japan. They’re both basically the same thing. I think I liked Comics Underground a bit more (the material was a bit more twisted and depraved, which is how I like it), but then again, I didn’t have an absolute burning NEED for a graphic novel for any of the artists in Comics Underground (save for Hideshi Hino, which I can never get enough of, but that’s beside the point), whereas I would give anything for a copy of Palepoli in English.
I was more familiar with the artists in this anthology than in Underground, too. I have read things by Junko Mizuno, Usamaru Furuya, Shintaro Kago, and I was familiar with the work of Kiriko Nananan. None of the stories were quite as out there as in Underground, which I mentioned, but I still liked almost all of them quite a bit. It was easier to digest these stories than the others, too.
As I said, Palepoli was my hands-down favorite. I’ve read some of the Short Cuts comics, and they’re funny, but they’re just not the four-panel comics of Palepoli. When was the last time Golgo 13 sniped a cute Baskin-Robbins girl through a window for embarrassing him in Short Cuts? Some of them were funny and I didn’t understand why. I laughed until I cried at the very first one, which was two little kids fighting a stag beetle and tiny Jesus. There was one with 4×4 panels which took me a long time to understand, but when I did, I thought it was one of the most brilliant uses of panels I’d ever seen. I also kind of liked the ghost of rejection, but I had to read a couple of them before I understood the joke in the first one.
Mostly, Secret Comics Japan was just made by Palepoli, and I’m just so bummed there’s no more in English.
Anyway, what else? I don’t really like Junko Mizuno, I never have. Her story was okay, though. I also think it’s fair to say I didn’t like Gedatsu Man, which was total nonsense with the barest fringes of narrative. I kind of respected what it was doing, but I didn’t like it. Yuko Tsuno, Kiriko Nananan, and Benkyo Tamaoki’s stories were all very girly, and I liked them all pretty equally. Well, that’s not true, I liked Yuko Tsuno’s story the best. It didn’t quite make sense, but I liked what was going on quite a bit.
Jr, by Yoshitomo Yoshimoto, is apparently based on a Donald Barthelme story, which is totally awesome. What’s even more awesome is that it’s about a 30-some year old man going to an elementary school, and it has occasional graphic flashes of the teacher masturbating at home. How disturbing.
Shintaro Kago’s story was really great, too. I kind of like him, he’s great in the same way as Suehiro Maruo, but sometimes his stories are a little much and can be almost difficult to read. This one wasn’t, and I’m glad it was chosen for this anthology.
I really didn’t like Makoto Aida’s story very much. Once again, WWII themed, this time mostly about a girl who is mutated after she is raped by American soldiers and strapped onto the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima. She comes back to life as a superhero ready and willing to stop America.
Overall a great collection of stories. I liked most of them quite a bit, and really, I think my life was incomplete without Palepoli.