Secret Comics Japan

March 14, 2008

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.

6 Responses to “Secret Comics Japan”

  1. Chris Says:

    Actually, there are a few more Paleopoli strips in english. I think 4-5 of them? The Pulp Editors (who put together SCJ) also did a book called JAPAN EDGE which is about Japanese underground/outsider culture, manga anime music and film. It’s a really good book, and it features huge full-page repro of these comics. If you can track it down, it’s fantastic. We’re selling it at The Beguiling for like $20… E-mail mail@beguiling.com if you don’t find it locally.

  2. Connie Says:

    Oh man, thanks so much for letting me know about that. I’ll definitely be contacting you if I can’t find it around here.


  3. Oh, I’ll echo what Chii said about the black tomcat in chapter 36 of “Chii’s Sweet Home” and say that you hunt such cool things. (Then again, you come across obscure manga, and the tomcat comes across old fish carcasses and the sort…) Then again, I guess your line of work has aided you with this sort of thing. (After all, I’m temporarily employed as a botany field tech at a National Park, and I’m quickly learning that I’m better suited doing lab work…) Still, I’m jealous.


  4. And while I think more about it, I guess another reason why you’re a lot better finding obscure, out-of-print manga than me is that you live in a big city, whereas I’ve mostly have lived in podunk places. Meh.

    Oh, and I’ve actually read that story of Junko Mizuno’s that’s featured in this anthology, and it’s okay. I liked “Pure Trance” (even though it kind of peters out at the end…), but I’ve heard that some of her other stuff is weak.

  5. Connie Says:

    I get lucky sometimes when I’m keeping an eye out, but I don’t quite make as good a use of the city’s used book stores and comic stores as I should. I grew up in a podunk place, so I sometimes give up the search long before I should since I grew up not being able to find what I’m looking for ^_^;

    The only direct advantage I have in working as a bookseller is when I run across the remainders/overstocks (stuff we pick up on the cheap and resell), which helps fill in holes in some series or start older ones. Indirectly, I also sort of know where to call when I’m looking for something since I sometimes have to track things down for work, but I wind up using the internet a lot when I’m looking for things anyway.


  6. […] Comics Japan Looking Back at Secret Comics Japan (Same Hat!) Secret Comics Japan (Comics-and-More) Secret Comics Japan (Slightly Biased […]


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