October 11, 2012

anthology – Metro Scope – 1980 – 1 volume

I picked this up after reading about it over at the House of 1,000 Manga. It took me a minute to track down due to the… well, the title, but it’s easy and relatively inexpensive once you have the ISBN: 4946427015. I picked this up and read it some time ago, but I finally got tired of looking at the creepy Hajime Sorayama cover on my to-review pile and am writing it up tonight.

What’s great about this book is that it’s basically a Japanese publishing company trying to appeal to an American comic reading audience, who has no prior knowledge of manga. Most manga you’d find at Barnes and Noble today have no place in this book, and it’s mostly manly action and seinen short stories. All of them are interesting, but some are quite good. My special favorite is that they foreshadowed the popularity of Akira and included an Otomo short story before he even began that series. I like the array of styles in the book, though. In particular, Keizo Miyanishi and Hiroshi Hirata are spectacular. The latter is very manly and inky, and he draws a really hard boiled samurai story. The latter is quite ornate and lovely, and perfectly suited to the short romantic story that it appears in.

Most of them are action-oriented, with a couple notable exceptions. In the color section in the middle of the book, you can find the short story by Otomo about a wordless watermelon apocalypse and a feature on the illustrator Noriyoshi Olai, who did the posters for Star Wars and some fantasy pinup-type stuff. The aforementioned Keizo Miyanishi’s short story, A Midsummer Night’s Dreaming, is also a love story about a passionate rendezvous with a sort of flower sprite.

There’s otherwise a lot of action, though. Two Warriors is the Keizo Miyanishi samurai story at the beginning of the magazine, and again, it is very good. And I usually don’t like samurai stories. Down Time is a 3-page story that is extraordinarily Moebius-looking and a sort of whimsical one-off. Masque of the Red Dwarf Star is an action-y story drawn by Yukinori Hoshino, who has had other sci-fi work published in English. The Great Ten was my least favorite, and was a very slick action-y race story. Schizophrenia has very thin, scattered linework, unlike anything else in the magazine, and is a time travel story with a light/disturbing touch. The Promise is a very manly fairy tale story that is almost a romance, except it’s about a sort of warlord general and ends messily. And there are two pages of out-of-place gag comics in the back, very similar to the ones that sometimes surface in Heavy Metal.

I like the stories quite a bit, but most of them are a bit too short to really get off the ground. Still, it’s the idea that counts in that case, and the art, and in most cases here both are pretty fantastic. The book is worth tracking down as more than a curiousity. Don’t let the Sorayama cover fool you. Ever. Heavy Metal is also always worth reading.

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