Hotel Harbour View

July 22, 2008

I swear I ordered this thinking there was no way I was going to get it. I noticed it was listed on the Right Stuf’s website during their last Viz sale, and I’m pretty sure it hadn’t been on the site for quite some time before that. I ordered it thinking it was going to get cancelled. They… they sent it. The thing’s almost 20 years old, and it’s only gone through one printing. There must have been more in a warehouse somewhere, because I notice there’s a couple copies back in stock at Amazon, too.

It’s one of the most unusual editions of manga I own. It’s magazine size with a clear vinyl dust jacket. Not so much in the cover image from Amazon, but occasionally the pictures you see of the cover will have horizontal lines on it. That’s the dust jacket. It’s also only 100 pages long, and has an essay in the back more or less about comics for grownups, a topic which seems to be circulating as of late. Apparently it was the second volume in what I assume was Viz’s short-lived Spectrum imprint. I wonder what the first was.

It’s basically two short stories. The first stars a character who looks a lot like manga Colombo, the gentleman on the front cover. Both short stories are very pulpy and dark in nature. The first one I liked the best because it wound up sort of like a bizarre practical joke, but there’s guns, sex, and violence aplenty during the course of the story. There’s also one of the most amazing bullet firing sequences I’ve ever seen in a manga at the end.

One of the things I liked best about both stories is that they were told with very little dialogue. I love Jiro Taniguchi’s art, and you have to draw characters with a lot more detail than most manga artists to get across enough emotion to say things without words. Hell, Taniguchi may be the king of translated manga artists in this regard, he’s the one who drew “The Walking Man,” a full-length graphic novel with almost no text.

The second story is longer and told in two parts. The first part almost literally contains no dialogue. Both parts are about one of the two women in the first story. Much like the first story, the actual intent of the main character isn’t revealed until the very end, and this story has a great ending too, but it’s quite serious this time.

Both the stories are short and very simple, but they’ve got great artwork and are well-told with great endings. It originally retailed for 9.95 too, which doesn’t sound too good when you figure that it’s half the length of a regular graphic novel. It is magazine size though, and for manga graphic novels in the 90s, 9.95 is half-price. Be glad those days are gone, and if you get the chance, snap this up, because it’s very much worth it.