October 27, 2009
various – Fantagraphics – 1995 – 1 issue (72 pages)
artists included: Imiri Sakabashira, Naoto Yamakawa, Kiriko Nananan, Nekojiru, Yasuji Tanioka, Yoshiharu Mitsumoto, Naoki and Shunichi Karasawa.
This is basically a one-shot containing examples of underground comics (I almost wrote outsider art, which is close enough, I suppose). It’s old, sort of a proto-Comics Underground Japan, except the examples are far shorter in this collection (obviously). The two collections both feature Nekojirou, an artist I would love to see a collection from. Stranger things have happened (we were blessed with the Takashi Nemoto volume a year ago, after all), so maybe we’ll see it someday.
Now, my favorite story here was “The Abaolone Cat”, which is credited to Kiriko Nananan in the front, but is probably drawn by Naoki and Shunichi Karasawa. It is a very detailed and scientific explanation about why a cat’s ears will fall off if it eats abalone, and contains a terrifying anecdote about going into a warehouse full of earless cats. It alternates between a crude style and details drawn from photos for things like head x-rays, photos of the earless cats, et cetera. It also meanders in an absolutely delightful way, where it starts off talking about the cats, then moves into CAT scans, then into medical research and anecdotes about sawing off pieces of frozen cadavers, then into stories about people having to carry dead bodies around, then into an anecdote about how annoying cafe chatter can be. It then ends with a realistic picture of a cat without ears. Rather than the anecdotes being inane, they are wonderful stories and the way the short segues between them is quite humorous.
The Kiriko Nananan story is about two women staying together that is sad, romantic, and just a bit too short to have much impact. I do like her art though, which was some of the most decent in the book and made excellent use of composition and foreground-background relationships. She’s the only artist in this collection that actually does have a book published in English, called Blue, and one of her shorts also appears in Secret Comics Japan.
A lot of the other comics were in the heta-uma art style that is “so bad it’s good,” but is mostly crude and relatively unappealing to me. Some of the stories were also crude (“What a Mixed Up World!” in particular), but the sense of humor was more absurd than it was crude.
I take that back, actually, the first story, called “Horse Horse Tiger Tiger,” has amazingly detailed backgrounds and excellent use of dark/light relationship, but an incomprehensible story about a crudely drawn one-eyed cat happening through a surreal dream where fish explode, he gnaws on a goat head, and is not wearing any pants. This story was by Imiri Sakabashira.
The stories are all so short that it doesn’t really make for a satisfying reading experience, but it’s an interesting look at underground comics, all the same. It’s also far less offensive content-wise than the other two available collections, if that’s something that was keeping you from the others. It covers a little bit of everything, from the surreal to the super-crude to the… well, “Abalone Cat,” to the romantic. The stories were well-chosen. For some reason, I thought Yoshiharu Tsuge was in this collection too, so I was a little disappointed. That’s not the book’s fault, though.