Having the Nook around is a lot like having the proverbial magician’s hat handy. You know, the one that’s got the endless supply of tricks inside it - - more tricks than the space within should ever conceivably allow. Along that line, the sampler I was given contained more manga than I even had room to get into during my pictorial product review last week. To repeat - - it has six complete volumes that run at least 200 pages a piece. That’d be a tall stack of paper.
Still, it felt like a real waste to have all that material on VIZ’s new color app before me (just waiting there like white doves down in a felt topper) and not give ‘em a little more of a write-up on the site, so here’s the follow-up to rectify that.
What have I got?
- BAKUMAN Vol. 8
- BLACK BIRD Vol. 2
- BLEACH Vol. 50
- NARUTO Vol. 57
- KEKKAISHI Vol 1
- OISHINBO A LA CARTE: RAMEN & GYOZA Vol. 3
Since I read BAKUMAN first, I really couldn’t help but think about the infamous, round-the-clock production schedules that produce these comics. There’s even a scene in that book where a mangaka has to schedule his love life according to his drawing time, with dates and flirty phone calls and what not construed as the rewards he gives himself for hitting deadlines. It’s gag that’s played for laughs, sure, but I suspect it isn’t taking that much creative license.
Keeping that in mind, I suppose seeing these top-tier titles hit their 57 volumes shouldn’t be any more cause to step back than Western comics reaching their respective milestones of installments. However, considering how the chapters in these volumes are numbered north of 400 and the books are created by individuals or duos (with some “invisible” assistants along for the ride, I’m sure,) it’s hard not to find the amount of material behind these books rather staggering.
Likewise, dropping in and commenting on long-running titles like NARUTO and BLEACH this late in the game would probably be a misaimed exercise. I wouldn’t say these volumes are inaccessible, but they are unavoidably in the thick of bigger arcs that are delivering all sorts of long-in-development pay-offs. So, even though it’s cool to see Naruto unlocking a new level of enlightenment and power through his new fiery form in the available volume, I simply can’t shake the thought that I should've experienced all the levels leading up to. And that’s how it ought to be - - longtime readers shouldn’t have to slog through regular, redundant reintroductions on the behalf of schmos like me.
I will say that, of the two, I definitely find NARUTO to be the more appealing. The lore of jutsus and chakras and kid effin' ninjas simply captures my imagination more than the mythos of hollows and reapers. Also, getting back to what I was saying earlier, Kishimoto’s art impresses me for the amount of detail its doles out at such a regular rate, and how it makes its minimalist strokes work to its advantage. Kubo’s simple art, on the other hand, really does look like it was drawn on the quick.
Now, I’ll reiterate my appreciation of OISHINBO and append it with some kudos for BAKUMAN, a series I’ve heard about but haven't had the chance to experience prior to this. Both series really demonstrate the diversity of manga, because I’d have a seriously hard time picturing serials about food critics and cartoonists working in any other scenario. As much as the wildest fantasies do, these titles really do take you into another world, and it’s a testament to the translation that their very technical and specific shop talk goes down as smoothly as it does.
Focusing on BAKUMAN, it’s a marvel how it’s able to convey the cutthroat of the manga business (do a lot of creators really break in, successfully, at 18?!) and juggle such complicated soap operatics while centering on insular creative processes and keeping such humor about it. I’d remark at how versatile Ohba and Obata are for making this their follow-up to DEATH NOTE, but that’s obviously old news. Obata does certainly offer an approach to comedic antics that's a lot more appealing than chibi; the amount of detail lavished in even those scenes of "deformity" makes me feel like the anime might actually have to be a step down in rendering.
BLACK BIRD and KEKKAISHI speak to the aforementioned broadness of the medium, as well, but I suppose they represent the other side of the doubled-edge sword of diversity. That is, I have a hard time evaluating these books because they simply weren’t intended for my "demo." KEKKAISHI offers a stripe of demon-hunting that skews a fair bit younger than even something like NARUTO and BLACK BIRD's as unabashed a shojo as I've ever run into. The respective water coloring and highly-textured toning made these absolutely beautiful books, though.
So there you go - - as much commentary as this space allows, again. Reluctantly, I'll have to return this wondrous gadget, but it's hooked me enough to seek out the titles I only got to taste here. If you're looking to make the leap from pages to pixels by getting yourself an e-reader, you'd do well to download this app and reach deep into its library.