Monday, September 6, 2010

Me and the Devil Blues

Robert Johnson is a name instantly recognizable to any music fan, he is known world wide as the greatest blues man ever. But what is possibly even more iconic than his music is the legend about how he became so good. In many ways the story has out grown the man himself. The legend is so popular in fact that it has spawned a great manga titled Me and the Devil Blues. Named after Robert Johnson’s famous song this fallows the fictional tale of Robert Johnson after he has sold his soul to the devil.

As the manga begins Robert Johnson (a.k.a RJ) is a young, soon to be father, who works on a farm in the dirty south. But at night he and his friends like to unwind from a hard day’s work by heading down to the local bar and listening to the blues. But just listening to it isn’t enough for RJ he wants to play it. The problem is he sucks no matter how hard he tries. He is often laughed off stage every time he tries to pick up a guitar. One night though he hears the legend of the cross roads which claims that all you have to do is go down to the cross roads, play a song, and then the devil will appear. He’ll take your guitar, tune it, and play a few chords then from that day on you’ll be the greatest blues man around but you’ll have lost your soul. After hearing this story RJ ends up trying this out while a bit drunk and lost. But sure enough from that day on he could play the blues, and strange things happen to him. When he comes too he learns that he’d been away longer than he imagined, and life changing events occurred in his absence which sends him on the road, with no other companion other than the devil. The rest of the story consists of him running into one painful situation after another and letting the reader explore the early 1900’s south. The dark and gritty story breaths new life into the infamous myth and creates a compelling plot which will keep you at the edge of your seat.

Easily one of the strongest aspect of this title is the amazing art work through out the manga. The mangaka, Akira Hiramoto, is a rookie on the scene but with is first release has created quite a buzz about him. Anyone who picks up this manga will instantly notice the breath taking art work, dark shades and all. Now held up by many fans as a prime example of mangaka not complying to the typical “manga style” is uses incredibly detailed art unlike anything else on the scene. His style is truly his own and when you see his work there is no mistaking that Hiramoto had drawn that. It is so refreshing to see such a wonderfully crafted series being released. I truly can not even begin to explain just how well done the art work is. And reading the manga you get the feeling that every line and shade had a thoughtful purpose for being there. The art serves as a way to create mood, tone, and atmosphere is a brilliant way. And the moments when music is being played the style really shows how hard hitting the blues can be and it makes an attempt to capture that feeling on paper.

The story of this manga is extremely compelling and will definitely keep you on the edge of your seat as you patiently wait to see what comes next. I’m not sure if there’s any manga out there that I can really compare this work to. It’s a very unique story with a powerful movement about it that lets you linger in each scene just long enough to get the mood but not long enough to get bored. Another great thing about the writing is that Akira Hiramoto was able to paint the picture of depression era south in a brilliant way. The facts of it all is obviously not 100% accurate but he does have a way of making you feel like this is all actually taking place in that time period. He made sure to keep the time frame in mind while writing the story and drawing the pictures. On top of that throughout the story RJ runs into icons of the time like Clyde Barrow, one half of the most famous outlaw duo in history; Bonnie and Clyde. This appearance of such an iconic figure of that time further immerses you in the idea and feel of this time. And yes, seeing as the story’s main character is a young black man in the deep south, early 1900s America the issue of racism comes up quite often. But Hiramoto is able to illustrate this issue with great subtly and maturity making this a very compelling aspect of the plot.

Over all this is an amazing, yet not very popular, manga series that I think anyone who likes a good drama will enjoy. Currently Del Ray is releasing the first 4 volumes of this manga. But they are selling it buy combining two volumes into one so it appears that there is only 2 volumes in the U.S. (but don’t be fooled this is all 4 volumes). Unfortunately the mangaka has put this series on hiatuses and know one is quite sure why. So until he decides to finally start the series back up we just have to be content with the amazing work that we have available to us now. If you are fan of manga, drama, Robert Johnson, or even just a fan of good stories you will not be disappointed in checking this series out. So to end it of I’ll conclude with a quote from the song Me and the Devil Blues (the song which inspired the title of the manga) “Early this morning, when you knocked upon my door. And I said hello Satan I believe it’s time to go.”

I'm back

After dealing with one problem ofter another (mainly techincal issues) I have finally gotten to the point where I can start the blog back up. So now that I have this all fixed I should be able to post a new review soon.

Monday, March 22, 2010


When you hear the name Satoshi Kon you usually think of his extremely successful anime film career, but he wasn’t always the super director that we see today. Just like any other anime creator he had to get his start some where. For Kon, his earliest work can be traced back to the forgotten and left behind manga that is Kaikisen. Not much is known about this manga besides that it was a one tankoubon manga released in 1990, other than that there’s not much more to go one. And this manga is quite hard to find, it’s only be released in Japan and France and I’m sure aren’t very popular in either country. On top of that it’s a long forgotten seinen series so there aren’t many scan groups that would be willing to invest time into something like this. But, never the less, I was able to find a few chapters scaned with minimal effort. But sadly this has prevented me from completing the whole series. But what I have read truly impressed me.
Kaikisen tells the story of Yosuke, a member of the Yashiro family, whose father is the priest of a local shrine. But this family has a secret which they have been protecting for generations; they possess a mermaid’s egg. As legend has it Yosuke’s ancestors once made a pact with a mermaid. The deal was that they would protect this egg and, in exchange, the mermaid would insure the town had good fishing seasons. But now Yosuke’s father sees no point in keeping the egg a secret and decides to reveal the egg to in front of the media to try and attract people to the shrine. This sets in motion a strange set of events which Yosuke can not even begin to imagine.
I went into this manga thinking that Satoshi Kon’s brilliance wouldn’t transfer well into a manga format, but I was mistaken. This manga is truly a strange and unique manga which fits Kon’s style perfectly. As the writer and artist for this manga we get to see a side of Satoshi that is rarely seen today. In his recent works he doesn’t really deal much in the way of the actual animation process anymore. He started off as a man who would work on the art of the movies he worked on like in Roujin Z in which he was involved in Key Animation. But as the years went on he became more and more focused on directing and screenplay writing that, now at the most he’ll work on character design. But this manga gives us a pure and clean look at Satoshi’s art style that we’ll most likely never see the likes of again. But his animation style is quite high quality. In fact if even half of the manga I read had this good of animation I would be a very happy otaku. And many of the elements in the art seem to foreshadow the style which his films would take on down the road.
But animation isn’t the only thing he did well on with this manga, the story was also quite wonderful. The story had a edgy blend of fantasy and drama which is quite easy to read and fallow while at the same time it excites you with the mystery of what’s to come. And what’s truly fun about reading this is seeing all the story elements which become quite common in Satoshi Kon’s work down the road. One element which you can often see is the clash of traditions and the old ways of Japanese culture clashing with the new age of modernization. In Kaikisen this is shown through Yosuke’s grandfather conflicting with yosuke’s father. We soon learn that the grandfather is a strong believer in the legend and is extremely upset with yosuke’s father. But the other characters often over look him and see him as nothing more than an old man who is stuck in his ignorant ways and should just stay in the hospital. Another common theme in Satoshi’s work is the idea of fame which can be seen in his flims like Perfect Blue, Millennium Actress, and Paranoia Agent. In the manga Yosuke’s family quickly becomes an overnight sensation as word spreads about the mysterious mermaid’s egg in their shrine. In this story the power of fame tends to get into Yosuke’s father’s head and blur his judgment. It his work in this manga gives us a good look at where Satoshi has been, and where he may be going.

In the end this manga is high on my list of recommendations. Not just because of the compelling story line and very well done art, but also because of the relevance that this manga now carries. If you are a fan of Satoshi Kon’s work, like me, I highly recommend you check this manga out.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

R.I.P. Nujabes

In case you you haven't heard the sad news yet; Nujabes, hip-hop artist and music composer, died in a tragic car accident February 26 in Tokyo. At the time he was only 36 years old. I think I speak for everyone when I say that he will be deeply missed. He was best known in the U.S. for his work on composing the music for Samurai Champloo.

Like many others I first hear Nujabes' work when watching Samurai Champloo, but this would not be the last time I listened to his wonderful music. After becoming obsessed with the music from the Samurai Champloo OST I decided to find what else this underground producer/DJ could do. Soon I found all of his other works and fell in love with his music and won the position of best hip-hip artist in my opinion. When i learned about his death I was crushed to hear that such a talented artist had passed on.

If you'd like to hear more of his music I'd suggest checking out his critically acclaimed album Metaphorical Music.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Top 3 manga of the Year

1. 20th Century Boys:
This is hands down one of the best manga I have ever read and finally it received it’s American release this year. The story and art was masterly crafted to complete the feel of suspense and drama. While at the same time the story some how seemed to stay grounded to earth and made the characters seem extremely life like. I never thought that these characters were “anime characters” it seemed more like they were people somehow taken right off the streets and thrown onto the page. It’s a plot of peaceful reflecting, crazy cults, and world conspiracies. If you haven’t had the chance to read this manga do it now!

2. Pluto
And yet another Urasawa manga makes the top of my list. This brilliant and darker adaptation of the Astro Boy chapter “The World’s Strongest Robot” has blown me away. All though this is shorter than his other works it lacks absolutely nothing in comparison. It’s in stores now so go out there and by this amazing series.

3. Soul Eater
I started as a fan of the anime series and after that, quickly began the manga. The twisted animation that we grew so fond of in the anime can still be found in this manga, and in fact its even more twisted. It starts as basically the exact same thing that you would have seen in the series but down the road it starts to differ so don’t just write this manga off. It’s a winner.