Archive for June, 2011

A Drifting Life

June 10, 2011

My rating: 3 out of 5 stars

This is an autobiography of the manga creator Yoshihiro Tatsumi, who was one of the fathers of ‘gekiga’ – a subset of manga that was created back in the ’50s in order to differentiate manga written for adults from children’s comics (as, at that time, almost all manga were still written for children).

As well as the differentiation between adults and children’s books, gekiga artists were instrumental in taking manga from its beginning as 4-panel gag comics towards the form we see it in today – lots of long-form works with pretty much infinite styles of art and panel pacing on the page.

Readers who are already interested in gekiga would probably get more out of this book than I did as someone who has only heard the term in passing and never read any gekiga works before. I bought this book as I wanted to read about the life of this famous manga artist – when were his big breaks? How did he achieve what he did? Did he ever go through hard times? What kind of person was he?

These questions were addressed more in the first half of the book, so I preferred the first half to the second. As the book goes on it becomes more of a chronological list of what gekiga artists lived where and which circles and publishers they were affiliated with, and seeing as I didn’t recognise most of the names involved, it wasn’t very interesting to me.

Overall I found this book to be a good read – its surprisingly easy to get into, and for its size (doorstop) a surprisingly quick read. This has made me want to read some of Tatsumi’s actual gekiga comics, so hopefully I’ll be able to write about Black Blizzard or The Push Man and Other Stories at some point.


My star ratings

June 10, 2011

Originally I was against putting a letter grade or star rating on my reviews (which might have been because I started out writing purely small press reviews, and I didn’t really want to give people’s personal work a straight-up letter grade :S ), but after using the star rating system on Goodreads for a couple of years now I’ve gotten used to it and actually find it pretty interesting.

I enjoy looking back over things I’ve given similar grades to and realising things like, for example, where my cutoff point is for ‘I have to own this!’ vs. being happy to just borrow it (or even, ‘I own this, but now I must get rid of it as quickly as possible’)

So here’s a brief ramble about what my each star rating actually means to me:

5 stars – I love this series!  If I don’t own it its on my to-buy list.  I probably felt some kind of connection to each 5 star entry that went beyond just ‘this is a good solid story with good solid art’.  Some of these will be universal recommendations that I think practically everyone could get something out of (e.g. Yotsuba&!), but others will be a purely personal thing, so I might still recommend that people try one volume before jumping all the way in.

4 stars – I really liked this book.  It was above-averagely entertaining with a good solid story and good solid art.  Recommended.

3 stars – I liked this book.  This is probably the most volatile category.  A lot of entries here will be very strong in one element, but fall down on another (e.g. Benjamin’s ‘Orange’ – I adore the artwork, but couldn’t stand the story).  The other reason for a book ending up here is that it was still an all-round entertaining read, but it just didn’t quite hit the highs of a 4-star.  A 3 star review certainly does not mean the book was bad though – an awful lot of what I read day-to-day ends up as 3 stars, but I still enjoyed reading it.

2 stars – This book was OK:  the book was alright, but I wouldn’t recommend that anyone bothered getting hold of it unless there was something in particular about it that piqued your interest.  Usually 2-stars are books that are either a bit boring, with lacklustre art and story, or too confusing to continue reading.  This is probably my least used rating – I can’t remember many books I didn’t hate but didn’t like enough to give a 3-star rating to either.

1 star – I didn’t like this book. If I own it, its probably in my ‘take to a bring-n-buy at my next con’ pile.  This is probably because either I found the art too horrendous to stick with, or the story too non-existant, or a particular combination of art and story being way too confusing or boring to bother with.  Some of these will be ‘I found this book to be bad in general, don’t bother reading it’, but others will be ‘I personally didn’t get on with this book, but others might’, e.g. Natsume Ono’s ‘Ristorante Paradiso’ (conveniently forgetting that I actually gave it a 2 rating, not 1) I don’t really like that book, but it still has merit for other people to try.

So that’s my rating system in a nutshell!

Not Love but Delicious Foods

June 9, 2011

My rating: 3 out of 5 stars

If you liked Oishinbo you’ll probably get a kick out of this. Mangaka Fumi Yoshinaga gives a glimpse into a version of her everyday life via a lead character called ‘Y-naga’, and a group of friends with similarly (consciously) badly hidden fake names. I get the feeling the book is written loosely based on herself and her friends, with details tweaked or embellished to make a better story (though I have no idea if that is really the case).

Anyway, the meat of the book is based around visiting their favourite restaurants in Tokyo and enjoying/describing many of the dishes at each one.  The descriptions are lovely and really make you want a taste of what they’re having.  The restaurants are all real and factual information about each restaurant is given at the end of each chapter – perhaps not super-useful if you’re not living in Tokyo, but it makes for a unique foody manga volume (of which there aren’t an awful lot to choose from with English translations).