Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Interesting Responses to my Nana Diatribe at The Onion A/V Club...

Well, two nice responses. I wrote a lengthy discourse on why Nana should have been included on the Onion A/V Club's "Best of 00's" list. And by lengthy, I mean it spread over three or four comments. And I got two very nice replies. One mentioned the Jack Kirby's Fourth World books as one of the list's omissions, and I agree completely. Those books not only contain some incredible stories-- "The Glory Boat" and "The Death Wish of Terrible Turpin" come to mind-- but DC did an excellent job of packaging the material. The books are handsome and went a long way towards redeeming DC in my eyes.

And the other response was from Dirk Deppey of Journalista!, who had this to say:

Dirk Deppey
25 Nov. 2009 11:10 AM CST
While I would certainly agree that NANA is the most polished and mature work of Ai Yazawa's career, if you're going to recommend a single work to non-specialist readers, I'd have to go with her previous series, PARADISE KISS. Done in a (relatively) economical five volumes and full of passion, drama and sex, it's the first work that Yazawa created after her creative breakthrough in GOKINJO MONOGATARI ("Neighborhood Story") and the first flowering of the artist in full mastery of her craft from start to finish.

Ai Yazawa is the Gilbert Hernandez of Japan, a world-class cartoonist who should be far better celebrated beyond her nation's borders than she is. I strongly suspect that the reason she isn't has to do with her chosen genre: soap opera. Which is a damned shame.

The Gilbert Hernandez of Japan. That is high praise indeed. I like that. No, I love it. Am I wrong in imagining this as an endorsement of my comparison of Yazawa Ai to Alan Moore and Jack Kirby? Am I over-reaching?

I have to admit I overlooked Paradise Kiss because I'm not really a regular reader of shojo manga (girl's manga) and because Nana piqued my interest due to my having been here in Japan during the Nana boom following the release of the live action adaptation-- which was probably as big here in its way as Spider-Man 2 was in the US. Every woman I knew between the ages of 20 and 30 rushed out and started buying Nana books. The table in the breakroom in my office was piled high with them for a few weeks.

Can you imagine that? What if you worked at a company and following the release of The Dark Knight all your co-workers started showing up toting Batman trades? Yeah, pure fantasy.

But in Japan, something similar frequently happens. For one thing, more people have probably read the comic being adapted compared to any American comic book movie. And if they haven't, the seem to in the lead-up to the film's release or during its theatrical run. When the final movie adaptation of Hana Yori Dango (which, as the top selling manga of all time is probably also the best selling comic book of all time)-- ingeniously titled Hana Yori Dango Final-- was released in 2008, I had to referee dozens of discussions of the movie versus the comic among my students. When 20th Century Boys came out, many of them carried out their resolutions finally to read the comic.

But Nana? Wow. The response was enough to make me want to read it myself. That and its music industry setting. And all it took was one volume to hook me. That's how good Nana is. But now Dirk Deppey has me wanting to read Paradise Kiss and Gokinjo Monogatari.

Now I'm going to read their "Best Books of the 00's" list and, sadly, I probably won't have any comment to make about it. I'm not sure I've read anything published this decade. I tend towards the older stuff for some reason. Wait! No, I've read Freakonomics and The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay. Whew! Now I don't feel like such a dumb ass.

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