I will be at Comitia 116 at Tokyo Big Sight tomorrow (May 5th)! Booth no. is F34a. Stop by if you’re around!
Samples are available at my Pixiv page:
I will be at Comitia 116 at Tokyo Big Sight tomorrow (May 5th)! Booth no. is F34a. Stop by if you’re around!
Samples are available at my Pixiv page:
Sumika comitia thumbnail:
Hayase is member of an exploratory mission into the Antarctic. Accompanied by a humanoid support android, she has ventured out away from their outpost, when their vehicle gets stuck in a crevasse.
With no way of returning to their base before dark, the two contemplate their options: Hayase cynically remarks on how easy it would be if the android only had the capability of flying back to the base, while the other half of the duo snidely points out she is built sturdily to deliver Hayase’s last words after she froze to death.
Fed up with the light-hearted, chatty android, she storms off, only to be stopped in her tracks when she is saved from plunging to her death in another crevasse.
Eventually, the two make their way to an abandoned outpost, where the android is able to fix up an old radio and call for help. “I’m not just chatty and useless after all, aren’t I?” she jests, only to be told to shut up and get back to work by Hayase, who rejects her offer of firing up her database of entertaining stories and informational lectures.
As night creeps in and the temperature starts to fall, Hayase gets visibly less comfortable in the barely-functional outpost, shivering even under layers of blankets. The android wanders off to look into the heating system, and comes back with thick wires attached to her gut, before shutting down her main systems and collapsing beside Hayase.
When she comes to only minutes later, she finds Hayase had different priorities for surviving the night…
Nankyoku Sufferer is a very brief, self-contained story without any explicit action or drama, but offers a great read through the main characters’ dry-humored dialogue. While Hayase obviously isn’t as uncomfortable as she pretends with having the ever-positive android around, her opposite betrays her light-hearted facade in moments of sheer capability when needed the most.
The theme of having a near-perfectly human android companion is of course one that has been explored time and again in manga, but Kezuka does a fantastic job of making his character relatable — she was obviously created with the goal of keeping her human companion sane in extreme environments, just as much as helping the technical aspects of the mission.
The A5-sized book contains 20 pages of story with a beautiful matte cover of white. blue and black. Kezuka’s art shows a hugely consistent level of skill, from the framing and construction of the characters down to the panel layouts, on several occasions using an entire page for a silent establishing shot of the environment alone. The art style is right up my alley of course, with clear lines and attractive, highly expressive faces. The cover is what made me buy the book, however it feels like it belongs to a larger story set in the same world.
The story is consciously set in our world’s Antarctic, rather than a more fantastical environment. The author even goes so far as to include a full double page of specs for a polar exploration vehicle used in the story — an actual car used in the 60s. Great to see that kind of commitment to detail — of course it’s hard to verify the specifics when it comes to robotics.
That’s it for today! Hope you enjoyed the read.
In for more? Make sure to check the category for books I have previously reviewed.
As always, I welcome feedback and interaction, so I’d be happy if you liked/reblogged, or even commented. Questions and suggestions are welcome!
② PHILIP TAN ２０１５ SKETCHBOOK
This past weekend, I participated in my first ever Comitia, a convention focused solely on original works — no established anime/manga characters allowed. I’ve attended this event as a guest for over a year now, but this is the first time I actually got a table, bringing along my first-ever doujinshi/minicomic.
As you can imagine, visiting and attending are a very different experience, each one rewarding in their own way.
Registering for Comitia was incredibly easy. I had previously registered a circle at the circle.ms homepage, which serves as the registration platform for Comiket, Comitia, and several other events. The registration procedure was simple, requiring not much beyond name, address, genre and such. I had to submit a thumbnail for the catalog, for which the registration website provides templates. It was crazy cool to see my art in the catalog!
Finally, the big day arrived on Sunday!
Here’s my experience from the show:
Circle admission begins. there are two other doujinshi events being held today, one of which seems to be drawing a major, and mostly female, crowd. I smell BL…
The line for Comitia is moderate. It only takes me a few minutes to get registered (a simple process of handing in the circle ticket that came in the mail, and receiving a different one for re-entry into the hall), and enter the hall.
I reach my table. It’s the usual bare folding thing, with a pipe chair placed on top, and positively covered in promotional flyers.
The promo goods also contains a large, sturdy paper bag from Tora no Ana, which turns out to be a godsend since the one I brought my equipment in (the big yellow promotional one from Dark Horse they handed out at SDCC) couldn’t handle the load and tore on the way in.
The “wandering registration” (巡回受付) begins. A friendly, bespectacled lady stops by my table, and collects my book sample and registration card. This completes the registration process. I am now officially a Comitia participant!
I finish setting up. I brought a nice big tablecloth made from Yukata/Hanten material (purchased from Yuzawaya), a little shelf and some display stands from the 100 Yen store. My poster stand is constructed from plastic pipes from the hardware store, costing below 1,000 Yen (as compared to the “proper” poster stand everyone is using that costs an outrageous 5k!)
I realize that I should have made my “menu” bigger, and brought more decorative stuff, as the table actually offers much more space than I had anticipated. I’m still well within the norm of Comitia booth presentation, but I can do much better.
— Phil Knall (@philknall) August 30, 2015
I also decide to make the poster bigger (It’s A2, but I could’ve easily gotten away with A1 size), and find some cloth to wrap the little wire shelf in next time.
The table next to me is a girl selling cute fantasy-themed illustrations, and has a guy helping her out. Two chairs make the 90cm wide space quite crowded. The person who reserved the space on my other side stays empty, giving me room for my bag.
Doors open to the public. Applause. I see people streaming in from the main door, but they do not make their way into our aisle until quite a bit later. I assume a lot of them are heading towards the most popular circles first, which are located in the big aisles and have the most pull (=are the most likely to sell out).
Usami stops by my booth and I wonder if she’s ok leaving her own table so early in the game (She does have someone helping).
People start finding their way into the minor aisles. Most are headed somewhere, others are browsing cursorily, but nobody stops. My neighbor starts getting visits from established fans, and sketchbook requests (lots of artists in Japan accept requests, and spend a lot of their time during conventions drawing them). A lot of the fans have a clipboard where they note down which booths to visit, and where their sketchbooks are.
I start greeting and encouraging people to take a look when I see their gaze linger on my table for longer than a second. Most walk on, some start to browse. I have a note on my book rack saying “reading is encouraged” (立ち読み歓迎), and a few people take me up on it and read the whole thing. I also encourage them to take my free 1-page comic about visiting SDCC. (I realize that I forgot to put my Twitter account or URL on it – oops)
My first sale! One of the readers liked it enough to buy. I remember telling someone I would be happy if even one person felt my work was good enough to spend 500 Yen on, and that holds true. I am pretty ecstatic.
Shortly after, a woman zips straight to my table and asks for a copy. I wonder how she found me.
I start to realize that having something to convey the genre of my book more clearly might be of help – since my illustration skill isn’t up to the level of most of the artists here, I have a much harder time getting people to take a look in the first place. (I do think the cover of TCOM #1 does a fairly good job of invoking a Sci-fi feel though, the circuitry background was a wise choice in hindsight.)
Noticing a steady increase in traffic past noon. People are done getting the stuff they were actively looking for, and spending time just wandering the hall.
A customer, after flipping through the book and checking out my menu, purchases the only Japanese/English set of the day.
At some point I notice that Takeshi Miyazawa and Ken Niimura are only about 5 booths away and stare at their backs for a bit.
People are starting to pay with coins. Up til this point it was all 1000 Yen bills, so I am relieved I’d prepared so much change. (I saw a guy who used a roll of packing tape as a container for his change, I liked that idea)
The organizers announce that the catalogs (which double as tickets) have sold out, so anyone can enter the hall.
I cannot tell if it has any effect on attendance.
A dude in a Mad Max shirt picks up my SDCC comic, and I thank him with a V8 sign.
Mangaka and friend Tateo Retsu stops by and takes over the booth while I take a quick break. I get a fresh bottle of water and visit some friends I hadn’t gotten to in the morning. Attendees are getting visibly more tired, and harder to talk up.
I stop by the editor’s outpost (a section of the hall exclusively devoted to pitch reviews by editors from roughly 100 publications. They look for pitch-ready sequentials rather than a portfolio of works). Beside this, there is a really interesting exhibit of scenario, roughs, and inks process from several published manga, including Saint Young Men (which is really funny).
Back at the table, I chat with Tateo for a bit. She’s a cool lady, very knowledgeable about comics and the only person to notice my BPRD T-shirt.
A girl stops by to pick up my SDCC comic. She’s really into Marvel movies and dying to go to comic-con. Hasn’t looked into the comics.
I am at about 10 sales so far.
More and more sellers are packing up and going home. The shipping agents getting really busy at the end is a factor in this. I have decided not to pack up until the closing announcement.
Very few people looking at books anymore. The event is effectively over.
I sold 14 books, which, considering that it was my first time, and reported sales numbers from the event, I consider a success! I made the registration fee back, plus enough for a couple of beers 🙂
The organizers announce the end of the event. Applause. I pack up my stuff (my box is noticeably emptier, but with the handful of books I bought or received from friends, it’s about the same), fold up the chair and put it below the table. Folding up the table is optional but encouraged – at Comitia, sellers, just like attendees and organizers, are considered “participants” responsible for making sure the event goes smoothly. There are no guards shooing people out of the hall. Whoever remains is expected to help clean up, and the hall empties amazingly efficiently.
Yasuaki Funayama picks me up for an evening of Yakitori, really random drinks, and lots of taking about comics. Should be enough to get me into his next Comitia report comic! (Check out the one for Comitia112 here – it’s really funny.)
TO BE CONTINUED
(at the next Comitia and Kaigai Manga Festa in November!)
After a brief detour for my San Diego Comic-Con report and making my own doujinshi for Comitia 113, I’m finally back to reviewing doujinshi. As usual, I am concentrating on purely original creations, the equivalent of self-published minicomics in the west.
1. 追憶の森で (In the Forest of Reminiscence) by Kamei Usuyuki (circle: Usuyuki)
Comitia112 circle thumbnail:
A lone soldier dashes across a snowy plane to a crashed fighter plane. He finds the pilot largely unscathed, and instructs him to follow his footsteps back to a shelter, and promises to cover his back along the way. When the pilot berates him on rushing into such a dangerous situation all alone, he replies “I hear pilots are very costly.”
Several years later, Raura, the pilot, having been dismissed from the military, meets with his estranged friend Nora in a forest, where she leads him to an enemy plane abandoned at a nearby lake. Also dismissed, she has been working with a civilian company salvaging planes and other parts for the military. She asks him to help her out by flying the plane, an offer he briskly declines.
We soon learn the reason why he is hesitant to associate with the military: The rescue mission that saved him from the battlefield had not ended quite as well for the lone soldier.
Eventually, Nora manages to convince Raura to a test flight in one of their salvaged planes, and he meets another character whose fate he has affected in a profound way…
In the Forest of Reminiscence feels like the first chapter of a much bigger story. At the same time, the author manages to flesh out the main character’s background and emotional state extremely well in a very limited amount of pages, and offers a great chance to balance out his inner conflict in the final pages, ending on an up note.
The two protagonists’ relationship conveys the familiarity and deep understanding a decades-long friendship brings. Their way of speaking suggests that she might be a former subordinate, but Nora is clearly more at peace with her place in the world, making for fun dialogue between the two.
The art consists of single-width, scratchy lines that are very well placed, with very limited use of spot blacks and tones. It’s an art style that I enjoy quite a bit, and I felt this instance was very well executed. The characters’s simplified, squarish faces offer a great range of emotional responses, and the planes, while also greatly simplified, are pulled off nicely, conveying a sense of motion that wouldn’t be there if they were more truthfully rendered.
I also thought the way the author indicated time jumps (by inserting a narrow blank “panel”) was also very well executed.
I found out through a tweet by the author that it’s the 2nd part of a series, but it stands on its own very well.
In the Forest of Reminiscence has 23 story pages bound in a matte cover with a cloth-like texture, which is only black lines and blue background. It’s a very nice idea that I felt made the book look very classy and presented the art well (it caught my eye immediately when I saw it at Comic Zin). I got it for 617 Yen.
2. 人間ではない(Not Human) by Tatsumi (circle: Akatami)
Comitia 112 Circle thumbnail:
Not Human‘s protagonist is a teenage girl who starts her first-person narration with a tale about an exam she hat to take on her 7th birthday. We learn nothing about the contents, except for a single panel of the girl gazing at a screen, with a large helmet on, with cables sticking out in several directions, and the girl’s assertion that her parents were overjoyed when she passed the exam.
Several years later, the girl’s class teacher informs his pupils, very nonchalantly, that one of their peers has passed away, then immediately proceeding with the class, leaving the kids shellshocked and confused.
However, one year later, the protagonist suddenly encounters that same classmate, evidently alive and for some reason carrying a fireaxe. When she relates the incident to her family, her mother makes a panicked phone call before berating her daugher about responsibilities to society, saying her friend had reaped the results from “not doing what she was supposed to.”
Days later, the girl once more undertakes one of the mysterious “exams.” Upon completion, a man approaches her and guides her into a different room for a secondary exam, but promptly sedates her. When she comes too, she has cables attached to her head, and is informed she has just died…
Not Human is a Copy-book, a minicomic made from photocopies stapled together, and has only 6 inside story pages. Even the cover is simply a reproduction of the first page, making it evident that this book is meant more as a preview for an upcoming work, rather than a stand alone story. To underscore this, it ends with a definite “to be continued.”
Despite these limitations, Not Human sticks out for me because of the sheer quality of the artwork. Super detailed, expressive, and engaging, this is some of the highest quality art I have seen in a doujinshi.
Unfortunately I haven’t been able to find out a lot about the author. There is a website, but it’s extremely sparse and hasn’t been updated this year. I haven’t been able to find any social media or pixiv accounts, which is a shame because I liked this and would have liked to know more about the author. Unfortunately he (the website does list his gender) isn’t registered for Comitia this year, so I guess I’ll have to wait and see. I will update here once I find out more.
That’s it for today! Hope you enjoyed the read.
In for more? Make sure to check the category for books I have previously reviewed.
As always, I welcome feedback and interaction, so I’d be happy if you liked/reblogged, or even commented. Questions and suggestions are welcome!
San Diego Comic-Con 2015! I’m back again, for the third time, after skipping last year’s. I haven’t written a con report since the Livejournal days, so I’ve been looking forward to this. This is a purely personal, journal-type post, so forgive me for being very self-indulgent!
We had an exceptionally great flight into San Diego this year. Direct from Tokyo to San Diego, decent movies (I watched Chappie and The Secret Service, both of which I enjoyed quite a bit), fricking MOS burgers for breakfast! SAN was so much more convenient than LAX too, no line, no nothing. Smooth.
We got into San Diego just around noon, so we had some extra time to walk around San Diego and get some sightseeing done! Funny thing, I never got around to doing that before. Comic-Con is always such a frantic blur, I never go outside the convention center/gaslamp/seaport area. This year, we took that first afternoon and walked to the Midway museum!
We spent about an hour and a half on the Midway, which felt much more like a building than a ship, because it’s so massive and solid. I distinctly remember gushing about how beautiful the rectangular jet intakes of that F-14 were.
After a quick stop by the Cheesecake Factory, and some scrambling to get our badges from the person that had arranged for them, we were finally ready for the main event. Well, technically Preview Night, but even that’s not nearly the quaint, quiet time it used to be. It was pandemonium right from the get go, and I chose to start slow by just strolling through artists’ alley (the quietest part of the exhibitor floor… which is awful if you think about it).
I said hi to a whole bunch of artists, including Laura Martin, Dustin Nguyen, and Richard Friend (whose Youtube Channel I’ve been enjoying). I used to be really conscious about browsing at tables where I know I wouldn’t be purchasing anything, but recent conversations with artists have led me to change that — nowadays I’ll at least say hi and tell someone when I’m enjoying their work.
The absolute highlight of preview night was when I was at David Mack’s booth, confessing that I had never read any of his work, and we talked a little about the books on his table — he had these amazing art books of his work on Kabuki — when Todd McFarlane walked up and just randomly joined the conversation. Viva Comic-Con (or viva Preview Night?)!
On Thursday, I filled nearly the whole day with Panels. Meeting and talking to creators is one of my favourite part of comic conventions, but unfortunately oh so many of the creators that I would’ve loved to hang out with (Becky Cloonan, Faith Erin Hicks, Brandon Graham, Karl Kerschl, Chris Bachalo, Amy Reeder, etc etc) were skipping San Diego. So I made sure to study the panel list extra closely, and made a pretty tight schedule to fill:
11:00-12:00 Behind the Pages with David Aja
12:00-13:00 Editing Comics with the Oni Press Editorial
13:00-14:00 Breaking into Comics the Marvel Way
(14:00-15:00 Image Comics: Where Creators Own the Mainstream)
15:00-16:00 Powers: Ordinary Heroes, Extraordinary Possibilities: A Deeper Look at the Hit PlayStation Series
17:00-18:00 Making a Living in Manga: Japan Creators, Editors Talk
I actually ended up walking out halfway through the Marvel panel and skipping the Image one, because I absolutely wanted to be in the Powers one — I’d read the first few arcs right when they came out, and really enjoyed the show — and I knew how crazy the lines for anything movie- or TV related were. I ended up comfortably reaching the room in time for the panel before Powers, which turned out to be The Last Ship, a post-apocalyptic Navy show I hadn’t heard of. They name-dropped the Navy at every chance and dealt out a few “Thank you for your service” es, so the crowd was pleased. (the clip they showed was unfortunately rather bland)
Anyway, Powers was fun. I’d met Bendis once at SDCC 2001, which I believe is when the series had just started, so it was cool to see him again (even if I didn’t get a chance to say hi). they didn’t have Sharlto Copley on stage, but honestly Susan Heyward is way cooler anyway, and they announced that one of my favourite characters from the comics — Supershock — was going to be in season 2. I’d lined up to ask a question (and get some free swag), but unfortunately too late to make the cut.
The Making a Living in Manga panel was a first for me: I was actually on stage for this one!
Deb Aoki had asked me along with my friends Makoto Nishi, Philip Tan, Akihide Yanagi, and manga artist Kamome Shirahama (who brought an amazing fan art book) and agent/translator Yukari Shiina to talk about our experiences with the manga industry in Japan. I interpreted for Makoto, and chipped in some of my experiences with doujinshi events and some random publishing facts.
I feel we might’ve spent a little too much time on comiket and doujinshi, but apart from that I think it was a pretty balanced panel about the work of manga artists both Japanese and foreign, viewed from almost all possible angles. I’m hoping there will be a transcript or recording made available later on that I can share.
I started Friday with another panel: Marvel’s Secret Wars, where I ended up asking two questions, annoying the heck out of Tom Brevoort and John Hickman… Quoth CBR:
I actually got applause from the audience for that one. Plenty of unhappy X-Men/FF fans there…
After the Marvel panel, DC took over the room with the big Geoff Johns/Dan Didio one-on-one talk. I don’t read a lot of DC these days, with exceptions such as Gotham Academy, but I did enjoy some of Johns’ stuff (Blackest Night), so I stuck around and watched it with my friend Sen (who should have a Shazam book at DC aaaaany day now).
It actually turned out to be a really good time. Both of them, and Didio in particular, seemed like pretty cool dudes who cared a lot about what they’re creating. I’m glad I watched this panel, as I actually ended up meeting both of them again when we got the DC office tour on Tuesday.
And that was it with the panels for a bit, I spent the afternoon cruising the floor, but did manage to get a spot in line for a signing of the Batgirl team, who I think are all fantastic people, so it was great to meet them.
The day was rounded out by a fantastic deep-dish pizza dinner with Philip, his wife, and his agent, after which we completely collapsed.
The next morning, I woke up to a tweet from Faith Erin Hicks, saying:
— Faith Erin Hicks (@FaithErinHicks) July 11, 2015
Hoo boy, would I have hated myself if I’d missed that. So that was my first order of the day! I got there half an hour early, there were already 10 people in line, but amazingly First Second was giving away 50 of the books. Which were actually properly bound, nice books, and given that this is one of my most looked-forward-to books of the year (2016!) I was suddenly extremely happy I’d attended SDCC!
My main order of the day, however, was a signing by illustrator legend Akiman (who created a lot of the classic Street Fighter II characters) at Udon. It was sort of my reimbursal for Udon getting me into the show. I had no idea what to expect, how much conversation there would be with the fans, etc, so I was super nervous. Luckily, Akiman and I have some friends in common (such as cosplayer Iiniku Ushijima, who accompanied him), so at least he knew who I was.
It was an overwhelming experience — apparently 200 fans had lined up and purchased the $50+ limited edition book that served as the ticket to the signing. The line was so long we repeatedly got issues with security, and had to find ways to speed up the process. Hope the fans weren’t too inconvenienced, we did try to make as much time for everyone as possible. I think Akiman was thrilled to see the fans bringing vintage games or toys, and just the overall excitement about meeting him.
I had actually previously obtained a ticket for a signing of Bryan Lee O’Malley’s, which overlapped with this one, so I was super bummed… Thankfully, the Udon guys arranged for him to stop by the booth just before the Akiman signing, so I finally got to meet him! I forgot to take a picture together with the two of them, I am just sooo bad with selfie culture. Huge missed opportunity 🙁
Fortunately, I found some other creators to take pictures with that day: Adam Warren, who was signing at the Udon booth, and was super cool to talk to (He gave me the honor of taking home one of my TCOM books!), and Bengal, who was signing at the Magnetic Press booth. We’d been in contact about some unrelated stuff, so it was great to get to say hi!
Last but not least, I caught up with Christopher Butcher, who for the first time was not with us in the Udon booth, but had a corner of the Drawn & Quarterly booth — which also gave me some hands-on time with the Eisner Award they’d won for Showa!
— Phil Knall (@philknall) July 11, 2015
(I faintly recall making that same comment two years ago, after holding Faith’s Eisner… I’m horrible)
I also stopped by the BOOM! booth to pick up a The Spire variant cover (if you haven’t read it, you are seriously missing out. It is incredibly good), and congratulate one of the Lumberjanes creators (probably? I’d never met them before) on their many Eisners. I’ve only just started to read it (I always meant to! Also Nimona), but it’s bonkers and colorful and an absolute delight.
Much like everyone else, I was getting a bit tired by Sunday. The crowds seemed even crazier than Saturday (last-minute shopping?), so I took it slow and just wandered about for the most part. I hadn’t managed to meet up with old internet acquaintances Jamie McKelvie and Kieron Gillen, creators of the fantastic The Wicked + The Divine, so I decided to try and get into their signing, but barely an hour in Image was all out of tickets. They told me there might be a chance if I came back half an hour after the signing started, so I did… and there was a huuuge line. They hadn’t capped it, but after a while an Image employee came back to tell us we would have to give up because Kieron was up for a panel. About 5 of us (I’d befriended a store owner and a girl who’d started reading comics because of Jamie and Kieron’s work) decided to wait it out, and lo and behold: we got in! Aaaand that is why Kieron was late for the Image panel afterward, sorry guys!
Said Image panel was the last thing I really did at Comic-Con. It featured a good selection of writers and artists whose work I enjoy — Ivan Brandon (Drifter), Dustin Nguyen (Descender), Kurtis Weibe (Rat Queens), Jim Zub (Wayward), Tula Lotay (Supreme: Blue Rose), and Kieron Gillen. Apart from stuff about their current projects, they talked about what what got them their first comics jobs (Tula started out as a convention organizer, and attending pros noticed her art online; Jim worked in animation and did a net comic that got noticed; Kurtis pitched to folks at comic-con and got rejected 50-60 times before landing a gig; Dustin carried samples around cons until a Wildstorm editor noticed him; Ivan was friends with Michael Oeming, who asked him to write a script for an idea he’d had), and adapting to working with different artists (Kieron: “I analyze the artist’s previous work to see what kind of script works for them — so for Tula, I basically just ripped off what Warren did on Supreme: Blue Rose” (slightly paraphrased)). Kieron mentioned some fun “soft connections” between WicDiv and Phonogram, which I definitely need to go back and find now.
Finally, in the very last hour of the show, I found Bill Sienkiewicz’s booth and got a sketch from him! Of course it’s Warlock. What else would you ask Bill Sienkiewicz for 😉
Given his professional status and price his art commands, I was expecting a haughty, cold welcome, but he turned out to be the nicest guy! Comics just never fail to surprise me with how nice pros are.
I managed to lose a different sketch that had been wedged into the same sketchbook at his table, and Bill was so kind as to put it up on his facebook and twitter to try and find me… Another testament to what a nice guy he is!
And that was it, Comic-con closed with the usual announcement and applause, and we made our way towards the exit. On the way, we saw the news that Nintendo President Satoru Iwata had passed away at 55, which was a definite down note to end the event…
Fortunately, we still had the Udon “victory dinner” to look forward to, where we downed a metric tonne of Bucca di Beppo, and I had some more time to talk to Akiman and the other guys. A great time was had by all!
And that was my San Diego Comic-Con 2015. Much has been said about Comic-Con’s shift in content, about it not being the same anymore, etc, but yet again, even as someone purely there for the comics, I had the best of times. I was able to meet up with a lot of people, acquaintances both old and new, had a great time watching (and talking at!) panels, and even did a little shopping. It’s just a fantastic, crazy place to be in.
I’m contemplating going to Emerald City Comic Con next year, which seems to get a super good rep from artists as well as fans.. But that’s all up in the air for now.
For now, I’m gearing up for next month’s Comiket and Comitia, where I will be selling my TCOM doujinshi! I have added some preview PDFs to my Making of post, make sure to check them out!
The past month or so, I haven’t made a lot of time to go out, or even for this blog. Instead, I have spent my time living the dream: drawing comics all day in my underwear. Glorious! And today I was rewarded for the work: A box of professionally printed books containing my story arrived at my door!
This post is going to be a recollection of my efforts. I am by no means an experienced artist – this is my first book! – but perhaps people looking into putting their own comics together for the first time might relate, or find some of it helpful.
TCOM, in various forms and stages, has been in the making for the better part of 15 years. Of course, that doesn’t mean I’ve been drawing for 15 years (that would mean I’d drawn a page a year), instead I wrote and rewrote the first chapter, started drawing and scrapped it again, over and over and over again. It’s kinda self-destructive if you think about it. But for some reason, the idea just wouldn’t leave me be, and I knew I wanted to realize it some form, some day.
Initially I started working on TCOM (the pitch for TCOM, more precisely – just like everyone around me I was obsessed with breaking in to the comic industry by getting picked up by an established publisher. At the time I was really into Oni Press) with Hiromi Ueyoshi, a fellow comics fan who was an absolute wizard with a pencil – her old character designs and pages for a minicomic we did just before SDCC 2001 (where she chickened out from saying hi because I looked scary with my eyebrow piercing) still blow me away.
Hiromi was 15? at the time, so it was obviously unrealistic she’d be able to stick with it for long, and I was on my own again. I felt insecure in my abilities as an artist, plus, all comic books I read were made by a writer + an artist. I never really thought about getting it done by myself. I wrote and re-wrote the first chapter at least a dozen times. Never got much farther before I backtracked and restarted.
I’m in a very different place now. I’m 34 years old, with a full-time job, and hardly looking for a “break” into the comics industry. But I do still love comics, and I do still want to make comics.
In recent years, I’ve started attending Comitia, an event where creators known and unknown sell their own original works. Most of them work alone. There’s artists looking to be discovered, but there’s also people just making comics in their free time because they enjoy it, and the level of quality in art varies wildly. I started writing doujinshi reviews on this blog, and made friends with some of the artists. I learned that it’s not hard to get your stuff printed at a reasonable cost. And I realized, there is absolutely no valid reason why I should not be making comics.
I looked at the books I buy and enjoy at Comitia. I noticed I prefer the smaller A5 size, matte covers (often with a pearl finish), and rough paper. I already knew the process of selecting printing properties from producing Philip Tan’s Garan Guard, so I knew I could get these for my book. Paper sizes in most of the world are standardized, A5 is half of A4 etc, and comics are usually scaled down to the next smaller one. So I grabbed some A4 sized Deleter Kent paper (Philip’s recommendation), and started drawing.
My process is completely non-linear – I had a basic outline of what I wanted to happen in the book, broken down by pages, but I made layout sketches, rough pencils, and the final digitally inked art for each stage at various stages in the process. I had an idea what the characters would say (remember, this book has been in my head for the better part of 15 years),but I didn’t plot out the actual dialogue until after the art was almost completely done, and basically made it up as I lettered. The Marvel way!
I drew all of TCOM in blue pencil, which is something a lot of artists use for their roughs – in my case inconsequential as I didn’t pencil or ink over them. I ended up liking the slick, crayony feel of the colored lead, but it really made no difference. I then scanned them (400dpi for color, 600 for greyscale, as per the printer’s guidelines) and inked over them in Photoshop, using mostly the “Ultimate Inking – Thick & Thin” and “Belgian Comics” brushes from Kyle T. Webster’s “Megapack” brush set. I work on a Wacom Intuos pen tablet, with the grey-tipped kinda rubbery nib on my pen. Ultimately, my choice of inking brush hardly mattered, as I ended up using a very small amount of line weight variation – something I will need to work on.
I think I noticed this too late because I was working in Photoshop, and zooming in a lot.
For the same reason, I also had a hard time keeping the parts of the bodies and faces in proportion. Which is a strong reason to keep doing those pencil roughs, as much as they differ from the finished pictures. I mean sheesh!
A few things I noticed that helped me improve throughout the process:
1 Lock your layers, dummy!
Multiple times, I’d make some adjustments to the layer containing my scanned pencils, and then go back to inking… Only to find I’d been inking on the pencil layer, with no way of separating the lines from the background. It’s just one click to lock a layer in Photoshop (and you can even just lock individual aspects, like position or transparency!), and it’ll prevent mishaps like this with a really annoying dialog box popping up whenever you try to paint on the locked layer.
2 Keyboard shortcuts abound!
I knew most of the basics – hold space to drag, individual letters corresponding to tools, etc. – but I found some new stuff: the tab key hides all the tool bars, leaving the work area free and uncluttered. Shift + tool letters let you access the secondary functions of the tools, like the polygonal or magnetic lassos. In Illustrator, hiding the guards by hitting Ctrl+: sped things up quite a bit.
3 Have a mirror handy!
I learned to have a mirror on my desk. Our rather, I learned why a lot of illustrators and cartoonists do.
For some reason, I never got into the habit of doing this previously. I’ve drawn my share of stuff, nothing professional of course, but never a lot of sequentials. Having a mirror at hand helps a lot with “talking heads” style sequences, which is to say most of this book… Unfortunately I didn’t realize this until halfway through, so the improvement is not as visible as it could be.
I did the cover very late in the process. I knew this was the face of my book, and I wanted it to look presentable. My art skill was very, very rusty (and had never been particularly good in the first place!), so I decided it was probably wisest to keep it until I felt confident I could do an ok job with it.
I went for the obvious choice, a picture of TCOM’s protagonists (Tom and Andy).
My initial idea was for them to be on different planes of existence (the real world and the computer world, Matrix if you will), Tom reaching in and his hand dissolving into pixels. I tried to draw this, but every effort I made looked like crap. I chose to stick to the deadline, accept the failure, and try to do a better job next time.
For the background, I came up with the idea of a stylized circuit board rather quickly. I played with a myriad of color combinations – some that stuck were black/pink, yellow/blue, and green/magenta – and decided to keep the green. I also noticed that the pearl finish I enjoy doesn’t really seem right for the subject matter, and thought about alternatives. I noticed the printer I was working with does foil embossing, a technique that was popular (=overdone) in american comics in the 90s. I initially planned to do the entire “circuit” part of the cover in foil, but it was too big for the printer’s standard foil stamp option. So I experimented a little and noticed that the part around the logo type was actually a pretty neat cluster that lent itself well to the foil treatment. The final cover, along with the beautiful back cover Philip did for me, looks like this:
There’s tons of things I would’ve liked to improve. The coloring on the characters, for one, I didn’t have the chance to go beyond flats. I’m not at all satisfied with the girl’s figure. But it was either run with it, or not have the book done in time for SDCC. Sometimes you have to let things go, or risk never to finish the book at all.
The way the embossing works is, you send the printer an additional file containing the shape for the emboss stamp, in 100% black on one layer. In my case, this was super easy. I’d done the circuit board background in illustrator, so I just put the relevant paths on a new layer, and made sure the outline was as clear as possible. I left the registration- and trim marks the same, so it would be positioned the way I wanted it.
Here’s the illustrator image, the metal stamp the printer was so kind as to send with the books, and the finished product!
I did the layout and lettering in Illustrator (I have a limited design background, so I knew for simple shapes Illustrator always looks best). The printer I used has templates available for both Photoshop and Illustrator, so I didn’t need to fiddle with cut marks and the like. For the actual lettering and panel borders, I found this tutorial from Scott McCloud very helpful (in particular, McCloud’s technique to add an outline to everything on a layer was a lifesaver!)
The result, with a line weight of 2pt for the balloons, and 1pt for panel borders:
The printer, as previously, was super helpful in getting everything figured out. I’d met one of their sales managers at Comitia, so I had a direct contact person. That helped heaps, however as I’ve said before, their website has tons of helpful tips on how to prepare the data for print, if you’re able to read Japanese.
I registered and uploaded the files digitally (believe it or not, it’s still quite common for people to send physical originals), and paid per credit card. The printer I chose (Taiyou Shuppan) offers several “set deals” that have a handful of paper- and finish options included at a set price, so that was painless as well. Overall, the entire process was ridiculously foolproof. Including the foil emboss, the semi-transparent cover separators, and shipping, these came down to about $3 each. Not bad.
And that’s it! My first minicomic in the can! I only printed it in Japanese, but I’ll do a translation for SDCC on separate copy paper (yikes! only 3 days left!), so I’ll throw a translated PDF up when I’m done! Thanks for sticking with me through this huge post, I hope it offered something entertaining/helpful/new. As always, Likes/comments are very much encouraged!
Click the pictures below to read a 7-page preview of the first issue of TCOM. Let me know what you thought!
Hey there! Glad you could join me for another installment of my mostly-weekly doujinshi review series.
This time around, I thought I’d go for a genre I haven’t touched on before. No, not boys’ love, I’ll leave that to the experts… The books I am going to introduce you to today are of an entirely different variety: Non-fiction. Both of these are reports on the experiences of the authors at two big comic conventions, namely Japan’s Comitia (if you’re not too familiar, check out my own write-up here) and America’s Comic-Con International San Diego.
1 Comitia Zakki-shuu (lit “Collection of Comitia Notes”) by Funayama Yasuaki (circle: Phenomenom)
Comitia Notes are the record of the author’s misadventures at Japan’s premier original (read: non-fan fiction) doujinshi market. Depicting himself as Yayoi, the heroine of his first self-published work, Funayama starts out the book with a 2-page sequence that starts with the artistic frustration of drawing someone else’s property, then turns to starting to work on his self-published book upon the invitation to Comitia 100 by a friend, next shows the optimistic beginning of the show, quickly followed by utter defeat, none of his books having sold, and finally closes on the up-note of the artist finding new motivation to have a better book ready for the next show. It’s a story that is surely recognizable to many budding comics artist, who walk into the show confident but unprepared, only to be chewed up and spat out (see the cover), and then come back for another serving.
Funayama’s convention life takes an upturn at November 2012’s Comitia 102, with his new book Boukyakugai no Sora selling out, and Funayama getting invited to the Comitia afterparty. The report comic about this experience is actually the first one Funayama drew, and ended up becoming a regular tradition, finally being collected in this book.
Over the course of the following three years, Funayama gains friends, fans, watches in awe (and unbridled jealousy) as his peers soar in both skill and popularity. More and more characters, each an artist in real life, but robots/youkai/tomato-monsters in the book, join the cast as Funayama gains foothold in the world of independent comics. But while the storytelling is generally hilariously comedy-heavy, Comitia Notes does contain some valuable lessons, such as how to survive a portfolio review at the “on-site editorial desk” (an experience which Funayama depicts as a ruthless martial arts training sequence that leaves him reduced to a head with legs), or what happens when you make an appointment with an editor for after the convention, but don’t have anything to show (answer: you end up drawing the entire time).
Funayama’s Comitia reports are illustrated in a loose, comical style that lends itself to a speedy, fun report. Particularly the depictions of other artists are endearing and entertaining (a lot of them contributed sketches in the back section of the book, along with an introduction of them and their works). Obviously they garnered a good deal of attention, as Funayama was tapped to illustrate Comitia’s ubiquitous rule manual “Welcome to Comitia” for the 118th installment.
Comitia Notes is 98 black-and-white pages with a glossy, wraparound cover that is so eyecatching I just had to get it when I saw it at Comic Zin.
2 The Journey to San Diego Comic-Con: About participating in the world’s biggest Otaku event by neko (circle: KJTR)
Most Japanese, and otaku even more so, are notoriously conscious of their ability to communicate in English, so visiting an American comic convention prevents quite a few hurdles. Journey to SDCC is as much an attempt at lowering these, as it is a travelogue of the author’s own experiences at the popular convention.
Author neko first encountered the term “SDCC” via a video game producer’s call for people to join him for dinner at the event, which immediately made her start to plot for next years’ comicon. Never having been to the US, she had to figure out travel logistics before even facing the ever-momentous task of securing a badge for the event.
Journey to SDCC walks the reader through the process of securing badges, picking them up at the event, navigating the panel schedule, finding food, meeting people, and overall having a good time at the busiest of cons. Like Funayama’s Comitia reports, the artist’s experiences are relayed via short comic segments, but offer a more detailed description of each event in the form of text blocks and pictures on the following pages.
Leaving the convention center, the book offers tips on things to see, such as the nearby USS Midway museum, and a guide on how to get around on the trolley.
But the convention programming takes up the largest chunk of the page count, with a great rundown on what to expect from comic- and art related panels, and even featuring some familiar faces in delightful cameos.
Journey to SDCC is a 36-page book with a glossy photo/art collage cover, and chock full with information for not only first-time, but also returning con-goers. I will make sure to re-read it carefully before my trip this summer!
Okay, so I saw the poster for Avengers: Age of Ultron today, and there were a few things so fundamentally wrong with Hawkeye’s archery that I and my friends have been ridiculing it all day… It reminded me of this article I had written a couple of years back, and made me think it might have a place on this website. Hope you enjoy.
Archery is one of my favourite hobbies. I compete on a reasonable level. I work for an archery manufacturer. I also enjoy reading comic books, watching movies, and playing video games.
So you can probably imagine, bad or plain wrong depictions of archery in these media are a pet peeve of mine. (correct ones on the other hand are awesome!)
For a while now, I’ve been saying I should create a sort of “manual” for artists who are about to draw an archer, to make sure it doesn’t look completely ridiculous, like this:
What’s wrong with this picture? For anyone who has ever even tried out archery, it’ll be painfully obvious, and very embarrassing to the artist and publisher. My peers were mocking this all over Facebook.
You’ll know exactly why after you’re done reading this post.
I’ll try to give you a primer on what archery equipment needs to look like to be credible.
1. A bow is not a bow.
Well, it is. But there’s several types of bows.
Looks like a bow, right? This is the shape most commonly associated with the word “bow”.
It’s fashioned out of a piece of pliable wood, or, more commonly in modern times, laminated from several (notice how you can make out several layers in the bow, like layers of sediment).
This is called a traditional bow, one-piece bow, or longbow. There are myriads of different shapes, lengths, etc all over the world, but they all are one piece, with a string attached to both ends.
This type of bow is commonly used for recreation, and there are competitions held allowing this type of bow, which is especially popular in Europe.
You will not see this bow in the Olympic games, however, and it is no longer commonly used for hunting either (I say “commonly,” because I do believe some people do hunt with wooden one-piece bows still, but not the majority of bowhunters).
This is a modern competition Recurve bow. Note how the ends curve back from the overall shape – thus the name recurve.
These bows disassemble into three pieces: one handle, or riser, and two limbs.
The riser is a piece of machined or forged Aluminum, or in some cases plastic or CFRP (Carbon Fiber Reinforced Plastic), Magnesium, etc.
The limbs are the white things with the logo decals on them, and they serve the same purpose as the pliable wood on the bow above – they flex and store more power for every inch you draw back the bow string.
The limbs are what gives the bow its power, not the string.
I cannot emphasize this enough. The string is not elastic, the limbs are. (This is probably the thing artists most commonly get wrong)
A fully drawn recurve bow will have a stronger concave shape than one at rest, depending, of course, on the length of the bow and the archer’s drawlength.
Competition recurve bows generally have a draw weight of 35-50lbs, depending on the archer’s physical ability and style of shooting.
A recurve bow will, in a competition situation, be outfitted with an assortment of accessories:
A Sight is what you use to aim. It has a vertical rail so you can move it up and down for different distances (the arrow will only fly a certain distance, so if you want to aim farther away, you need to raise the bow higher), and a reticle, or aperture, that you overlay with the target.
For Recurve archery, it’s a relatively simple construction, made out of aluminum with some plastic or carbon parts.
A Plunger (Plunger Button, Berger Button) is a cushion that is pressed against the arrow shaft, and compensates for arrow flex upon release. It has to be adjusted for the individual archer’s arrow stiffness to guarantee the right level of compensation.
A Stabilizer is, in most cases, a carbon tube with weights at the ends. The archer in this picture is using one long center stabilizer extending towards the target, and two side rods extending back towards the archer diagonally away from the bow in a V-shape (all together this makes for a three-tipped star, like a Star Wars A-Wing plane.). This configuration is most common among competition archers. (Common lengths are 26-30″ for the center and 9-12″ for the side rods)
Stabilizers offer, well, stabilization, they keep the bow still while aiming, and, to an extent even during the instant the arrow is shot. Think of a circus athlete using a pole to balance themselves while walking atop a wire.
Recurve bows can also be used as a bare bow, which is a separate category in some competitions, and looks like this:
Note that the archer is aiming along the arrow, and will be adjusting for target distance by changing the vertical position of his drawing hand.
Recurve bows are also used for hunting, in which case they will have little to no stabilization and a rudimentary sight, or none at all.
However, this bow type is uncommon in hunting situations due to the high draw weight and low accuracy, which leads us to…
Compound bows are highly complex, intricate constructions – and the easiest to misunderstand. Note that this is the type of bow the artist tried to render in the picture at the top of this post.
They are also used in competition (albeit not the olympics, sadly), but their raison d’etre is hunting.
Bow hunting is quite popular in North America, so many of you might have seen a bow like this on TV.
Like the Recurve, a Compound bow also has a riser and limbs, but in addition, it also features a set of wheels or pulleys at the top and bottom. These are called cams (sometimes jokingly referred to as “training wheels”). They are connected by the string, which connects to the arrow like the one on a recurve, and 1-2 cables, which control the cam rotation.
Cams on modern-day compound bows are eccentric, meaning the pivot point is not in the center of the cam. If you’ve listened in high school physics class, you can probably imagine that this means they offer more resistance, and store more energy, at different parts of the draw cycle.
For example, let’s say the above bow has a draw weight of 60lbs – not uncommon for a reasonably fit bowhunter or competition archer. At the end of the draw cycle, the draw weight will drop down by 60-70% to offer a comfortable weight for aiming. At the same time, the bow will also increase power after you let go of the arrow, accelerating the it to 300 feet per second or more, far above what a recurve bow would allow an archer of the same ability.
Since the arrow is faster, it travels in a flatter curve, and is less prone to influences from wind and weather, making it more accurate.
In addition, compound archers also use different accessories to help their accuracy:
In a competition situation, an archer will use a sight with a scope, which contains a lens with magnification. The archer is looking through a peep sight, which sits inside the string and allows the archer to look through it at the sight and the target – his eye is perfectly aligned with the sight, which again means added accuracy. (a recurve archer aims around the string, trying to keep it aligned at a reference point on the bow)
Also, the archer is using a release aid, a little hook with a mechanical trigger to open it, so his hands aren’t actually touching the string. Again, accuracy boost.
On both recurve and compound bows, the arrow is not resting on the actual bow, but on a mechanical arrow rest, which can often be adjusted to give maximum clearance and guarantee straight arrow flight.
Compare this picture to the one at the top, keeping in mind what I said about the string and cables.
Even though the compound bow has three strings on it that look the same, and are in fact made out of the same material, you do not pull all of these at once. Having the cables on there enables the cams to work as pulleys, lower holding weight, and speed up arrow flight, but they do not make contact with the arrow.
Not only is pulling all three of these back with your hands nearly impossible with normal human strength, but it also offers no merit at all – as I mentioned, it’s the limbs powering the bow, not the string, and If you were to use it like that, the strings would all tug the arrow in a slightly different direction, messing up your flight path. The cams would not turn at all, rendering them useless as well.
In a hunting situation, the configuration would look like this:
This bowhunter has an arrow quiver mounted to the bow (competition archers will have it on a belt around the waist, a traditional archer may have it on the back), and uses a hunting sight.
A hunting sight has no lens in it, but it has several adjustable pins, which the archer sets to enable them to aim at several distances at once – for example the top pin might be 10yds, while the bottom one might be 40.
In a situation requiring speed, like the comic book cover back at the top, the archer might not want to bother with a release (which takes time to hook onto the string), so they would use a shooting glove or a tab, like a recurve bow.
The archer on that comic book cover seems to be pulling either with a release aid at his wrist (no idea how he would trigger that), or by tugging at the arrow, both of which are highly unpractical.
Before we go, here’s some more examples of doing it wrong:
This looks more like a crossbow than a bow, honestly I can’t figure out how you would use it.
The blades(?) that are on there in place of the limbs look rigid, meaning the thing wouldn’t move an inch.
This bow was obviously designed upon the assumption that the strings (again, why so many?) are elastic. In that case, they would have to be some new, super tough and elastic material (hey, it’s a fantasy world, right?).
That or the limbs pivot at the root, with some kind of elaborate mechanism powering them from within.
Either way, traditional limbs would be much more practical.
Ok, this is probably a problem with the 3D rigging of the character, but the arrow isn’t attached to the string… Also, there seems to be some kind of shielding right where the arrow rest should be, which would trap the arrow and break it, leading to serious injury. Always clear your arrow flight path..
That’s it for today, I will try to make time again and come back for a second post about technique – what the archer shooting the bow needs to look like to be credible.
Let me know in case you have any feedback, questions, or stuff that you would like me to touch on. Thanks for reading!
PS I admit I do not own most of the pictures on here, so if they are yours and you don’t want to have them on here, please notify me and I’ll take them down right away.
So about that AoU poster…
There are several things that bother me and many of my archer friends. How many can you find?
Another doujinshi review, in the same week? You bet!
Here’s another gem that I got at Comitia.
Okaeri by Hatobue Kurocha and Seta
Okaeri is a collaboration between two artists, whose work comes together to form one book in a way I might have never experienced before. There’s no “writer” or “artist,” as Kurocha and Seta decided to create this book as a “relay” project, alternating both art and writing.
Each double page spread features a full-page illustration with a short block of text, describing a new world the protagonist has stumbled into. The narration always closes with someone being told “okaeri,” and wraps up the scene while introducing a new object or companion that sets the stage for the next.
The Nightly Forest
A gigantic moth paints stars across the dark canopy,
while a Chinese Lantern illuminates the forest, like a lamp.
It is beautiful here, and I see that you have many eyes,
but don’t you think it is a little dark for reading books?
Welcome home, little star.
Let’s return, many-eyed ones.
The star, which is pictured as being returned to its place on the text side of the page, was introduced on the previous page, while the main illustration on this one introduces the many-eyed ones, who create the bridge to the next. The conscious choice of different characters for “okaeri” (おかえり、お帰り) implies that, while being the same word, one of the “companions” is being told to stay in their world, while the other, new one, is being reminded they are out of their natural place, and should head home. It’s a great reminder how versatile the Japanese language is because of its context-sensitivity, and executed beautifully in this case. The title of the book (オカエリ), and the very last page (お還り) offer two more variations of the same word.
The two artists’ styles are quite similar, so much so that I did not notice the “relay” structure at first. They both deliver a highly detailed, textured rendering of the ten highly imaginative realms the protagonist travels, and the illustrations are just a joy to look at. (By now you’ve probably noticed that this style of cross- and parallel-hatched sine pen linework is right up my alley)
The wraparound cover is another highlight of the book, featuring a selective palette of black and green on shimmering pearl white paper.
Okaeri only has 24 illustrated pages, but due to the one-page-one-world setup it chooses, it offers a lot more content in them than you’d expect. Each page tells its own tale and there is no overarching story beyond the protagonist wandering through them, so readers looking for an epic tale will be disappointed. However, the “relay” structure is really clever and fun, and the last page offers a sense of closure and validation for the protagonist’s journey.
That’s it for today! Hope you enjoyed the read.
In for more? Make sure to check the doujinshi tag for books I have previously reviewed.
As always, I welcome feedback and interaction, so I’d be happy if you liked/reblogged, or even commented. Questions and suggestions are welcome!
Welcome back to the wildly irregularly scheduled Weekend doujinshi review!
After a look at a slightly disturbing book last week, I am back to more all-ages appropriate fare this week, as usual firmly rooted in the sci-fi/fantasy category.
Kimi no Hanazono (Your flower garden) by Kotaro Yuki (duke)
I covered a book by the same author in my Halloween post last year, which was a tale of giant monsters.. The style is so different I didn’t connect them at first (which is funny considering I bought this one directly from him).
A young girl walks the wasteland of a post-apocalyptic future, accompanied by a crude spider-like robot she calls “Maruzo” (maru means round, and zo is a suffix common to traditional male names, so the robot is basically called round guy). What they are looking for is not explicitly mentioned, but it is obvious that Maruzo has a different idea about it than his companion, when he tries to bring home a filthy old toy he found along the road, and she makes him put it back.
Back at home, they turn to watching old films, and the girl expresses her confusion at the actors’s emotional facial expressions. The world has become such an empty place that she has no concept of human emotion.
Inside their little home, Maruzo has taken to fashioning flowers out of scrap metal, and they have even managed to plant a small patch of real flowers in their front yard, a rare thing as real vegetation is scarce in their barren environment. We learn that this is the result of a war of unprecedented scale, which ended up decimating the human population along with the Flora.
In search of other survivors, the girl and Maruzo decide to check out a distant city they see on the horizon.
The girl is overjoyed when she hears a voice, but it turns out to be a display board rerunning news broadcasts from the war: A new robot weapon, “T.A.K.O.” is being introduced to deal with dissidents against government policy – no way that’s going to backfire, right?
When our protagonists take a wrong turn (against Maruzo’s instincts), they are ambushed by the very same robot weapon, which promptly aims for the girl – and Maruzo takes the shot for her.
But T.A.K.O. (Japanese for octopus) isn’t done yet, and life takes a serious downturn for the protagonists.
But when all is said and done, they are able to turn the situation around, and end the book on an up note – and a wide field of flowers that has expanded well beyond the front yard.
I feel that the biggest appeal of Kimi no Hanazono – apart from the beautiful art – is the characterizations of the protagonists. Contrary to stereotype, it is the girl who is emotionless and practical, while Maruzo builds scrap flowers, cherishes stuffed toys, and faints when a bug lands on him. Even so, there is a strong connection between the two, and when things look hopeless for Maruzo, the girl finally learns what the tears she saw in the old movie really meant.
Kimi no Hanazono is 38 story pages, framed by a beautiful, matte wraparound cover (the whole illustration can be found on the artist’s pixiv page). There is a light grey, textured cover sheet next to the inside cover, which does not wrap around anywhere. Little details like this are a testament to the artist’s investment in the project. In the afterword, artist Kotaro Yuki explains that the characters first appeared in a single illustration he did 2 years ago, and he ended up getting more and more attached to them as he drew them more. He started seeing something of himself in the character of Maruzo, and decided to draw a comic featuring them. It’s great to see when characters develop a life of their own like that, and the love for them shows in the pages of Kimi no Hanazono.
Hope you enjoyed the read.In for more? Make sure to check the doujinshi tag for books I have previously reviewed.
Finally, I’m back to introducing you to doujinshi I enjoyed. Life has been busy, so it’s been two months again…
Amefurashi by Torimura (circle: Daiouika)
WARNING: This book is about sexual abuse of a child. If you’re squeamish about these things (and I don’t blame you if you are), please stop reading. I will not post scans of the scenes in question, but the subject matter is pretty jarring, so be warned.
There was a girl I liked. One day, her photograph was posted all over our town.
In the railway station, the police box, the shopping center, and lamp posts all over the place…
The flyer was everywhere.
After a while, the colors started to fade.
The paper got wet, torn, blown away by the wind. People would punch in holes with push pins.
Now, ten years later, nobody remembers her face.
These are the words of the opening narration of Amefurashi, accompanying scenes of a young boy helping a girl reclaim her school backpack from a creek some bullies had chucked it in. They laugh, and the girl, as little girls do, proclaims that she will marry the boy.
At the end of this prologue, the girl is pulled into a van and disappears, leaving the boy standing helplessly in the middle of the road.
Cut to the present, the boy, now in his late teens, is a kitchen help at a family restaurant. His colleagues mention a pretty customer he should check out, and there she is – his childhood friend Natsu, who vanished all those years ago. She recognizes the understandably shellshocked protagonist (Referred to only as “Shu-chan”), and they rekindle their friendship and budding romance.
One evening, as they revisit a playground they frequented as children, Natsu reveals to the protagonist what happened when she was taken – in her words, by the imaginary sea-hares (Amefurashi) that he has been seeing since childhood: Her torturers dissected and studied her body from head to toe, and built a clone to replace her – the girl standing in front of him right now. She is just a fake, a copy of the girl who disappeared so long ago.
The protagonist (understandably) struggles with his relationship with the girl, who implores him to help find the sea hares’ hideout, where the real Natsu is still imprisoned.
One day he overhears a group of girls talking about his friend having an affair with her teacher, and staggers into a back alley with a particularly high concentration of the imaginary sea-hares, where he finds Natsu about to enter a love hotel with an older man. Confronted by the protagonist, she explains that the only time she feels loved – even though she is a fake – is when she is with a man, that is the only time she feels human and alive, even knowing she has been replaced with a lifeless hull long ago.
The protagonist, after freaking out and smashing the gazillions of sea hares with a shovel, and scaring off the older man, takes her in his arms, and finally says it:
There’s no invaders replacing humans with clones. Where ever we search, there is no other, “real” Natsu.
You right in front of me, you are the real Natsu.
I am so sorry, for not being able to protect you that day.
This book is one of the most heartbreaking things I have ever read. Because of the deceptively cute art, you wander in with completely unprepared for a study of childhood trauma that is so well crafted it’s devastating to read. It starts out tentatively optimistic, when the two reconnect, then takes a downturn when we learn more about the construct she has built inside her psyche to protect herself, and then hits absolute rock bottom when the protagonist and his friends accidentally watch a bootleg DVD that shows her being raped as a child – all the while calling his name (I mean holy shit). And it wraps up in a fantastic last two pages, when both of them take a tiny, tiny first step towards accepting reality, and healing.
I was very conflicted about whether to write about this book or not. But in the end, I chose that I almost had to because of the emotional impact it had, and because I decided it was really well crafted to have that effect.
The 80-odd page book is beautifully crafted with another limited-palette cover (just like kraken, which I wrote about in my first review) and extremely expressive black-and-white interiors, but obviously the story overshadows everything.
In the afterword, artist Torimura (a young woman) describes a nightmare she had about a mass of sea-hares invading her house, which became the basis of this story. At the end of the dream, they transformed into a human girl who asked “Will you love me if I’m like this?”
I asked her about the inspiration for the incredibly chilling depiction of child abuse and the resulting trauma. She offered this anecdote:
“The sexual violence was inspired by a book I read in junior high school. It was a collection of first-hand accounts from rape survivors, and among them there was one that said, ‘my parents advised me to keep my experience a secret. They said my family would live in shame if their daughter was thought of as a rape victim.’ I was just a junior high school student, but this chilled me to the bone.”
This weekend brought with it the 6th Comiket Special, also titled “Otaku Summit.” Comiket Special is an event held every 5 years, in addition to the bi-annual regular Comic Market, and, contrary to the regular events, has an overarching theme. This time around, recognizing the growing international participation in the Comiket events, the organizers worked with the organizers of several overseas anime- and cosplay-themed conventions to put up a joint display for the Japanese fans. In reality, this was executed via booths much like the “corporate” part of a regular Comiket, and reminded me very much of the booths that schools and smaller companies put up at Tokyo Game Show. Which is in the same venue, so it’s not all that surprising.
The venue, unlike the regular Comic Market events, was at Makuhari Messe. This is actually rather significant, because it makes the Otaku Summit the first time a Comiket event has been held since the infamous “Makuhari banishment incident” in 1991, when the venue’s operators revoked the permission to use it’s facilities on extremely short notice. Comic Market has ever since been held at Tokyo Big Sight, which is scheduled to be part of the 2020 Olympic plan, and might not be available for years in order to adapt the facilities. So the Comiket Organizing Committee is short-pressed to come up with an alternative venue, and Makuhari is the only one in the area that’s comparable in size.
Otaku Summit was free to get into – for the “Comiket Special” sales and exhibition area you were supposed to purchase a catalog (which is your “ticket” for most shows of this type) for 1,000 Yen. I can only assume the border between these two areas was the white wall visible in the picture above, because nobody asked me for my catalog even once on at least 3 trips back and forth. In all, the event used 5 halls of the 11 available, a little larger than Comitia but nowhere near as huge as Comiket. It was also much less densely laid out than the usual shows.
I got there at around 1:30pm, which is rather late considering that most Japanese comic events close at 4 (because they need to be out of the venue before 6), so I did not expect too much congestion.. Even so, I was a bit taken aback by how thin the crowd was. Either it wasn’t very well publicized (there were no signs outside the venue, so you’d never find it if you weren’t looking for it), or the theme just didn’t appeal to people a lot. Which is a shame, especially considering that a good portion of the event was completely free.
The first section of the show floor, the “Otaku Expo” (too many names for one event!), started with an exhibition celebrating the 40-year history of Comic Market. This was really, really cool to see. The exibition had reproduction of nearly all of the catalog covers, official bags, leaflets, and other goodies, and an extensive (even for statistics-obsessed Japan, this was impressive!) history description spanning 14 A0 (?) sized panels of text. Someone better extend the Comiket Wikipedia page to keep up!
This was some intriguing and fun stuff, so I uploaded a lot of these to a Flickr album – check them out if you want to see more of the history panels in particular.
Also in the Otaku Expo were a surprising amount of regional tourism boards, trying to make their towns appealing to otaku tourism with original anime-style “image characters,” or tie-ups with anime series set in the area. This has been a noticeable trend: LovePlus fans traveling to Atami with their virtual girlfriends, Lucky Star fans doing their new years’ prayers at Washinomiya shrine, etc.
Notable tourism exhibitors at Otaku Summit were the famous Fushimi Inari shrine, Kanda Matsuri, and Soccer team Kawasaki Frontale in a joint booth with Doujinshi printing agency Neko no Shippo.
I ended up getting a souvenir bag of various forms of Natto from Mito – Not something I expected to bring home from Comiket!
Past these tourism board booths, I finally found the international Otaku event booths. Overseas events and schools often have these showcases at Tokyo Gameshow, but I don’t believe I have ever seen them at a Doujinshi event – Barring Kaigai Manga Festa, obviously. 10-odd events from Rome to Thailand were exhibiting, so if you’ve ever been to an anime con overseas, there might be some familiar faces here!
The next area was the corporate booths – very much what I have come to expect from the top floor at Comiket, however the crowds were much more thin (I’m tempted to say it was half empty). As usual, these were present more for goods shopping than anything else, but it was nice to look at them without being shoved past for once.
Finally, across an aisle reserved for cosplay, there was the more conventional Comiket part of the event – the rows of fold-up tables occupied by doujinshi of all sorts, cosplay DVDs, crafts, photobooks… A lot of the more popular anime/manga properties had been moved to the second day, so the Otaku Summit had more of the crafts and reality based (railway paraphernalia, history, etc), as well as SciFi/Tokusatsu. As you can see in the pictures, the layout was more spacious than usual, making it feel much less crowded.
Truth be told, I found this part of the show a bit lackluster, there weren’t a lot of Doujinshi available, and the show lacked the usual bustle Comiket normally has. I expect that a lot of that might have shifted to Sunday, which also hosted the Kuroket, a convention solely devoted to Kuroko no Basket.
However, the Otaku Expo part of Saturday’s show was one of the most interesting experiences I’ve ever had at a Comiket event. I hope they keep this kind of thing up, and I’m looking forward to the next Comiket Special!
Happy New Year!
I just realized I haven’t done a doujinshi review post in about 2 months. Life has been busy, but as I wrote in my previous post, I did attend Comitia 110 in November, and as always I got a few really nice books which I would like to share with you.
The below books were purchased at Comitia 110.
1 Yuusha to Maou by Nano Atsumi (circle: Ochiba Gaitou)
Comitia 110 Circle thumbnail:
Yuusha to Maou is Nano’s take on the popular theme (some might say trope) of a “chosen” hero, born to rid the world of evil. The hero of the story, latest in a line of individuals tasked with vanquishing the demon king the gods failed to in ancient times, grows up in a village among humans, who pamper him because of his status, but treat him as a distinctly different being, not even giving him a proper name (instead simply refering to him as “Yuusha,” literally meaning”hero”).
The hero grows up feeling alone and an outsider, having a hard time accepting his sole purpose as the hero of legend. When he finally ventures out to fight the evil hordes under the demon king’s command, he is promptly captured and imprisoned in the dark lord’s castle.
Once in the castle, the hero finds that while he is being experimented on leisurely by the demon king’s super-adorable evil scientist underlings, the evil forces make no serious attempt at killing him. Rather, the dark lord seems to simply be sizing him up, even deliberately creating opportunities to just talk, while of course making sure to mention as often as possible how despicable and weak human beings are.
Slowly, the hero notices that the demon king’s heart isn’t completely in the fight, and, just like himself, lacks a sense of purpose in life. Finally, he notices that everyone keeps referring to the evil one simply as “demon king,” just like himself growing up being referred to as “hero.” Maybe hero and demon king aren’t so different after all?
Yuusha to Maou is a simple, self-contained (albeit open ended) tale, illustrated in a beautiful style reminiscent of Disgaea or Taira Akitsu’s work. The artist used a traditional 4-panel layout, but the story is told as one and not a series of 4-panel ones.
In a way, I feel like the layout limited the book somewhat, as sometimes the panels are too small to tell exactly what is going on. Similarly, sometimes it feels like there should be a “punchline” to a certain story bit, but it falls flat, possibly also because of the 4-panel layout, which is traditionally associated with more comical books.
Yuusha to Maou is a “copy book,” which is the simplest form of doujinshi, a bunch of copies or printouts stapled together. The book is 28 pages including 4-color covers, with b/w interiors.
I am curious about why the artist went for a copybook instead of having it printed, but at the end of the day it’s about the contents, and Yuusha to Maou is a charming little book that is accessible and fun to read.
The artist: Nano Atsumi on the web
2 Metasequoia by Rocou (circle: 2nd-function)
Comitia 110 Circle thumbnail:
On a pitch black sea, a gir is sailing towards an abandoned research facility, all the while conversing with a derelict robot. Humans are long extinct, and the two – the robot being the preserved mind of a scientist, while her nature isn’t explained in detail – are the only lifeforms to be seen.
We find out that the reason for their voyage is a search for food, since the girl has finally run out after being confined to her home for as long as she can remember. The robot points out the leaves protruding from her hair, but she explains that they are only capable of generating auxiliary energy reserves.
The two enter the facility via an access elevator on the roof – demolishing the robot’s body in the process – leaving the girl to drag the barrel-shaped head part with her into the dark halls (“It’s ok – I designed the head to be light!”).
After a long walk, and endless bitching and moaning from the robot head (“I never should’ve wasted all that money on the brain preservation procedure..”) they reach a control center, where a derelict service android summons a food package, before bursting into flames.
Metasequoia is the first book of a series, kind of a rare thing for doujinshi. As you can tell from the synopsis above, the story moves at a leisurely pace, without action pieces or a real resolution, but offers a lot of introspection about life in its (very very) post-apocalyptic world.
The book’s appeal lies in the witty dialogue between the pure-minded and optimistic girl, and the desolate and snarky robot. This contrast between the characters’ personalities creates an interesting dynamic that kept me intrigued through the book.
The artwork, a bit simplistic with lots of spot blacks and whites, and fairly rough brush strokes, sets the stage for it but doesn’t steal its attention. I am, however, quite partial to the storytelling when the service android collapses.
Metasequoia is A5, 32 story pages, and leaves the reader with more questions about its world than it answers. Good thing there’s a sequel!
That’s it for today! Hope you enjoyed the read.
In for more? Make sure to check the doujinshi tag for books I have previously reviewed.