Sporadic Sequential
Tuesday, July 31, 2007
Manga That Must Be Made Into Musicals!

Inspired by the awesomeness that is the Bleach rock musical, David Welsh compiles a list of manga he'd like to see undergo musical makeovers. And since, like him, I'm powerless to resist the allure of manga-related lists, here are my own suggestions for Manga that Must be Made into Musicals!!

Death Note - If only to see how much of the internal strategizing they could successfully stage as musical solos.

Sgt. Frog - C'mon, tell me this wouldn't be a natural! Sgt. Frog has already poked fun at the clichés and conventions of other media, so I'm sure a Keroro Gunso musical would have a field day making fun of the many formulaic aspects found in musicals. It could be for Japanese theater traditions what Spamalot is for Western musical theatre!

Club 9 - The story of a country girl making it on her own in The Big City seems like it was made to be told in musical form.

Slam Dunk - A romantic comedy musical with plenty of basketball games that could be done as elaborate ballets.

Yotsuba&! - A musical for kids, this production would consist of several shorter acts each focused on a different central topic, just like the manga!

Vagabond - With a quirky cast of eccentric characters, a torturous love triangle, plenty of dramatic period settings and costumes, and the potential to stage elaborately choreographed fight scenes, Vagabond could be a huge crossover crowd-pleaser of a production.

Emma - David already mentioned this one, but I just want to agree enthusiastically. Besides, my wife would love it for the Victorian setting alone, so it's a manga musical we could both enjoy!

Kekkaishi - Hey, if Bleach can work as a musical, Kekkaishi should get a shot too. Plus, a Kekkaishi musical would feature something Bleach didn't: singing demon dogs!

Short Cuts - With creator Usamaru Furuya's background in varied fields of art (including dance), he'd probably welcome the challenge of adapting his ode to the ko-gal into some experimental, avant-garde form of musical theatre.

Akira - For two reasons: (1) Because, if it were done right, it would be the most expensive production ever. (2) I want to hear the musical version of Tetsuoooooooooo!!!!!!

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Friday, July 27, 2007
Today The Manga Gods Have Smiled Down Upon Me

Just received an email alert from Viz about some exciting changes coming up in Shonen Jump. Most exciting for me is word that SLAM DUNK WILL FINALLY BE RELEASED starting next year (no exact date provided)! Prior to that, the first chapter of Slam Dunk will be previewed in the December 2007 issue of Shonen Jump.

Also interesting: Bleach will now first be serialized in Shonen Jump before it's collected in TPB. I'm not sure how this will affect the release schedule for the Bleach TPBs, since they had been coming out every two to three months but now it'll first be serialized monthly in SJ, which I would think would slow down the release schedule if the material is really supposed to appear in SJ first. Further confusing the matter, the story content debuting in the November 2007 issue of SJ ("our heroes, led by Ichigo, leave the Soul Society behind") is the same as what's listed for Bleach Vol. 21 ("Ichigo and his friends return to the World of the Living"), and they're both scheduled to go on sale the exact same date October 2, 2007.

Oh well, it'll all be sorted out soon enough. And for me, the promise that "every one of Kubo-sensei's original color pages will be presented in full color" in the SJ serialization is enough to tempt me to consider subscribing to SJ again.

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Bleach Blabbering


» Growing up, my examples of bespectacled bad guys were the dorky-looking Dr. Octopus (who really should have been played by Michael Moore in the movie) and Hugo Strange, so I never thought a villain wearing glasses could look menacing, but Sōsuke Aizen manages to pull it off. (Of course, he ditches the glasses as he escapes, but the "Badass Nerd" look was surprisingly effective while it lasted.)

» I was very surprised that Aizen got away at the end. Once it was revealed that it's possible to surpass the limits of Soul Reaper potential if one merges with a Hollow, I was expecting Ichigo to let loose the Hollow within him (shown in vol. 19) and defeat Aizen easily. But I suppose allowing Aizen to escape sets him up as a recurring nemesis for the series to focus on.

» At first I thought the revelation about what was going on with Ruika explained how Ichigo became Hollowified, assuming Ichigo was somehow transformed by the Breakdown Sphere when he absorbed Ruika's Soul Reaper powers, but then I remembered that Ruika had the Sphere hidden within her gigai after she'd transferred her powers to Ichigo. Thankfully, there's Wikipedia, and it clarified that it was Ichigo's intense training with Kisuke Urahara that released his latent Hollow abilities. I'm not sure if it could have been made clearer in the story (or if it will be addressed in later volumes), or if my memory is just too poor to piece together details like this across multiple volumes that span months or years. Was this obvious to everyone else?

» Ruika's status as passive hostage officially moved from irritating to infuriating with this chapter. In earlier volumes, I could at least attempt to explain away Ruika's passivity as based on her respect for Soul Society laws and her brother's opinion, but once the traitors' plot was revealed to everyone, Ruika's inactivity seemed completely out-of-character. Even more frustrating, we hardly get any insight into Ruika's mental state in this volume, with just one unexplained "I can't move" thought balloon, so she really does just appear to serve as an object to be fought over and protected. (Ruika is bizarrely / patronizingly cradled like an infant in Renji's arms throughout most of the volume.) Perhaps I missed something and it was explained that Ruika was somehow incapacitated / immobilized, but even so, that would be an unsatisfactory excuse given how many other characters were able to overcome insurmountable wounds or obstacles throughout this arc.

» Not specifically related to Bleach 20, but, man, it would be great if Viz gives Bleach (and other long-running series) the "Viz Big" omnibus treatment. I imagine it would make it easier for new readers to try out the series, and I know I'd be enough of a sucker to buy the material again for the new format and artwork. (My only gripe about the "Viz Big" announcement is that $17.99 doesn't seem like that much of a discount over three regular-priced Shonen Jump volumes (3 * $7.95 = $23.85, or only $5.86 more than the omnibus edition). Still, the Shonen Jump books are so cheap to begin with that I can't really complain too much.)

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Bleach Goes Broadway

There was a Bleach musical? Why wasn't I informed??? (I guess I need to learn to pay better attention to Wikipedia.)

From Bleach Vol. 20

Thankfully, you can find just about anything on YouTube:

This user has a helpful FAQ on her profile page that explains what order the musicals should be viewed in and what the differences are between the two productions of the opening arc. I've only watched the first snippet so far, so I haven't yet decided if this is the greatest or stupidest thing ever, but you do have to give them credit for being able to realize the heavily stylized looks of the various characters into three-dimensional space:

Tite Kubo's right: Rukia does look just like she does in the manga, especially her hair with that one strand always across her face.

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Thursday, July 26, 2007

Recently I was reading Kekkaishi Volume 9 and I noticed something interesting: many of the sound effects were actual words with the vowels completely removed. So, for example, "RUMBLE" was written as "RMBL." I went back and looked at the volumes I had on hand (6-9, all from the local library) and it looks like something that's been slowly building throughout the series. For example, in earlier volumes certain sound effects were fully spelled out (e.g., "RUSTLE") but in later volumes the same SFX was abbreviated:



Here are some of my other favorite consonant-only SFX from Kekkaishi:




Can anyone explain that last one to me? "GRMP" is used a couple times in the book in situations where one character is grabbing or gripping another, but I can't figure out if it's supposed to represent an actual word or if it's just a more traditional "nonsense" SFX creation.

And if anyone has earlier volumes of Kekkaishi, could you check to see if this has been going on from the book's beginning and it just took me until volume nine to notice? Also: has anyone noticed Viz (or any other publisher, for that matter) using similar SFX shorthand in any other series? Personally, I kinda like this method of transcribing sounds, as it make them look less like "real" words and more like "pure" sounds.

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Friday, July 20, 2007
Local Comix

City Pages, the Minneapolis/St. Paul free weekly paper, features their "Comix Issue" this week, with work from "the Minneapolis cell of the 'International Cartoonist Conspiracy,' a loose affiliation of comic artists who get together once a month to create a collaborative strip." The issue's theme is "True Tales of the Twin Cities" and additional strips that didn't see print can be found online. My favorite pieces are the ones by Kevin McCarthy and Ursula Murray Husted (small versions shown below), but they're all worth a look.

NE Athletic Field #3, by Kevin McCarthy

The View from Friday, by Ursula Murray Husted
Thursday, July 19, 2007
Corporate Comics Complaints

Several months ago, I was surprised to find that I enjoyed a preview of Blue Beetle #11. I happened to see the TPB collecting that issue at the library, so I checked it out. Blue Beetle: Road Trip is the second collection of the new Blue Beetle ongoing series and it covers issues #7 through #12 of that series. Since I hadn't read the previous six issues, I may be at somewhat of a disadvantage when it comes to fully understanding everything that takes place in this volume, but here are my reactions having missed half of the story so far.

My first reaction occurred before I even cracked open the cover: Holy cow, is this book thin! Looking at it, I was reminded more of those old square-bound "prestige format" comics DC used to put out than a trade paperback. Didn't TPBs used to be thicker? Is it because TPBs now collect fewer issues or because the paper stock is thinner? Just to make sure I wasn't simply misremembering things, I pulled out an old square-bound comic to compare (and threw in another book, just to make things even more interesting):

[Click for gratuitously large version]

From the top, the books pictured are:
* DC's site lists the page count at 192 pages but the book itself has page numbers and they only go up to 144

To the naked eye (or mine at least), Twilight and Blue Beetle appear to be very close in size, while KCDS appears to be at least three times as thick as BB. I know people have complained about the apples and oranges nature of these comparisons when I've done them before, but I do wonder if things like this factor into people's judgments of perceived value when they're deciding which comic to spend their money on. If you only had enough money to buy one graphic novel and were trying to decide between BB and KCDS, don't you think something like "Well, Kurosagi Corpse Delivery Service looks like it would be a meatier read, and it's two bucks cheaper" would cross your mind? (This is of course assuming you could find a copy of KCDS at your local bookstore to begin with.)

As for the book itself, I found it OK but nothing that would inspire me to seek out previous or subsequent volumes. There are too many references to other comics and events for the book to feel like it has its own identity independent of whatever crossover calamity DC is promoting this week. Which really isn't that surprising considering that this title spun out of the continuity-heavy Infinite Crisis crossover, an unfortunate pedigree that the collection spends the entire first chapter rehashing. (I might be wrong, but weren't the events in BB #7 already shown in an issue of Infinite Crisis? Why spend an entire issue retelling those events yet again when it seems most fans just want to move on from that "event"?) Later chapters are spent examining the Blue Beetle legacy with Dan Garrett's granddaughter; retconning the Scarab from an ancient Egyptian mystical artifact to a piece of advanced alien technology (shades of Hawkman's upgraded origins); learning about how Peacemaker fits into all of this (in a nice touch, Peacemaker received the "instruction manual" for the Scarab, while Jaime Reyes bonded with the actual suit, so Jaime has to figure things out as he goes in a manner reminiscent of "The Greatest American Hero" with Peacemaker acting as the gruff but lovable older mentor); galavanting with a couple New Gods on a death-trap planet; and finally meeting the alien beings behind the Scarab, The Reach.

One of the problems with embedding every single one of your titles so deeply into a shared universe is the feeling of inaccessibility for those not immersed in said universe. Years ago, I probably would have caught all of the references in this book, either because I was following all the titles and characters referenced or I was willing to spend my free time online tracking down answers and backstory. Now, however, I want to read stories that are relatively self-contained, even if those stories happen to span multiple volumes. With Blue Beetle, I get the sense that following this title would at some point demand an investment in other series I'm not interested in buying. And looking at the future solicits for BB, this unease appears justified since the book becomes even more entangled in the larger DCU and its many "events" every month. It's the double-edged curse/benefit of a shared universe: some fans will be excited by all of the interrelated connections between all the characters and series, while others will be put off by the thought of incomplete stories teased in one book and continued in another (and likely not even resolved then). Myself, I read BB #11 and wonder who or what it was that Lonar was searching for and why we were never told even after he apparently found it/her. Was it an oblique reference to an old New Gods story? Was it a subtle ending to some unresolved plot point from long ago? Was it some set-up for a crossover with DC's next BIG EVENT WHERE EVEN GODS CAN DIE???? On the other hand, there are BB fans who are hopeful that plugging BB into every DC crossover will save the title from the chopping block. (Does that trick ever work? The only thing it seems to do is derail the series' own plotlines, leaving fewer issues to devote to wrapping up dangling story threads before the inevitable cancellation comes.)

OK, one nice thing about the book: The work of new regular artist Rafael Albuquerque is quite nice. He has a style reminiscent of Brian Stelfreeze, and it's a good continuation of the look established by Cully Hamner, who designed the new Blue Beetle costume and started off as the book's initial regular penciller. (According to GCD, Hamner only contributed art to six issues (two with assistance from others) before Albuquerque took over regular art chores with issue #11.) Which brings me to another feature of corporate superhero comics that strikes me as a hindrance: the rotating art teams. I don't think this used to bother me much years ago, but perhaps reading manga with its consistent, singular artistic vision for each series has spoiled me. Now it's a bit jarring to see the appearance of characters change from issue to issue. When reading this volume, for example, I didn't immediately recognize Jaime's dad in chapter eight because the artist in that issue decided to change the dad's facial hair from the full beard shown the issue before to a thin goatee. Yes, there was a line of dialogue to clear up the confusion, but I still flipped back a couple pages to see if I'd imagined the father's different look. A minor quibble perhaps, but it's still something that draws attention to the storytelling instead of making it seamless.

Finally, one closing thought about coming into this series midway through (because I know there are superhero fans who will complain that I didn't give the series a fair chance by starting with the second volume): If DC wants to package their stories this way, I feel it's fair to judge them accordingly. There's nothing on the exterior of this book to indicate that it's the second volume in an ongoing series. And even if it did have a big number "2" on the spine, I'd still expect this book to be satisfying on its own. I've picked up later volumes in several manga series (such as vol. 2 of Uzumaki and, more recently, vol. 4 of Antique Bakery) and been intrigued enough to go back and follow the series from the beginning. If Marvel and DC really want to compete in the bookstore market for more casual readers, they really need to rethink the philosophy of simply slapping together a set number of floppy comics and calling it a book.

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