Sunday, February 7, 2010

Garo #25

Sept., 1966: Garo issue #25. This issue is also 202 pages long, and over 1/2 of that belongs to Kamui - 114 pages this time. You've got to respect that kind of output on a near-monthly basis.

カムイ伝 (Kamui-den) #22

Initially, I wanted to avoid summarizing Kamui because it's already come out for the American market, but it's hard to ignore something that takes up so much of the magazine each issue. On the other hand, there's a lot going on in each story, making a simple recap almost impossible. Essentially, Kamui is about class struggle, and how those in power fight so hard to maintain control over those below them. Additionally, because the main characters are ninja, they often develop disguises to masquerade as other characters, making them difficult to tell apart as they infiltrate groups from different classes. Then again, part of the action revolves around determining whether a target is a disguised ninja, or the real person themselves.

Red Eye is a rebel ninja that escaped the clan, and had been Kamui's teacher. Kamui's clan wants him to track down and kill Red Eye, but that's not an easy task. At the same time, the local magistrate is trying to keep the villagers under his thumb, in the belief that it's ok for samurai to casually off someone of a lower class. Shousuke, (the real one), is trying to teach villagers how to weave cloth as an alternative to growing rice. The magistrate thinks that Shousuke is trying to lead an insurrection, and is working to have him tracked down and tortured into confessing. The main classes here are: Feudal lords, Samurai, merchants, village heads, commoners, vagrants and criminals. The vagrants have their own leader and social structure and are occasionally forced by the samurai to carry out dirty deeds against the commoners.

In this chapter, Shousuke and his father have been captured but refuse to talk under torture. The magistrate tries different tricks to make the commoners break their silence as well, including ransoming 10 prisoners for 10 gold each (10 gold represents all the rice the peasants can raise in their life times). Realizing that agreeing to pay the ransom could destroy the village, the prisoners commit suicide. In trying to save Shousuke, the vagrants and village heads band together to forge an alibi for him, which the magistrate knows has to be false. Madman Koroku, meanwhile, no longer being helped by the ninja disguised as Shousuke, goes on a random killing spree, taking out samurai sent to kill him. Finally, Guntarou and some of the village heads try to break the spirits of the commoners by having hirelings assault Nana and Akami. But, Shousuke is freed at this point, and his resolve to protect Nana after the assault helps bring the villagers even closer together.

健全なる常識とは何か (What is Healthy Commonsense?) #18

I'm not really sure how to handle Koshi Ueno's (上野昂志) entries in these Garo blog posts. Ueno, along with Sasaki and Okamoto, has a continuing essay/story in each issue. But because both entries are so text-heavy and are parts of an on-going series (for Ueno, it's a monthly commentary, for Sasaki it's serialized fiction) all that I can do here is mention that the article exists and give a page count. At least with Sasaki, I can run a picture to show the kind of art illustrating the story. Can't even do that much for Ueno. So, I guess from here on out, I'll just give the titles, chapter numbers, author name and the page count, until further notice.

作品集 (Creation Collection) #4

The next installment of Katsumata Susumu's (勝又進) gag strips. 3 pages this time. Most of the jokes are about regular people doing strange things, with one clear political jab at former U.S. president Johnson's nuclear threat against the soviet union. In the first strip above, the guy on the right is snickering at an erotic book. In the final panel, the woman gets up, complaining about men reading that kind of thing. In the second strip, the boy says "The age of James Bond is over. The age of the Beatles is over. It's now the age of Katsumata Susumu! You're scowling at me in disdain. That's why I said I didn't want to do this! It's embarrassing!"

大空と雑草の詩 (Poem of heaven and weeds) #6

Ok, this is the Garo manga that I really don't like. The main character is trying to rally the other students to help support the guy that left the school in the previous chapter, and no one is willing to go up against the principal and risking his wrath. Meanwhile, the hero's young friend, now an orphan, wants to get a newspaper delivery job, but the uncle he's staying with is taking all of the boy's money to cover his own personal expenses. When the hero confronts the uncle, the boy panics and apologizes, saying that the money's not important, to avoid having the uncle get even angrier. And finally, the hero's girlfriend lacks the courage to announce that her family's moving to another town, and when the hero gets her letter explaining what's happening, it's too late for him to get to the station before her train leaves. 20 pages.

There's something about the artists in Garo that makes them want to include caricatures of Tezuka, Mizuki and others within their pages. Akira Ogawa (おがわあきら) does this above, rather loosely, admittedly, while Kuniko Tsurita is more blatant about it. Because Ogawa's name doesn't come up much in a net search, it makes me wonder if he worked as an assistant to Tezuka or Mizuki at one time. No way for me to know, right now.

古本と少年 (The Boy and the Old Book)

Yoshiharu Tsuge (つげ義春) (Screw-Style) finally shows up with a short story. In this one, a young boy hangs out at a bookstore, wishing he could afford the 1000 yen to buy one specific book. As he's paging through it, a 1000 yen bill falls out. He grabs the money and runs home in a panic. It seems real, so he's not sure what to do about it. The next day, he returns to the store and asks if someone else had been looking at the book. The shop owner's daughter says that one person had been, when a second boy arrives, acts startled and demands to buy the same book. The first boy decides to act, taking out the 1000 yen and blurting out that he wanted to buy it first. The other boy offers 1500 yen for it, and the shop owner accepts the higher bid. Afterwards, the hero gives up and goes to the shop to get the address of the second boy, to return the money to him, thinking that he's the one that had accidentally left it in the book previously. But the second boy laughs, saying that the book obviously belongs to the hero, that it's not his money, and that if the hero returns home he'll understand. The hero gets home, where a package is waiting for him. Inside is the book plus a letter, explaining that when the second boy opened the book, he found a piece of paper that had obviously been written for someone else, so that's why he's not keeping the book. The hero then discovers the paper, which had been written by the shop keeper's daughter. Since the hero so desperately wanted the book, but didn't seem able to afford it, she's enclosing 1000 yen for him to use, and to keep this a secret from her father. 23 pages.

I'm making this one of the two stories to run on Nihon-go Hunter.

日本忍法伝 (Japan Ninja Arts Legend) #12

Mamoru Sasaki & Satsuko Okamoto (佐々木 守 岡本 颯子). 5 pages.

罪の意識 (Crime of Awareness)

A rich, greedy old man and his son are on a cruise ship when it collides with another ship. The man desperately tries to locate his son, Hiroshi, in the wreckage, but finds his robe being clutched by a small girl trapped under some debris, calling out "daddy". The man attempts to free himself to keep looking for his boy but the girl won't let go. Finally, he kicks her and escapes, and a wave washes her to sea, just leaving a yellow ribbon behind that resembles one that Hiroshi had been wearing. Later, the man has been rescued and is sitting on the docks, disconsolate at the thought that his boy is gone. But, Hiroshi had been saved by a guy that had thought that Hiroshi's ribbon looked just like the one his daughter had worn. Realizing what he'd done, the old man cries out in remorse, claiming that he wasn't the one responsible. 12 pages.

Now, here's a kick in the head. The artist, Ryouichi Ikegami (池上遼一), is better know for his work on "Mai, the Psychic Girl" and "Crying Freeman". I guess that he was still trying to find his own particular style back in 1966. I'm making this the second feature on Nihon-go Hunter.

正井滋魚 (God of the Street)

Various people encounter a weird man that seems a little bit "off". The man does things that result in those people getting their wishes, such as receiving money, getting a girlfriend and even having their manga accepted by "Gara" magazine. They refer to the stranger as "kami-sama" (god), and after he disappears, they track down his last-known address to a small shrine dedicated to Inari. 6 pages.

Shigeo Masai (正井滋魚) also wrote "Shinigami", which had appeared in the July issue of Garo. In this one, it looks like he may have also chosen to add cameos of Mizuki and Ishinomori (but it's hard to tell this time).

丸い輪の世界 (Round Ring World)

This is Shigeru Mizuki's (水木しげる) contribution, running 16 pages. A boy's younger sister suddenly takes ill and passes away. A few days later, he finds a strange glowing ring floating in the air along one street. He steps through it and comes out in a world filled with flowers, where he finds his sister's spirit. They play a while, and he leaves when he gets hungry. Later, when he wants to bring a picture book and a doll to his sister, he can't find the entrance to that world again. A year goes by, and while playing hide and seek, he encounters the ring. His sister is upset that he doesn't have the playthings for her. Plus, she's unable to leave the world through the entrance herself. The boy promises to bring the book and doll next time and steps outside. However, again, the next day the ring is gone, and now the friends he'd played tag with beat him up for abandoning the game with them. Three years go by. The boy is on his way to take a big mid-term test at school when he sees the ring again. Remembering how no one believed him before, and what had happened to him afterwards, he ignores the ring to go to school and take the test. He regrets this decision for the rest of his life because he never sees the ring again.

Over all comments: It's probably accidental, but three of the stories include characters that are obsessed with money, and belief in its power, or the lack of it. There's not a lot of commentary on politics or the government this time. Mostly, it's about personal choices.


A.B. said...

I'm really enjoying these synopses of different Garo issues. I picked up a few from Mandarake last time I was in Japan, but since they were all sealed, it was difficult to know what to grab content/quality-wise. Have you ever thought of doing a Garo index, with creator lists and plot summaries? I think that's something overseas fans would like quite a bit. I know it's expensive to pick up the earlier issues though.

TSOTE said...

Thanks for the feedback. It's hard to tell what kind of reception these synopses are getting.

I know. It's one of the reasons why I started up this blog thread - you can't look at the magazines to see if any given issue has something interesting in it. Worse, unlike modern magazines, there's no listing of authors or story titles on the cover, so you don't know who's in each one.

I have started putting together an author/title index, but doing a summary for each story would make the listing really long. Instead, I'm thinking of just linking to the blog entries for each issue.

There is an incomplete author/title listing in Japanese on the net, and one American did translate the names into English for 1964. I'll add a link to that when I go back and find it again. But, just because of the sheer volume involved, I may only focus on the period from July 1966 to July 1971. I'll see what happens later. As it is, I'm picking up an average of two issues a week, and then running the blog entries one a week. Mandarake in Akihabara is missing a couple issues in the middle, so it's not exactly 60 volumes, but I might find one or two of the missing ones at one of the other Mandarake locations. In any event, 60 weeks of posts is going to take over a year to write up and upload at 1 a week. Even at buying them 2 a week, this one 5-year span is going to take 6 months. That says nothing for the most expensive issues from 1964 to the first half of 1966, and everything from 1972 to when the magazine essentially died in the 90's. As I say, I'll focus on this first 5-year period and then see what happens later. I am enjoying some of the stories more than I thought I would, so I do want to find out what other stories are out there. I just wish that the vapors coming off the old paper didn't bother my sinuses so much.

Xavier Guilbert said...

Great work there -- it's really nice to get to discover those little heard of manga-ka and to get a look into the early years of Garo.

At some point, there was a project of making it available in electronic version, but I don't think it ever went through. I know I'm more and more tempted to dive in and do just the same as you (but of course, not being in Japan any more kind of put a dampener on it. That, and limited shelf space at home).

So thanks again for the trip, and keep up the good work. We'll keep reading, attentively.

TSOTE said...

Xavier - Thanks for the comments, I appreciate them. I haven't seen anything yet that would indicate that Garo's gone electronic, but that would make things simpler. I am surprised that a number of these artists never gained more popularity - some of them are pretty good, and could have made a living at this under their own names with a little more luck. I'd love to see Drawn and Quarterly put out a few "best of Garo anthologies", with the artist bios added at the front.

Are you reading the manga I'm scanning into Nihon-go Hunter? I've been following the hit counts there and I'm maybe getting only 10 readers a day. (Compared to 200 a day here on ThreeSteps.)

Xavier Guilbert said...

Seems they have something up there: but it is nowhere near the "slice of the time" feeling that you get with single issues. So it seems that at some point, I'll consider getting the paper version...

Haven't gotten to read what you've put up on Nihongo Hunter (though I've checked it a few times). It's great that you put up those stories, and they are definitely on my "to read" list. Now, if I could only find some time...