Monday, September 27, 2010

AX - Alternative Manga, vol. 21

Ok, I admit that I did kind of a hatchet job on AX magazine back when Metropolis ran its feature article review of Sean Wilson's AX Anthology, vol. 1. It was sort of a kneejerk reaction to anything that shows up in the English press in Japan as part of a U.S. release. I mean, if you want to review something, review the original work in the original language and then let people know how to get English copies of it if they want. That way it's not filtered through someone else's translation (i.e. - "adaptation"/"localization") process. On the other hand, the sample artwork run in the Met article didn't appeal to me on any level, so I was happy to let rip.

But, I'm nothing if not sensitive to my readers here, and I'm willing to admit that I made a bad call. So, when the nearby Akihabara Mandarake shop suddenly started erupting with gaps in their Garo backissues, I figured that I'd go to the Nakano store to see what I could find there, and at the same time I'd ask about AX. One problem with AX is that even their homepage is difficult to locate. The first hits to come up on the romaji spelling are for a body spray and a guitar magazine. You need to know the katakana spelling - アックス雑誌 - which still requires some searching on the net.

Once I had the katakana spelling written down on paper, I set out. First, I went to the shop in Nakano Broadway that had the Garo back issues. All of the ones I was missing that Akihabara didn't have weren't in Nakano either. But I lucked out and discovered a copy of #85, the Kuniko Tsurita special collection. And I got the Feb., 1970, issue just to have something to read next (I really want Jan., 1970, for the next review in the Garo series, but no one has that right now.) I asked the person at the counter if they had any copies of AX and he told me to go down a floor. I was given a building map, and the shop I wanted was J (I was in E - art books and vintage magazines) - art books and hentai. I got down to the third floor, and neither of the two clerks there had heard of AX. One of them checked the computer, and quickly located the correct shelf where they only had 10 out of the full 75 issues back issues.

Many of the AX issues had come from Book Off, where the 100 yen price stickers were still on them. I wanted to be fair, so I grabbed two issues - the latest one they had, #47, and the tribute issue to Taro Okamoto, both for 315 yen each. If they actually did go for the 100 yen Book Off price, I would have gotten every copy there. What stopped me from getting at least three issues was an art book on the next shelf down - "Playback Tokiwa-sou", a retelling of the story of Osamu Tezuka and 13 of the related people from the Tokiwa Manor period. It was 1000 yen for just short of 500 pages of manga, stories and a few photos of the artists. Playback looks much more promising than AX, so I'm glad things worked out like this.

Ok, so, what is AX? For anyone that hasn't actually heard of it, AX is a bimonthly "magazine" that first started running in 1999. The latest issue is #75, which came out in August. The website has the slogan "That's Alternative Comic!", and it's kind of considered to be a successor to Garo and Tezuka's own COM. I put "magazine" in quotes because it's more of a cross between a book and a fanzine. I'll include links to the artists in English if possible (starting with the English wiki, then moving to magazine reviews, or fan pages) or Japanese if nothing else is available. Note that some of these names have more than one reading, and if I can't find the author's page, I have to guess as to which reading is the right one, and I may get it wrong.


AX, vol. 21
The Taro Okamoto Special, 2001
272 pages
933 yen

Okamoto (1911-1996) was a famed surrealist artist in the 50's and 60's. One of his sculptures was a central piece of the 1970 Osaka Expo, which also showed up in Twentieth Century Boys. Vol. 21 starts out with a small insert poster of Taro, a gag panel based on his "Tower of the Sun", a 2-page write-up on him, and an 8-page interview with Taro's partner, Toshiko Okamoto. There's 5 more pages of stuff dedicated to Taro, then the regular manga.

「双子のオヤジ」21 - しりあがり寿
"Old Man Twins", #21, by Kotobuki Shiriagari

6 pages. One of the old twins is reading the paper and noticing how the world is becoming stupid. To become dumber faster than anyone else, he hits his head on the wall. The other brother comes up and they have a race. After bashing their heads they can't remember each other's names any more.

「チェリーボーイズ」7 -古泉智浩
"Cherry Boys", #7, by Tomohiro Koizumi

24 pages. This is a continuation of an earlier story involving 4 guys - 1 in a neck brace who's spending his time in a bowling alley, and three friends out trying to fill up experiences for their "mission growing up" notebook. The three take turns spraying each other with mace, hitting themselves with a pipe and getting tasered. After trying road tricks with an inflatable traffic cop doll they encounter the guy in the neck brace out on the roads. They panic, drive too fast and almost slide off the road. With their car stalled, the one in the brace comes up and asks if they're ok. Since they hadn't talked to anyone else about their previous fight he's going to leave them alone.

「ツノ病」 - クリハラタカシ
"New Disease", by Takashi Kurihara

16 pages. A nonsense gag story about a young boy who is hit in the head by a spike. He goes to the doctor, who diagnoses him as having "horn disease". The horn now on his head will fade away on its own. Outside, he taps the horn with his hand and it rapidly elongates until hitting something. He's pulled along with it to a mirror Earth. Everything looks the same, and he even sees himself walking his dog. He gets tired and prepares to return home. But, when he touches the horn again, it accidentally runs into a bird. The horn disappears, trapping the surprised boy on the mirror Earth, and the bird flies away with a new horn on its head.

「マンホールの謎」 - 後藤友香
"Puzzle of the Manhole", by Yuka Gotou

34 pages. This is a fairly innocuous, poorly drawn adventure of Anita, a school girl who one day spies another girl burying fish along a river. Anita tries following the stranger, who disappears down a manhole ladder. Anita then encounters the stranger's older sister who has been living in the sewers, trying to track down and capture the fish mangler. Together with another friend at school, Anita and the sewer woman succeed in catching the fish mangler, who turns out to have escaped from a nearby hospital. End of story.

「メカ野良人」 - 花くまゆうさく
"Mecha Farmer", by Yuusaku Hamakuma

4 page gag strip by the creator of Tokyo Zombies. Afro man encounters a Kappa who tries to follow him. Afro has no need for old-era creatures and tries to shake the Kappa off. Suddenly, the Kappa is thrown through the air by mecha farmer (most notable for the strap-on that proceeds him everywhere). Afro wonders who made mecha-farmer - American soldiers or aliens. To be continued.

「ヨダレくんの尊い命」 - 本秀康
"Yodare-kun's Precious Life", by Yasu Motohide

4 page gag strip. Nonsense bit with a fat idiot kid named Yodare, who jumps from a roof thinking that his mecha mattress will fold out and save him. It doesn't. His girl friend tells him that his life is sacred so it's good he didn't die.

「ホーム・パーティ」 - 河井克夫+ムロフシカエ
"Home Party", by Katsuo Kawai and Kae Murofushi

8 pages. Youko is a young woman at a friend's party. She drinks too much and goes to the toilet to throw up. She then notices that there's salmon eggs floating in the toilet and it reminds her of her friend, Jun. The more she thinks of Jun, the sicker she gets and the more salmon eggs she vomits out. Eventually she realizes that the salmon eggs are tied to memories of Jun, and finally she remembers having killed him and sliced him up in the bathtub at home. She throws up one more time and forgets about Jun again.

「癒しの園」 - 村田千峰
"Healing Place", by Chiho Murata (?)

8 pages. This is kind of a shojo story with two women deciding to go to a public bath to help soothe the downhearted feelings one of them is suffering after being dumped by a boyfriend. After they're done, the one is feeling much better, and she runs into a nice man afterwards. The narration comments on how things work out when people live in apartments that don't have private baths.

「その医者…」 - 鷹羽正臣
"That Doctor", by Masaomi Takaha (?)

10 pages. Silly gag series about a doctor that has strange patients, where one of them has swallowed a gold fish. Nothing much resolved at the end.

「渋谷くるくる寿司」 - 松井雪子
"Shibuya Revolving Sushi", by Yukiko Matsui

20 pages. Ok, the artwork on this one is pretty high-grade, but the story is really hard to follow. Essentially, two young women living in a grotto that has syrup and dirty dishes showing up at strange times eventually make their way out to the surface world where they play in the flowers and encounter more plates, with a flashback to a counter at a revolving sushi restaurant in Shibuya, Tokyo. Fair amount of topless nudity that is just slightly erotic, but not overly gratuitous.

「Bird book」 - 津川聡子
"Bird Book", by Satoko Tsugawa

5 pages. A girl reaches for a book on a shelf and starts to fall off her chair. The book turns into a bird, letting the girl catch it and then carrying her out for a flight around the house. Outside, a young man finds himself being pelted with letters falling from the book, and looks up to see the girl. The two fly off on the bird book together. I decided to scan all 4 pages of this one. The line art is really fine and it kind of doesn't scan well.

「ブルー・ギター」21 - 安斎肇
"Blue Guitar", #21, by Hajime Anzai

Just 4 pages of random pictures.

「釣り師の悩み」 - 西岡兄妹
"Angler's Anguish", by Kyoudai Nishioka

("Kyoudai" means "siblings". This is a brother-sister pair who have done both manga and picture books.)
22 pages. A young man goes out to the coast to fish, but it's too crowded. He comes back home, where the people disgust him. He eventually winds up at a water runoff ditch in town trying to catch whatever is in it.

「丸太の王エリクソン」 - 島田虎之介
"Log King Erickson", by Toranosuke Shimada

(Toranosuke won the 12th Tezuka Award for best newcomer for his "Traumerei". Otherwise, there's little information on him in English.)
20 pages. Two guys are out driving in the countryside and the driver drifts off in a daze. He semi-dreams about an alternate history of the U.S. where a viking helps create the country, with cameos by George Washington, Richard Nixon, Abraham Lincoln and JFK. The viking turns into a lumber jack, whose great skills lead to the U.S. as we know it now. Eventually the driver wakes up and they keep driving.

「探偵ハニー・サテン-2001-」 - 谷弘兒
"Detective Honey Satin, 2001", by Hiroji Tani

4 pages. This is a really well-drawn mini-story. A man comes into the office of Honey Satin, detective. He tells her that something important has been taken from him and he wants her to get it back. He'd been walking by an abandoned building and seen a beautiful naked woman lying on the ground inside. He went in to get a closer look and passed out. When he recovered, the woman said that she was punishing him for staring at her body so lewdly. He then lifts a patch over his left eye showing an empty socket. He asks Honey to get his eye back. Suddenly he notices her perfume and wonders where he'd encountered it before. He leaves and Honey pulls an eyeball out of her desk and kisses it.

「順風」6 三本美治
"Favorable Wind", #6, by Yoshiharu Mitsumoto

12 pages. Not much of a story. A guy decides to get away from his life and goes hitchhiking.

「オレの青春を聞けこの野郎!」 東陽片岡
"That Guy Listened to the Springtime of My Youth", by Kataoka Touyou

4 pages. Two guys at a bar are talking about their favorite rock, including Pink Floyd and Grand Funk Railroad, and a third guy gets upset, being a fan of Japanese female singers. The two ignore him and keep talking.

「黒寿司十八番」番外篇9 根本敬
"Dark Sushi 18 - Extra Story 9", by Takashi Nemoto

(Nemoto first appeared in Garo in 1981 and was a regular after that. Considered to be an avant-garde artist.)
Basically 4 pages of strange images appearing above the head of someone lying in bed. Muddy and hard to make out individual details in any of the panels. The above panel is the best of the set.


There's a good thirty pages of text and reviews as well. Some of the reviews are of etchi comics, a mention of the movie "Ghost World", and some discussions of music CDs and upcoming concerts. The last 2 pages are "Rack Focus", a montage of XXX film footage mashed up ala a National Lampoon magazine gag.


Summary - There's really nothing here that stands out and says "read more of me!" "Honey Satin" isn't bad but it seems to be a one-shot. "Log King Erickson" shows some promise, and "Bird Book" is whimsical enough to do well in a children's picture book. Nothing that I'd want to spend money for to get the next issue of AX, though.

As with Garo, some of the artists here have made a name for themselves, and others never show up again. Some of the manga here would do all right in weekly Morning magazine or maybe monthly Afternoon.


I guess I shouldn't be surprised at serendipity any more, either. There's a two page ad in this issue for a special manga exhibit at the Kawasaki City museum featuring Garo artists Kuniko Tsurita and Shouhei Kusonoki. The KCM has a good collection of past exhibit books, and that's where the "Shonen Sunday/Shonen Magazine DNA" exhibit had been held. It's about a 45-minute bike ride from my apartment, so I may try going there soon to see if they still have copies of this specific book.

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