Sunday, October 24, 2010

Garo 64


Garo #64, Aug., '69. Cover by Sampei Shirato. 234 pages.


カムイ伝 (Kamui-den) #53


By Sampei Shirato (白土三平). 87 pages.
A summons is sent to the new feudal lord, who wants to get advice from Guntaro. But, the former attache is currently at Dai Kuraya's mansion living it up with a mistress and a bottle of sake. Suddenly, the messenger arrives at the mansion, sending Guntaro into a rage. He returns to the feudal lord's house where they talk about a new problem that is looming over them. The messenger from the now-dead magistrate's household made it to Edo, and the samurai leaders there (probably the bakufu, the Shogun's military advisers) are getting involved. A large number of people are being summoned to Edo to sit before the court.

The woods bandit leader learns that rather than being tortured, he too is being sent to Edo. He ends up riding in the feudal lord's palanquin, while the lord walks along outside. This strange arrangement attracts Kokemaru's attention and he manages to speak to the bandit during a toilet break. Finally, in Edo, all parties gather in front of the court. This includes the lord and Guntaro; various villagers that have been hit by natural disasters; Ukon, Atena and their supporter; and the bandit and a friend the bandit met in the Edo prison. (There's a little confusion here. While the bandit leader had been referred to as Ryounoshin up to this point, and the one that's in the Edo prison looks like Ikkaku, the word balloons are now switched around and it seems that the bandit is really Ikkaku pretending to be Ryonoshin, although this could be a ploy on the part of the real Ikkaku to make it look like the last of Ryounoshin's family has finally been wiped out. Either way, the one prisoner keeps calling the bandit leader "Ikkaku".)

Through the deliberations, the new feudal lord is humiliated by accusations of his cowardice, while Guntaro sits nearby, gloating visibly. Ukon and Atena say what they've observed in Hanamaki village, the bandit leader speaks on his own behalf, and the villagers and village women plead their cases. After about a week, the sentences are handed out. One samurai is ordered to commit seppuku, which he does, and another commits seppuku secretly and bleeds all over the tatami mats before the council notices and beheads him out of sympathy. The prisoner that looks like Ikkaku laughs at his death sentence, and before anyone can attack him, rushes to the stage to take out as many advisers as he can. The guards recover their senses and skewer the prisoner. He says that this is the way a samurai should go out - fighting, and he dies. The bandit leader, now referred to as Ikkaku, sits near the blood stain and mourns his friend.

The feudal lord is just fined some money and has to send certain documents to Edo, which he does happily when he gets home. Guntaro, on the other hand, gets to his mansion only to find that his wife has been slain. His retainers surround him, telling him that he'd embarrassed his lord, and if he doesn't open his stomach up himself, they'll do it for him. Guntaro collapses in fear and the retainers cut him into pieces. He dies. Back at the lord's place, Otomaru suggests that the two of them go to a specific point on the river to do some fishing. However, during the trip, Otomaru tips the boat and the lord goes flying into the water. She jumps after him, and that's the last of them that's seen by the two peasants standing on the shore. Back at the lord's mansion, the lord stumbles into the house, cold and wet, and asks Otomaru to accompany him into the baths, where he then drowns her. As she struggles, she demands to know who the man really is, and he takes off his mask to reveal one of the vassals, Sabu. She dies, and Sabu throws her into the river. Later, the authorities pull out the two bodies - the lord and Otomaru, while the peasants tell everyone that they'd seen the two fall out of the boat and they never surfaced again. Nearby, two masked priests stand and watch. One, a basket priest, is Teburi. The other is Otomaru. They comment that it looks like the ninja council is taking action and killing fellow ninja, with her being one of the targets. Otomaru recognizes one of the pallbearers as Sabu, and Teburi tells her to wait and bide her time until they get more answers. The two of them leave together, while the narrator explains that the dead woman lying next to the dead lord was the random woman that Teburi had hypnotized in the last chapter and had ordered her to act as Otomaru's stand-in, while the woman that had actually killed the lord was another ninja.

Finally, Gon and Shousuke are working the fields of their new village. They decide to go out to the hills to visit another village. The lord there lets them into the courtyard, where they meet some of their former friends from Hanamaki, but it's a trap and a pack of dogs are released on them. The lord says that this is one village where when you arrive, you can never leave. Gon and Shousuke kill a couple of the dogs, then climb over the bamboo fence to join the other prisoners. Unfortunately, one of the prisoners is a bully that had had a run in with them before, and is very happy to have them in his clutches now.



萬古屋事件始末 (The Story of the Manko-ya Incident)


By Yuu Takita (滝田ゆう). 35 pages.
Ok, I'll admit upfront that I had trouble understanding this episode, because of the kanji and cultural references involved. The basic gist is that a customer at the bar (Stand Don), apparently named Bunko Kiken (bunko is usually read as "bunshi", meaning molecule or particle, and kiken is "danger") is at the bar, talking up the other customers and suggesting that they check out some other shop - Manko-ya. After Bunko leaves, the other customers make fun of him. This is followed by a snatch-and-grab theft against some other customer coming out of another bar. The rumors start flying that Bunko was the culprit. It doesn't help that the shop he'd mentioned is now surrounded by police looking for suspicious characters.

The following day, Kiyoshi and friends are playing drums and flutes as amateur chindon-ya (noise makers to advertise a sponsor) to attract kids to watch a kamishibai drama (in kamishibai a street performer recites a story while showing illustrated picture cards to the audience; this was a very popular form of entertainment following WW II). His mother sees him and knocks him on the head for not studying before telling him to take a note to the shop mentioned by Bunko. But, when the two of them get near the shop, they see all the soldiers and his mother gets cold feet and they head the other way. Later, Kiyoshi furtively dodges the soldiers and gets inside the shop only to find that the note had fallen through a hole in his pocket. All he can do is tell the confused old man running the shop "my mother said 'hi'". When he gets back home, his mother asks what happened, and Kiyoshi answers "he said 'hi'".

Bunko is shown lying low in a girlfriend's apartment, and when he goes through his pockets, finds the receipts for Stand Don. He tells his girlfriend that he's never been there and he doesn't know how those receipts got in his pocket. He's thirsty, and upset that the new laws prevent bars from selling drinks early in the day. But, he decides to go to Don later. When he does get to Stand Don, it's empty. Kiyoshi's mother hustles him into the back room, which is a good thing since a soldier sticks his head in a few minutes afterward and doesn't see anyone. The family pushes Bunko out the back door and locks it behind him. Finally, an older man that seems to be Bunko's father or uncle or something, drops by and says that everything had all been a big mistake. He also hands the note back to Kiyoshi's mother, saying that he'd found it on the ground and it apparently came from her. She yells for Kiyoshi, but he's outside drumming up new customers for the kamishibai storyteller.

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What's interesting to me about Yuu Takita's work here is just how much cultural content he packs into his stories, from the nightlife in the bar district, to the games the kids play on the streets, from the clothes the people wear (street clothes and fancy kimono) and the snacks they eat. Even though the artwork is pretty crude, the buildings are detailed, and we get these city layouts that almost allow us to draw full maps of the town. The kids hang out with each other, playing marbles, watching movies at the local cinema, eat dango and watch kamishibai. While Yoshiharu and Tadao Tsuge are lauded for their "everyman" stories, I think that Yuu comes closer to actually showing what life was like following the War.



勝又進 作品集 (Katsumata's Creation Collection) #40


By Susumu Katsumata (勝又進). 6 pages.
Rather than the standard 3- and 4-panel gag strips, we get a guitar-player going around drumming up business for a hostess club, and basically ridiculing the customers. One such customer goes to the bar and finds two of his sons standing outside. They argue then commiserate with each other before leaving. This is then followed by just two 4-panel gag strips.



LoVe CHimE (LoVe CHimE)


By Maki Sasaki (佐々木まき). 12 pages.
More nonsense and surrealistic imagery.



戦後の生の重み (Dignity of Life after the War)
By Tadao Tsuge (つげ忠男). 6 pages.
This is another one of those paired up dialogs, this time with Tadao Tsuge and Susumu Gondou (権藤晋, real name: 高野 慎三 = Shinzou Takano ). As Gondou, Takano drew a number of manga according to the Japanese wiki entry, but there's really nothing on him in English.



雨期 (Rainy Season, Part 1)


By Tadao Tsuge (つげ忠男). 35 pages. This is a featured manga on Nihon-go Hunter this week.
Some time ago, a group of punks ruled the street. Years pass, and two of the punks get together again, one of them being the former leader. They reminisce about the old days. Time has not been kind to them, and the leader wants a bar to sit down at and talk. But, the younger one doesn't understand what the deal is. The younger one also suddenly gets sick and throws up. The leader comments on the smell of blood on him, and the younger one answers that he'd been working at a shop carving up body parts for medical analysis. It's a horrible job and he can't do it any more. The two of them nervously talk around various subjects and the leader finally gets them into a secluded bar. His ulterior motive to to show this nasty growth or wound over his right shoulder blade and upper back. He tells the younger guy to touch it and it feels cold. Another customer at the bar laughs, but quickly looks away. The two leave the bar and head for an unprotected rail crossing where one of them had witnessed a suicide years before. They stand there, thinking about how the town changed, how they don't fit in any more and how convenient it would be to end everything. The last train of the night comes barreling up, and it looks like they decided not to stay in the middle of the tracks after all.



壮烈無土国血戦記 (Brave Bloody Battle of Mutokoku Chronicles) #2


By Kuniko Tsurita (つりたくにこ). 32 pages.
The credits now state that the story is by 二宮修子 with art and inking by Tsurita Kuniko. However, there is still nothing in Japanese for anyone by the name "二宮修子" other than mentions of this particular story appearing in Garo. This is the second half of the story. The travelers set up a campsite on the island and treat it all as a big picnic. The Japanese navy arrives and orders them to go back home and they refuse. By accident, the fat rich kid stumbles on a rock on a hilltop, triggering an avalanche that crashes down on the destroyer. This starts a war with the navy using their big guns, and the travelers using slingshots, swords and a spear. One woman, the one with a spear that loves Edo-period dramas, starts out thinking that if she's going to die here that she'd rather do it by her own hand. However, she pulls her head out of the noose and decides that she'd rather die in a hail of bullets. She gets shot, and dies thinking that neither choice was really all that preferable. A small boat arrives with two men and a lot of film equipment. The travelers think they've been saved, but rather than helping out, the two newbies start filming the battle, and asking people to do a better job of looking good when they die. The prophet that started all of this pulls out his katana to show how a real samurai fights, but he turns out to be incompetent. The prophet tells his assistant to fight for him, and the boy lights the fuse to a pile of gunpowder kegs and bombs. The island blows up, killing everyone but the itinerant priest. The priest turns away, muttering a prayer to the souls of the dead, and he leaves.
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There are a couple sight gags here, including cameo appearances by Tezuka's "pig character", and Fujio Akatsuka's Nyarome cat.



赤地点 (Red Background)


By Seiichi Hayashi (林静一). 10 pages.
This is a surreal set of images that are connected primarily by dialog speculating on "him" (where is "he", is "he" alive or dead, when will "he" arrive", is "he" already here?). In the final panel, there is a hand shown opening a sliding door, with a bright 5-pointed star in the background. You could read in a reference to Communist China if you like.

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