Sunday, November 20, 2011

Commentary: Weekly Morning

(All rights belong to their owners. Images used here for review purposes only.)

I've had a long-running love-hate relationship with Weekly Morning. On the one hand, it has some really dumb, or really badly drawn manga that I dislike looking at. Currently, this includes Cooking Papa (a story where every chapter contains a problem that can only be solved by introducing a new recipe) and Kami no Shizuku (where characters are transported into wild flights of fancy on the mere sip of an over-priced wine). On the other hand, Morning also serializes Chi's Sweet Home (a cute story from the point of view of a stray kitten), and Billy Bat (about a bat). Past manga includes What's Michael, Devil Lady, Gon and perhaps the greatest of them all - Vagabond.

What's Michael and Gon were both great gag strips featuring animals, with pro-level artwork and dead-on comic timing. Chii's Sweet Home isn't nearly at the same level, but the Japanese used is easy to follow, making it good learning practice. I love Naoki Urasawa's Yawara and Pineapple Army, so I'm interested to see what he does with Billy Bat. However, his intrigue/suspense stories tend to wander so far around the map that I prefer to wait until several of the collected volumes have come out and read them start to finish several times. As for Vagabond, this is just pure magical genius, both in the art and the storytelling. Unfortunately, it looks like Inoue fell ill back around the beginning of the year and the series has been on hiatus since then. Book Off has used copies of the last volume, #33, and the story runs up to about where the chapters on Manga Fox end. A year ago last Fall, NHK ran a 1-hour special on Inoue, hyping the fact that Vagabond was nearing its final climax, so I'm betting that if/when he recovers and starts drawing again, sales of Morning are going to explode, as will those for the last book, #34.

(Uchu Kyoudai)

Morning is aimed at an adult male audience, with an emphasis on food (Cooking Papa), drink (Kami no Shizuku), sports (soccer - Giant Killing, baseball - Gurazeni, boxing - Rise Shoulder), 4-panel gags, slice of life (A Lion from the North), yakuza stories, and Edo-era dramas (Hyouge Mono). The artwork is all over the place, with titles that look gorgeous (Kami no Shizuku) and those that are just raw scribbles. A large bulk of them are wish fulfillment (Giant Killing, which pretends that Japan has a world-class soccer team; Silent Service, which pretends that Japan has naval officers that can outmaneuver all other countries, finished; We Are Beatles, which pretends that Japanese musicians are as good at doing rock as the Beatles were; and Uchu Kyoudai, which pretends that Japan has a serious space program). I should mention that Axe artist Shigeyuki Fukumitsu also has a story in Morning. Ignoring all that, I used to buy it religiously just for Vagabond. Now, I just sample the Billy Bat chapters.

Weekly Morning is 320 yen for about 450 pages. The cover art is usually based on one of the on-going titles. No freebies, but there are drawings for prizes described at the back of the magazine. Odds are that most western fans would get it for We Are Beatles and Billy Bat.

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