Sunday, April 22, 2012

Commentary: Comic Beam

I've finally given up on being selective when buying magazines to review, and just grabbed the first 4 on the shelf (including Jump X and SQ Jump). The next one up is Comic Beam. I'm not really sure why I was putting off getting CB. Maybe it was the constant appearance of guy statues on the cover. But, it had carried Desert Punk and Emma, which means it can't be all bad.


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

Comic Beam, monthly. 540 yen, 520 pages.
I'll start right out and say that there's nothing here I recognize. Desert Punk is gone. So is Emma and King of Thorn. What is left is what the wiki entry describes as "an alternative magazine". (Started in 1995, at best its circulation is about 25,000.) And I guess that's the best way to describe it. The artwork is consistently better than that in AX, the current definitive example of alternative manga, but that may not be saying much. The art in CB, like in many of the magazines I've been reviewing lately, is all over the map. The stories are aimed at an older male audience, with genres including history, fantasy, vampires and slice-of-life.


(Wet Moon)

There really is only one popular title right now, and that's Thermae Romae, which has been animated on TV. The live-action film is coming out at the end of this month. The story revolves around a Roman architect who is having trouble coming up with new ideas. He finds a tunnel under a bath house, and it takes him to modern day Japan. He then creates his own spa in his own time, using the technology he gets from the future. The artwork is a little rougher than I was expecting from the cover, and the character's faces look a bit chunky. But, there's a cameo appearance by Lee Van Cleef and that's all I really care about (Van Cleef is one of the greatest western actors of all time).


(Thermae Romae)

I guess it should be expected that for magazines that come out in March, there's going to be at least some commentary on the 3-11 earthquake in most of them. CM has two stories in this issue. The first is 3.11 Friday. The main character goes to a net cafe to watch anime DVDs and fill up on the free soft drinks. As he's considering hitting on the woman working the front counter, the earthquake strikes and all of the books on the shelves come pouring down on him. He goes home to find that all of his belongings are strewn about on the floor of his apartment. The second story is entitled Genpatsu Genma Sakusen (Nuclear Reactor Phantasm War). One year has passed following the Fukushima reactor meltdown and hydrogen explosions. Two guys are doing independent research on what led to the catastrophe. Genpatsu is remarkable in that there are almost no manga artists confronting the government on their culpability leading up to the explosions, of TEPCO's mismanagement or of the nuclear agency's manipulation of the public in having new plants built around the country. It'll be interesting to see where this manga ultimately takes the readers.

As for the rest of the magazine, we have:

Wet Moon, by Kaneko Atsushu
Chapter 1 starts out with a surreal experience revolving around a guy that enters an abandoned building and finds himself talking to an alien in a wheelchair on Georges Meilies "Trip to the Moon" set. Nice art, great concept.

Scatter
A mild-mannered guy gets bullied by his cro-magnon-like mother.

The Bloody Sukeban Chainsaw, by Rei Mikimoto
Characters with weird faces and huge almond eyes fight each other - one side in steel armor, the other with a chainsaw.

Niwaseki Anhai
In this chapter, a seagull visits a Polynesian village, then dreams of becoming a Bird of Paradise, before finding itself back home and being just a seagull. The villagers are drawn in a very cartoony style, but the seagull is nicely cute.


(Itte Miyoon, Yatte Myoon)

Itte Miyoon, Yatte Miyoon, by Jun Hanyunyuu
I'm not exactly sure about this one. The artwork is along the line of cut woodblocks, and the story appears to be about vampires running a ramen shop and getting into street fights. I like it in a way, I guess.

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There's one freebie - a nicely-made folding fan with the artwork from Thermae Romae. Since this summer promises to be hot and humid, a fan that is easy to carry and use will be welcomed. Regarding the rest of the magazine - if you like AX, you'll like Comic Beam.

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Dates for 4/23 to 4/30:

Birthdays (10):
Hank ("Simpsons") Azaria, 4/25/1964
Carol Burnett, 4/26/1933
William Shakespeare, 4/26/1564
Philip E. ("No Truce with Terra") High, 4/28/1914
Jay Leno, 4/28/1950
Terry Pratchett, 4/28/1948
Michelle Pfeiffer, 4/29/1958
Jack ("Legion of Space") Williamson, 4/29/1908
Carl Friedrich Gauss, 4/30/1777
Larry Niven, 4/30/1938

Died (12):
William Shakespeare, 4/23/1616
Bud Abbott, 4/24/1974
Pat Paulsen, 4/24/1997
Clifford Simak, 4/25/1988
Lucille Ball, 4/26/1989
Anne ("A Story of O") Desclos, 4/27/1998
George Alec Effinger, 4/27/2002
Benito Mussolini, 4/28/1945
Alfred Hitchcock, 4/29/1980
Joanna ("And Chaos Died") Russ, 4/29/2011
Adolph Hitler, 4/30/1945
Richard (children's writer) Scarry, 4/30/1994

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