ComiPress: First of all, please introduce yourself! Who are you? What do you do?
John Gallagher: I'm from Ireland. I've lived in Japan for over ten years. I'm especially drawn to small subcultures (like male geisha) and minor artists (like Miura Jun). I'm a translator and sporadic writer.
ComiPress: How did you first get into the Manga Zombie translation project? How did everything come together? And how did it end up being published on ComiPress?
John Gallagher: I've been researching the male geisha subculture for the last few years. A friend set up a meeting with Udagawa-san because he's well-known as a researcher on everything arcane and offbeat. He showed up with some insanely recondite sound recordings of a male geisha taken in 1969. He also gave me a copy of Manga Zombie, and I decided to translate it during 2007.
ComiPress Manga Zombie: Author's Postscript
Gentle reader, if you've persevered this far, I'm sure you understand that I'm a pretty unusual manga fan. Maybe that's going too far. Maybe I'm not even a manga fan at all. The thing is, post-80s manga do nothing for me whatsoever. They come out in droves in magazines and book versions, and I scarcely glance at any of them.
During the 80s the manga scene forged ahead in terms of production quality and sales volumes. But the market started to shrink just as the Japanese version of Manga Zombie was published in 1997. Even so, the Japanese manga market is still vast in scale, and the art form gets a lot of hype from the government (and support from the masses) as one of those contents-rich industries that we Japanese can all feel really proud and pleased with ourselves about. Doctorates are written on manga, and have been for a good ten years. There are specialist manga critics, and cetera.
Panelosophy - Growing Up Manga
by Chloe Ferguson
It can hardly be called financial summertime, but for manga, the living's been easy. Each year has heralded news of new licenses, bigger sales growth and expanding distribution, particularly in chain bookstores-a kind of manga cladogenesis that continues each quarter. But underneath all the USA Today lists and Bookscan figures lurk several troubling questions, foremost among them what kind of end is being achieved by all this growth, and indeed, whether it's sustainable as the first "manga generation" ages into unknown territory.
From Kajiwara Ikki Part 2: Searching for the Dark Side of Kajiwara Ikki
The search for the Dark Side of Kajiwara doesn't stop with his early Lunatic Period. We press onward into his Golden Age for further rich troves of the extreme...
Kajiwara Ikki's 'Conditions of Manhood' (Otoko no Jōken) came out in Shonen Jump during the early 70s. The series was penned by Kajiwara and drawn by Kawasaki Noboru, in a revival of the combo responsible for the smash hit 'Star of the Giants' (Kyōjin no Hoshi). This time round, the story centered on an aspiring manga artist rather than a would-be baseball pro, but all the duo's familiar elements were still there – yakuza mobsters, desperate poverty and extreme plot twists. For all the success of 'Star of the Giants', however, the core readership of Shonen Jump – tender in years and sensibilities – didn't take kindly to the succession of graphic slaps in the face that made up 'Conditions of Manhood'. But the short-lived series had a longer afterlife. In later years, manga fans of a certain stripe re-approached 'Conditions' with fresh eyes, and found that it was an outstanding guidebook to Kajiwara's extreme world in general.
Panelosophy - Retro Hits
by Chloe Ferguson
In the upcoming year of licensing, old is new. Barely two months into 2008, and the list of pre-1980 manga titles set to street is both sizeable and various. From Tezuka to Takemiya, the trend of mining manga's history is here to stay.
When it comes to older titles, U.S. manga companies have been less than forthcoming, largely thanks to the awkward transitional period of figuring out just who older titles should be aimed at. Viz tentatively broached the topic early in 2002, first releasing volume two of Osamu Tezuka's Phoenix as a standalone single book, while later (and rather haltingly) releasing the other volumes in the series. The effort proved less than successful, but Viz's handling of Phoenix was an unfortunate victim of hazy target marketing and minimal support; the book has always been a rara avis in bookstores and failed to strike a chord with any particular readers.
From Kajiwara Ikki Part 1: The Dangerous Charm of a Dark World
Let's get straight into Kajiwara Ikki's Lunatic Period (late seventies). This started when he shifted his focus to seinen-shi magazines aimed at young male readers. From this platform, he launched a series of ultra-violent karate-themed gekiga, including 'Karate: Hell Version' (Karate Jigoku-hen), 'New Karate: Hell Version' (Shin Karate Jigoku-hen) and 'Human Lethal Weapon' (Ningen Kyōki). These works didn't enjoy a warm reception by any means from the average gekiga fans of the time. Comments ranged from "He just recycles the same characters and plots over and over." to "It's too sadistic, and there's too much porn content."
Granted, these gekiga never achieved the immense popularity of his earlier works written for more juvenile readers, like 'Star of the Giants' (Kyōjin no Hoshi) and 'Tomorrow's Joe' (Ashita no Joe). And I have to admit that the storylines are basically all reheated. But, when you really think about it, this later body of work has a special significance precisely because it never sold well. Here, Kajiwara was truly able to express aspects of himself that he'd never done before.
Incredibly Strange Manga part 4 Dark Side of Gekiga: Decade of Gekiga
Panelosophy - Year in Design: 2007
by Chloe Ferguson
Part marketing compass, part demographic indicator; how manga is packaged can often tell you more than any press release ever will. 2007 in particular began with an overhaul of manga ratings systems, particularly on the part of Tokyopop, and rightfully so--many of TP's age estimations were [and still remain] laughably off the mark. Age rating revisions on the part of most publishers also act as a sort of fallback in controversial times; the world has seen enough young-child-violent-manga-shocked-parents stories to know that companies can always point to the ratings and cry "it's marked 13+!"
By Chloe Ferguson
An ongoing conversation about the philosophy behind manga both in the U.S. and abroad.