Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Really good month for Del Rey manga, BTW. The second volume of School Rumble has made me a real fan of the manga. I mean, I kind of liked the anime, but the material which was just generally OK as animation really shines in the original manga. Jin Koboyashi's art is at the same time cheerfully old-fashioned and highly polished, and the style parodies are broad enough that I can get most of the aesthetic jokes, while still marvelling at the crisp shounen and sports-manga action. It's both a parody and a pitch-perfect exemplar of the styles at the same time. I'm now really looking forward to all of Harima's mangaka scenes in future volumes, now.

While we're on the subject of crackerjack Del Rey manga, ES (Eternal Sabbath) is pretty damned exciting in its own right. I really, really liked mangaka Fuyumi Soryo's melodramatic Mars, but to a certain extent I have written off that enjoyment as an artifact of it being the second shoujo relationship-comic I had read after the extremely ordinary Peach Girl. But ES (Eternal Sabbath) has that same crystalline, chilly high-drama harshness that made Mars so striking, so entertaining, so... brisk. Soryo has a bitter, Puritan sensibility, an alienation and skepticism about human motivations which flirts with Hitoshi Iwaaki's open sociopathy if never actually embracing the darkness of Iwaaki's Parasyte.

ES is technically science-fiction, about a young man (variably named, and I'm not sure which name they're going to settle on past the first volume...) who can read and "hack" human psyches. He uses this talent to slip through society, inserting himself into the lives of people, and living parasitically off of their ideas of who he is. At the same time, he does indulge in mostly-benevolent manipulation of those around him, and Soryo quickly introduces a "moral centre" character in brain physiology researcher Mine Kujyou. But even Kujyou is presented as an alienated individual, one of those borderline-Asberger types who often gravitate towards the hard sciences. Not so much unsympathetic, as half-clueless and totally lacking in social skills - the type who's prone to cheerfully rattle on about reproductive strategies in lions (IE, males killing their young) at an omiai.

The art is striking - especially the pages dealing with "ES"'s perceptions and manipulations of the minds of those he interacts with - but not particularly brilliant or outstanding. Exactly what was required for the subject-matter. A lot more interesting-looking than Mars, but then, Mars was a romance manga with the occasional knife-fight or motorcycle accident thrown in for spice. Apparently Soryo has the chops for ES's more-challenging material. I'm really looking forward to the next volume.

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