Ha, just kidding! Sorry, sensei! It’s actually me, your friendly yet irreverent and over-enthusiastic Belle Waring. I read so much manga, dudes. So much. In Singapore, we use the metric system and everything, (which is way more rational, except for acres which are totes intuitive and based on a meaningful connenction to the land) so I know for certain I read a metric f$^Kton of manga. There are just piles around, and John is like “we’re reading Black Butler now?” Me: “Mmmmmaybe. Zoë said she was going to stop reading it at volume VIII. [For free, online at mangareader.net (since we only own I-V) which, OMG it’s gonna kill the print business! But no, because it bitens the ween.] There were about to be zombies (she’s scared of zombies). 1hr 15 minutes later she said the zombies weren’t as bad as she thought. Sebastian’s hot, so.”
The truth is that we never acquire great amounts of anything until a) John has already bought the full (iff sub 20, for he is an frugal Oregonian) run. Then, slowly, like a hopeful NYC resident of his new summer house in Bridgehampton feeding corn to deer, he coaxes us out by telling us that these are, in fact, excellent manga such as normal people read, and we all ignore him and say things like “you bought the hardback edition of Lois Lane: Superman’s Girlfriend, which is like a moving, 12-minute-long youtube-tribute-to-Paul Walker supercut of the Fast and Furious movies, except of superdickery—we don’t believe a word you say, man. Saying you wanted to read the entire thing to us aloud over a series of like 20 f&c*#ng nights ironically is not a valid objection.” And you shouldn’t feed the deer because they are adorable vermin and they eat every single thing you have every planted that is not actively poisonous to deer (don’t think this isn’t a bigass section at at the nursery). That’s why we haven’t read 20th Century Boys, despite owning the books. Or b) the other way we get stuff is I start to like it (this is the win scenario for my children). When I started reading Naruto, we had volumes 1-23. We now have volumes 1-66, roughly 8 weeks later. Why am I reading thousands of pages of comics about ninjas? Oh, golly, I thought you’d never ask!
When I began to think about this, I intended to write a series of posts of declining seriousness, starting out by telling you to read the greatest manga series/graphic novel OF ALL TIME Pluto, and then descending by stages until I cajoled you around to reading cheesy shojo manga like Kamisama Kiss. (You can watch the anime for free on youtube also—of everything. Strangely pleasing/boring/soothing when they follow the book frame for frame—it being more or less storyboards if you think about it—irritably fascinating when they introducing new elements.) OK, for serious, I don’t think I have read a better work of literature published since 2000 than Pluto, drawn and written by Urusawa Naoki. It is so gut-wrenching that I can’t think about it sometimes. The fractal flip when the previously disparate elements resolve is among the most sickening I’ve read. Not in a tedious Hannibal Lecter way—but kinda?—but no that’s not it, it’s sickening like you flew into clear air turbulence and the plane dropped over a thousand feet and you had the time to glance involuntarily over to your child as your stomach rose into your lungs and her frightened gaze stabbed yours, and you even still had time to notice the blue-white of her eyes, nothing like the stained ivory-colored whites of adults’ eyes, and yet more transparent bluish just around her iris—but with a few tiny red veins drawn on with the finest line, when as an infant she had none…and still the plane fell. Just a bit more. Only a few seconds. The drawing is superb, the layout is superb, the writing and translation is superb.
AND THERE’S A TRICK! It’s a re-telling of a super-classic, well-known, Tezuka Astro-Boy story (which itself is only perhaps 30 pages long?). Like, four things have been modified, max, and those are character or place name changes. So my experience reading it was quite different to that of most Japanese readers or, say, Zoë. I didn’t know what was going to happen, or who it was who wanted to destroy the 8 strongest robots in the world, or what sort of thing Pluto even was. For everyone else it was, how will he do it? Like a magic trick in which you know the desired result, or an elaborate set-up for a joke where you know the punch-line. For you, the presumptive-non-Tezuka-reader, volume 2, in which reluctant warrior North No. 2 must abandon his peacetime profession as the house steward to a great composer in France in order to fight Pluto, is a small Iain M. Banks tragedy, and a very delicious one, that needs savoring, as so few will come our way again. Read Pluto. Give yourself a treat.
Hey, wait, this worked! I can’t possibly even tell you all the myriad reasons why you should read Pluto, much less why I had a personal tragedy befall me unlike any outside childhood when I learned that the US publisher/translator of Gakuen Alice A had gone out of business after putting out vol. 16. I was actually distraught, you can ask John. I was wandering around the house muttering, “I care so much more about Mind-Reader-kun and Mikan-chan than these assholes in Game of Thrones. Autumn may continue fair, and he can kill each and every single ever-loving blue-eyed one of those incestuous fricksticks at a wedding 300 pages from now: I. Don’t. Care. What’s going to happen to Persona? Will Natsume-kun die before he finds Aoi-chan?! AAAAAACK!” The free manga reader peeps helped me out for real, there, ganky, ad-laden page layout from 1998 or no. [Also, shout-out to Stephenson-quoter-kun—I love you man! Keep your nym 4 lyfe!]
Useless final para full of totally irrelevant details that I cannot think of any other place to mention: I will have to explain later why that reveal on whether you can get mangekyo-sharigan eyes (which let you torture people by looking at’em sideways—after being first born into the Uchiha clan natch (so you prolly totally suck BTW)—or, conceivably, getting someone else’s eye-balls/s (so prolly ditto—but hold that thought!)) without killing your best friend was socruce in Naruto 27. (I caused my 20-something employees to fall out laughing recently by declaring that it was a serious problem that the handle/cut-outs on some of these mango-wood and steel chairs were missing, because “the handles are totally cruce!” Cruce rhymes with douche obvs.) OK, next in my string of incomprehensible thoughts, you can have fox-fire, right? Kitsun-ebi? Blue-white flames that play on stuff? You have this if you are a fox yokai (demon) in Japan, so it’s fox-fire, sure. Why do we think it’s fox-fire tho? Given the utter inability of foxes to make any flames whatsoever AFAIK? Right, and if you’re an Uchiha (we’re back in the fictional universe of Naruto here) and you have all this badass ocular jutsu you can get to having ameratsu, which is black flames that go everywhere (until you stop them) and cannot be put out. If you are me you let them keep this /tsu/ phoneme as part of their flame nature (NO ur doing it rong) and think of them as black bitter flames. Maybe like coffee before life-giving condensed milk has been added? Which is known as kopi O in Singapore? CRUCE CORRECTIONS ADDED PER HELFUL COMMENTER JIM HARRISON, CONTRA UNHELFPUL NOTE WRITER. OR POORLY TRANSLATED NOTE WRITER. But it’s because Ameratsu is the sun kami (god)! Her brother is Susanoh-oh, who slew the 8-headed monster serpent that was naturally threatening the world’s happiness. (Like how they allus’ do, serpents. When they aren’t being drafted as ropes to churn the ocean of milk to release the elixir of immortality, and Laxmi, and lots of hot babes. And possibly condensed milk; Indian people may have worked this out, I’m not sure.) I wanted to save you from this tragic lexico-disassociative confusion before you got to Naruto volume 50-something mumble something. This is also why susano-o is a yet further, more awesome stage of ocular jutsu in which you don impenetrable armor of chakra in a form peculiar to you (vengeful, vengeful you), about 100-ft high, that can wield a terrifying sword or (more appropriately?) be an archer—rather than susano-o being a form of ninjutsu peculiar to Louisiana-bound, banjo-duelling ninjas. (If you see what I mean.)
My initial inclination was to put the Zep song “Whole Lotta Love” song here, inviting you to pretend that it says “made a whole lotta sense” and apply that to my post. But then I recall there is a drum solo, so I’ll put a song about kamisamas that is about Ameratsu, and which obliquely suggests that you should not have a fox mononoke to be the guardian (shinshi) of your shrine, pace Kamisama Kiss. (I say this because the fox shinshi look very as if they are going to eat the other shinshi (maybe starting with those goofy raccoon goober dudes) and then all the nommable chibi kami themselves.) Final thought: they have/had wolves in Japan, right? Why everything gotta be about foxes? Wolves are all cool and shit, right?