So in the latest “shocking twist” Captain America is revealed to be and always have been a Hydra agent and sympathiser. And it’s not a hoax, not a dream, not an imaginary story:
SPENCER: Issue 2 will lay a lot of our cards on the table in terms of what the new status quo is, but the one thing we can say unequivocally is: This is not a clone, not an imposter, not mind control, not someone else acting through Steve. This really is Steve Rogers, Captain America himself.
And of course, this being comics, there’s a zillion ways all of this could be true yet the status quo restored inside of a year or whenever the twist loses its novelty. Everybody knows this is a ratings stunt with no real meaning behind it, just like when Sam Wilson got to be Cap for a while. But, you know, having Cap die for a while or having a different person behind the mask for a while or whatever other stunt you could think of is completely different from turning him into a goddamn nazi. A hero created by two Jewish kids from New York, who punched out Hitler in his very first appearance, a full year before America would join the war against the nazis. Even in an industry rife with shitty stunts, this is a particularly shitty stunt. It’s also exactly the sort of stunt you’d expect from a penny ante industry like comics, but you’d think Disney would be a bit more sensitive about such a stunt reflecting badly on the movies if too much mainstream media pay attention to it…
So I’ve been reading the manga version of flying Witch today after being well impressed by the anime adaption. An adaptation always changes things and it was interesting to see how the anime had changed and improved on some the gags in the manga like the weed pulling gag or Makoto getting lost on the way to her own bedroom. Just by having more control over timing these jokes have a better comic beat. There’s only so much you can do in a manga to control the reader’s flow of time: it works better to see somebody go left, wait a second and two then go right than to see the same thing in two side by side panels. Nevertheless timing in a manga can be perfect as well, as we can see in the two pictures shown here. First we have the setup above, which comes a few pages before the payoff below, which takes up an entire page. By using full length, short panels the mangaka perfectly controls the reader’s timing: each panel takes about a second to read, gving you three seconds of build-up before the payoff in the last one.
It works perfectly, but in the context of a monthly manga that has twentytwo pages per installment, it comes at a significant cost: the payoff itself is an entire page and including setup it’s five pages of story being used for a single joke. That’s a lot. It’ll be interesting to see if and how the anime adapts this scene, which may be a minute long, if that? A lot less costly in the context of a twentytwo minute episode. Which also explains why the anime could expand on these jokes whereas the manga couldn’t: it’s more efficient.
Just look at that picture. Don’t you just want to join them under there? I love the detail Umina Chika puts in panels like this in Sangatsu No Lion. The crowded, cramped nature of the panel underscores the coziness of the living room at new year’s eve, everybody snug under the kotatsu, cats and all. It’s a bit of gentle humour to set the scene before the mood turns serious. A pity this series doesn’t have an official English translation yet.
So that’s a portion of the bookcases in my living room, floor to ceiling Billies, slightly overstuffed, which go all the way from the entrance to the kitchen past three walls right up to the windows overlooking the garden, leaving just enough space for my computer desk. There isn’t much room anymore for new bookcases, nor all that much more room in the existing ones for new books. So why isn’t more manga available in ebook form? Why can’t I buy Akira as an ebook?
Mixing fantastic elements into a standard slice of life/romance/comedy manga is nothing new: what sets Kanojo wa Rokurokubi apart is how low key it’s done. For all practical purposes Kanoi Natsuki is a normal high school girl even if she’s a rokurokubi, a traditional Japanese monster with a hugely elongated and stretchable neck (which can be very handy if you want to cool your head in the fridge without leaving your room). She has two friends she hangs out with, one of which is another traditional Japanese monster (youkai) type, the other of which always wears a mask covering her face, as well as a childhood friend she still hasn’t quite admitted to herself she’s in love with. The stories are typical slice of life stuff as she struggles to define her relationship with that childhood friend and whether or not she wants to do anything with him
I like Nieki Zui’s artstyle, who draws much more realistic figures and faces than you’d normally see in this type of manga, with the characters emotions similarly cool and understated. It gives the series a bit of weight, a feel that these are real people rather than a collection of tropes. The humour is again cool rather than exaggerated, which works well with the overall style of the series. What I also like is that the existence of these youkai is treated in the story as no big deal. People are aware that they exist, it’s no secret nor a huge stigma and basically nobody cares that Kanoi can stretch her neck really really long. Unless they’re hit in the back because she sleep stretches in class that is.