Monday, June 20, 2011

LOOKING BACK AT SECRET COMICS JAPAN

Last week I spent a lovely couple of hours re-reading back issues of PULP off my shelves (for research for my Usamaru Furuya post). While most all of the series that ran in PULP have been collected in their own trade paperbacks (though I believe they are all out of print other than Uzumaki), and some of the best essays and columns were collected in "Fresh Pulp", there really is nothing quite as fun as reading these comics in serialized form, running alongside each other!

As an extension of the PULP experiment/enterprise, the editors (including Jason Thompson, Izumi Evers, Carl Gustav Horn and others I'm surely forgetting) worked with Chikao Shiratori (an ex-GARO editor) to put together an anthology called Secret Comics Japan. I've previously posted about this important collection which (along with Comics Underground Japan and, to a lesser degree, Sake Jock) is a key piece of reading for any Same Hat reader.



I have really distinct memories of first encountering this book when Evan brought it along on our cross-country road trip to get me out to Stanford in 2001. This book is where I first encountered Shintaro Kago, as well as Furuya's PALEPOLI strips and Makoto Aida's groundbreaking MUTANT HANAKO. At the time of Secret Comics Japan's publication, PULP ran an overview of the state of "indie manga" in Japan in the early-2000s, as well as detailed notes on each story included in the anthology. I found it pretty fascinating to revisit this stuff, and have included large scans for your reading pleasure below:

CLICK EACH PAGE FOR THE FULL-SIZE IMAGE:

(Interview about PULP x SECRET COMICS JAPAN, page 1)

(Interview about PULP x SECRET COMICS JAPAN, page 2)

(LOOKING AT: The Life of Momongo, Gedatsu Man)

(LOOKING AT: Swing Shell, JR.)

(LOOKING AT: Heartless Bitch/Painful Love, Punctures)

(LOOKING AT: Mutant Hanako)

(LOOKING AT: Editor Woman, Palepoli)

(A hilarious "rating" of each story in terms of Gore, Porn-ness, Huh?, Laffs, and other traits)

10 comments:

saicoink said...

Wow, such memories. Thanks for this. I read the book in its entirety when it came out, but I actually still do not have a copy in my possession. II think it was because of reading Editor Women that at the time when I drew comics I would print out the text from the computer and paste it on to the originals...

Brendan said...

I bought this book by accident, on ebay years ago. The seller listed the wrong book and I ended up with this... a good mistake!

Kittysneezes.com/Rev. Syung Myung Me said...

I'm honestly kinda baffled by the vague "OH NOES!! UPSETTING!" things w/r/t Kago. His stuff doesn't trigger any of that in me AT ALL, and I can be kinda wussy when it comes to gore sometimes. Kago's stuff, to me, is just brilliant and experimental in all the best ways, and I would basically adore having a huge, translated phonebook of his stuff. I'd probably just have to carry it around with me at all times.

Kittysneezes.com/Rev. Syung Myung Me said...

(that said; SCJ was my first exposure to Kago's brilliance, and I didn't know it at the time. All I knew was that "Punctures" was a goddamn great story.)

ryan said...

@saicoink: Oh nice, glad to hear you had the same experience! I read a borrowed copy from Evan and only got my own later later after college (used in Mountain View at Book Buyers)

@Brendan: Sounds like a really nice discovery!

@Kittysneezes: Punctures is one of my favorite stories in the book-- it's more psychological horror/paranoia than some of the other stuff he's known for, and I love that about it (less formalist, more about OCD and obsession).

In one sense, I don't think Kago triggers on the "gore" tip really either; but that said, it's definitely oversimplification to say Kago's JUST experimental and not objectionable to a TON of reasonable, even "edgy" readers. Case in point, I was looking at the book Punctures came from a few years back for another story to translate (for an anthology that never happened, long story oh well) and there literally wasn't one manga in the whole book without some form of sexual assault depicted. It was ludicrous in many of the stories, but still... that shit is a hard sell to the vast majority of readers, rightfully so.

Stephen W said...

Ryan,

I'm sure several have already asked this at various points, but do you know whether there have been any plans laid to start publishing Kago's work in english?

ryan said...

@Stephen: There has been talk now and then but nothing official as of yet. I recently (as in, last month) heard some revived talk about a small book (80-120 pages) of his stuff coming out, but I don't have any more details than con chatter at this point :)

Anonymous said...

Wow, awesome. I never got to read the actual issues of Pulp, just SCJ and the collected volumes of series, so this is new to me. Any chance you could throw up scans of the unused Palepoli pages?

Joseph Luster said...

This is one of my all-time favorite collections. I remember being especially blown away by Mutant Hanako when the book first came out. So wild.

o0o said...

Heck yes what an awesome collection. my first introduction to Kago. i wish there were a translation of the complete Palepoli, those little 4-frame experiments were brilliant.