Monday, December 22, 2008


So, some explaining is in order. It's not a big deal to anyone, but it's time to reveal a minor secret. The cover to the first issue of Electric Ant had a little more to it than initially meets the eye. As noted in the Table of Contents:
QR is a 2D barcode format that's common in Japan but still hasn't caught on yet in backwardsville, America. They're used commonly to encode text, URLs and other secret messages.

If you have a snazzy Japanese or European cell phone, you've probably got a barcode reader built in to the applications. QR is also supported on the iPhone and gPhone. I decided early on to use QR to link to the websites of contributors, and also put a little secret embedded in the cover.

SO! The rub with the contest was that you had to decode the secret URL and then be i) one of the first people to respond, and ii) willing to dish about your first kiss. Here are the results and prizes!


For those that haven't read the zine, the questions from the survey spread are:
1. Name
2. How old were you?
3. Who was it with?
4. Where did it happen?
5. Describe it in 3 words.
6. If you could kiss any historical figure, who would it be?

(THE PRIZE: 3 original hand-painted YOUR FIRST KISS scrolls used in the center spread!)
1. James
2. 12, I think
3. A girl called Octavia from my class
4. Her bedroom
5. Weird but nice
6. Melanie Safka (in her prime)

(THE PRIZE: Three free copies of Electric Ant #1 to hand out to friends!)
1. Ilya Atkin
2. 15
3. My first serious girlfriend
4. A park bench
5. She had braces.
6. Cleopatra

(THE PRIZE: A Suehiro Maruo postcard and pin, from Tacoche in Nakano Broadway Mall.)
1. Vic Wong
2. 19
3. A girl in my dorms, 2nd night there
4. On the 4th floor of Griffiths Hall in my room
5. College is amazing
6. Lorraine McFly circa 1955

(A packet of Same Hat goodies, including the 2007 booklet, a copy of my Your Seat Is My Behind zine, and an advance copy of the 2009 SAME HAT SAMPLER - featuring non-web content like new Hanakuma and Kikuni comics, outtakes from Electric Ant #1 and other surprises.)
1) Eric Nakamura
2) 15 (depends, first one with tongue?)
3) Some chick I don't talk to, never want to remember her again, disgusting
4) In a car, her piece of shit car
5) Smelled like smoke
6) Queen Lillioukulani

I'm mailing out prizes tomorrow! Thanks to the folks that responded, and for everyone that's bought a copy and supported the project. You can start playing with QR using the free, open-source Kaywa Reader. Copies are still very available via the site, and work on issue 2 preparations are underway!

Tuesday, December 16, 2008


Good news for you Soviet-loving manga freaks - my friend Rizzah (with illustrious cohort, Anonymous K!) has delivered another chapter from Dance! Kremlin Palace! by Shintaro Kago over at Wanted: Cheap Manga.

I enjoyed this latest chapter quite a bit. As the Soviet regime launches a 5-year plan to vitalize the nation, Kago ponders how Siberia's tundra is the source of this boom. Of course once they depend on an export, Stalin's scientists have to resort to extreme methods to keep up production of this rare but renewable resource. Killer stuff!

As Rizzah describes Chapter Seven,
This chapter is all about the freezing exports of Siberia. Freezing fish, freezing produce, freezing fear… you know, freezing. Obviously, it takes the usual Kago descent path into madness.

Click to download Chapter 7 from Wanted: Cheap Manga!


Monday, December 15, 2008


The weather is absolute crap out here in San Francisco, and I'm fighting off the beginnings of a cold. Here are some goodies from Same Hat friends that I think you'll all enjoy!



Tuesday, December 09, 2008


I've decided to post my entire 16-page interview with manga master, translator, and author Frederik Schodt on the Electric Ant site! Click here to check it out (it's also linked off the main page for easy navigation).

Fred was gracious enough to meet up with me last winter and discuss his unique personal odyssey with Japan, manga, and Tezuka over coffee for a few hours. If you enjoy this article, please pass the link on to friends and/or support the project (and future issues!) by buying a copy of Electric Ant #1 - still only $8 bucks!

Monday, December 08, 2008


I have't yet met Bharath Murthy of the unique media site, NUMBER21PIX, but I can already tell he is a man after my own heart. Bharath, with his partner Alka Singh, runs a video production company that's made a number of documentary shorts about amateur pornography in India for the NHK, and about call centers in Kolkata (among others).

Bharath also writes about Indian comics and culture on his blog, dabbles in drawing 4koma strips and (from what I can gather) is working on a documentary about manga!

You will be jealous and excited (like I was) to learn that in the course of their trip to Japan, they met a handful of our favorite mangaka. Here are some photos:


Details in this post.


Details in this post.

And finally..... Bharath's favorite manga artist:

Details in this post.

They also visited COMIKET in August:


If you haven't seen it already, the most recent issue of Vice is chock-full of comics and manga. For the "No Pictures" issue, Vice went all out and has featured a number of interview features with artists & designers, including friends of Same Hat like illustrator Matt Lock (featured in Electric Ant #1) and painter Mimi Leung.

Under the tutelage of Editor-in-Chief Jesse Pearson (who provided us with free copies of the Shintaro Kago interview) issue, along with help from Johnny Ryan and Vice Japan editor Tomo, Vice has also expanded the Vice Manga section to include three chill artists.


These are not so much manga, but large illustrations by the hilarious and strange painter/photographer. Click here for the articles on Vice, or check out an excellent biography and gallery of Imiri Sakabashira's art on Bill Randall's site.





9You know him, you love him. It sounds like Kagomaniacs will be a regular page in Vice going forward... very cool!


Click here for the Radio Wada section of Vice. His website is also a great place to head for more of his work.

As a last note, Viceland is also using Kago art as one of its rotating site banners:

Friday, December 05, 2008


Sorry for the lull in posting, friends. I have a list on the wall by my kitchen of posts to write (nine and counting...) but keep getting distracted. Now that we're past Thanksgiving here in the states, I wanted to share a holiday shopping guide for folks heading to Tokyo in the near future.

As mentioned previously with the launch of the Same Hat Guide To Everything (SHGTE!), Nakano Broadway Mall in west-central Tokyo is my favorite shopping area in the world. In addition to stores selling beetles, maid cafes, replica weapon stores, forgotten item shops, and TACO che (the greatest indie/weirdo manga shop in the world), Nakano Broadway is home to a complex of Mandarake shops - 22 individual stores spanning 3 floors! Each shop varies in size, and is dedicated to a different subgenre of manga/anime/toys/fandom. From my trip earlier this year, here is a map of Mandarake, in English:

(click for a giant version of the map - 450k)

You can take a look above and plan your shopping route, specific to your own interests. For me, the greatest shop in Mandarake was the 4th floor shop, Mandarake Maniac Store. There I found a treasure trove of old and rare manga, weird collectibles, an insanely knowledgeable (and rather fashionable) counter staff, and their own in-house manga zine, TRASH. If you're a Same Hat reader, this is the shop for you:

Here are a few shots from my trip earlier this year, of the magical Mandarake Maniacs Store...

Behold the wonder of their stacks! It's a small shop but full to the brim with amazing stuff.

On one wall, there is a glass case for rare stuff and 1st editions.

Lovely and unique books, including a $200 copy of Red Colored Elegy by Seiichi Hayashi

Incredible! An early, $175 edition of Kage by Kazuo Umezu

Sexy ladies and blue tales.

What wonders are hidden in these shelves? This is where I picked up an old copy of Toiretto Hakase for Johnny!

Oh, I'm sorry... were you interested in every issue of Garo ever published?

Or were you looking for the COM back catalog?

Also in effect, nice & cheap paperbacks of Hideshi Hino classics.

Okay, I can't even keep track of this shit anymore.

There are too many freakin' branches here-- Give yourself at least 5 hours at Nakano Broadway to hunt. SERIOUSLY.

And don't forget to check out the UFO Store, Gacha-Paradise, and the Deep Store (Check the map above for details!)

Have you been to Nakano Broadway or the Mandarake shop in Akihabara? Share your stories or recommendations in the comments on this post. Next up: Pics from TACO che, finally!

Wednesday, November 26, 2008


I got a nice surprise today when I found that Scott Green, the anime/manga columnist for Ain't It Cool News, wrote a review of Electric Ant #1 in his newest post!

I'm a big fan of Scott's weekly columns, so it's a real pleasure to be on AICN. In the review, he talks about the first issue of EA overall, with a focus specifically on my 16 page interview with Fred Schodt. Click for the review on AICN.

I was emailing with Fred this week, and he was happy to see the zine. He is honestly still so very under-appreciated for all his manga missionary work, his translations and his numerous and equally insightful books on the non-manga realms of Japanese history and popular culture. (Additionally, did folks know that he & Dadakai co-founder Jared Cook are currently working on the translations for Naoki Urasawa's Pluto series for Viz? That's PERFECT.) For what it's worth, I think I'll put the entire interview on Electric Ant sometime after Thanksgiving...

Spotlight on Electric Ant #1 - By Scott Green:
If you're not reading Same Hat! for their "weekly manga commentary, featuring horror, gag & erotic-grotesque nonsense," rectify that as soon as you're done with this column! I can't see how anyone who is an AICN follower hasn't added the blog to their RSS reader. If you even half agree with Harry Knowles weekly DVD picks, "ero guro nansensu" manga should be on keen interest.

Same Hat!'s Ryan Sands and Evan Hayden have now launched the print zine Electric Ant. Named as a tribute to Philip K Dick and Suehiro Maruo, the first issue features an interview with the man who literally wrote the book on manga, Frederik Schodt, comics strips, NIN Libs, a collection of illustrations that reinterpret or recontextualize a host of "Dark Lords" of popular media (you'll never look at Shredder the same way again) and an annotated photographic tour of Beijing's Dongyue Temple.

Over the summer, I was looking into what's been said about the concept of heta-uma or "good-bad" manga for a piece on Tokyo Zombie (localized by Sands and Hayden).

What I came up was the discussion of Teruhiko Yumura aka "King Terry" in Frederik L. Schodt's Dreamland Japan: Writings on Modern Manga.

"I wanted to draw the picture I wanted in the space provided, rather than tell a story. I started drawing whatever I wanted in each panel, and because I can't draw the same face twice, the character faces all changed." The result was manga with a weird mix of primitivism, energy and dada-ist storylines - a comic where the art, the text and the entire concept fused together in a good-bad style...

At first glance Terry's cartoons appear to be bad art, but on close inspection, they are also good. Hence, they are heta-uma or bad-good. Terry believes that everyone starts as a "bad" artist and tries to become good. But simply becoming "good" is not enough. Artists who try too hard to become "good" emphasize technique over soul, and the life goes out of their drawings; their spirit fails to live up to their technique.

Since reading that, I've been struck with the notion that North America's ongoing conversation on manga still has a long way to go before catching up with Schodt.

For decades, Schodt's 1983 "Manga! Manga!" was the reference source on the subject. In the mid 90's, I remember reading a novel, I think it was one of the Nancy A. Collins' Sonja Blue pieces, that pulled a description of sexual content in manga straight from a panel reprinted in Manga! Manga! A few years ago, when Archie (the red headed guy from Riverdale) did a report on manga in his comic, it read a lot like how Manga! Manga! described the medium.

Schodt's follow-up Dreamland Japan predated the North American manga boom, but it still features breadth and sophistication that's rarely been matched. Set aside for a moment that few North American manga fans have heard of the Avant-garde anthology Garo or even looked at a panel of Doraemon manga. In 1996 Schodt was asking "Do Manga Have a Future?" Now, the trends that Schodt was calling attention to have gotten to the point where commentators are pondering if the west has again fallen in love with another dying Japanese art.

I don't want to apply a tacky label like "gem" or "invaluable" to Sands' interview with Schodt, so, plainly put, if the topic of manga interests you, acquire a copy of Electric Ant.

To do the geek thing and start delineating the field... There's the consumer approach to manga and related pop media. This follows the intended purpose and tracks what's hot. What's the new release? Should you buy it?

There is the academic approach. If you look at what's been said about writings of authors like Susan J. Napier, you'll catch a layperson reaction to the effect that this approach is given to over-interpretation.

Then, there are the people who try to analyze and explain. In this category, there are experts who can authoritatively speak to the subject, then, there are bloggers, podcasters, librarians, AICN columnists and so on who try to offer informed supposition.

From within its DIY framework, Electric Ant offers authoritative insight into the field of manga. Schodt is Schodt. If you don't expect him to be illuminating, you've probably never read/heard him before. But, it has to be said that Sands conducted a brilliantly informed and constructed interview. It starts with the cascading circumstances that made Schodt a manga guru, before looking at the process by which North America adopted its manga reading habits , as well as the current landscape of the medium.

Rather than inside baseball, the conversation offers a savvy, human look into the field. A good example is when the talk turns to manga luminaries, particularly Schodt's late friend Osamu Tezuka, and a keen subject of Sands' interest, Kazuo Umezu. Both of these giants have cultivated cartoonish personas, as much about an image as a real figure; Tezuka in the black beret, Umezu in his striped shirt. The interview succeeds in painting a more fleshed out picture of how they worked and what they aspired to.

Throughout the rest of the zine, whether pop culture or personal subjects are handled grotesquely or irreverently, it's done so in a clever, natural manner. For example, the photo tour offers a look at a 700 year old Daoist temple's catalogue of the tortures of hell, coupled with snide comparisons to Warhammer 40K, Castlevania and Klaus Nomi. I couldn't help but think how often rapid stream of bombardments of irreverence falls short. In this case, both the subject and commentary hit dead on.

In addition to smart geekery with QR codes and such, massive credit to producing appearances by the antagonists from Jem and the Holograms and Go-bots. Shouldn't that be reason enough to seek out a copy?

Electric Ant can be purchased online and at these physical locations.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008


God bless YouTube. I was doing a periodic sweep of familiar search terms, and came across this video from August 21, 1998 (which was posted online a few months ago).

Here is a profile of Suehiro Maruo from a Beat Takeshi variety show (Takeshi no daredemo PIKAN), which features great footage of his work and studio, a shot of him as a sorta-goth teenager, commentary by a horror author that Maruo did book covers for AND... an in-person interview talking about his paintings! Fucking fantastic stuff here:


Same Hat's cerebral godfather, at work in his studio.

Goth Suehiro Maruo was born in 1956 in Nagasaki Prefecture.

Hot lady paintings.

Mr. Maruo in studio being introduced.

Beat Takeshi looks mortified.