31 Oct, 2008

Hallowinis, 10/31/08

By: Katherine Dacey and Michelle Smith

In honor of Halloween, we decided to post a special edition of Manga Minis that focused on the holiday’s lighter side: ghosts, witches, candy, and trick-or-treating.

What can you expect to find in your treat bag? Two manga with movie tie-ins—Ghostbusters: Ghost Busted (Tokyopop) and The Nightmare Before Christmas (Disney Press), a little-known adaptation of Tim Burton’s 1993 movie—as well as the Ultimate “Twisted” Edition of i Luv Halloween (Tokyopop) and the final volume of Sugar, Sugar Rune (Del Rey). Hey, we’re not killjoys at PopCultureShock—we’re firm believers in Three Musketeers and M&Ms, and would never post the equivalent of raisins, toothbrushes, or popcorn balls, no matter how healthful.

Ghostbusters: Ghost Busted

Art by Chrissy Delk, Maximo V. Lorenzo, Michael Shelfer and Nate Watson; Stories by Nathan Johnson and Matt Yamashita
Tokyopop, 186 pp.
Rating: Teen (13+)

Ghostbusters was my favorite movie when I was eleven years old. I’d seen it in the theater countless times, could recite all the good lines, and owned a 45 RPM of the theme song which I played until my parents were on the verge of insanity. So when I saw Tokyopop’s Ghostbusters: Ghost Busted anthology, I was curious: how did the manga compare with the movie? Alas, the answer turns out to be poorly, as the art and writing seldom reach the giddy heights of the 1984 original.

Part of the problem can be chalked up to the book’s structure. Ghost Busted is, essentially, a four-chapter story bookended by two self-contained shorts. That set-up might be OK if the principal story was internally consistent, but the tone and artwork vary considerably from chapter to chapter, a product of too many cooks fussing over the stew. (In this case, one writer, two artists, and two toners.) The other problem bedeviling Ghost Busted is quality. Consider Matt Yamashita’s two contributions, “The Theater of Pain,” a jokey tale about a haunted musical, and “The Devil Wears Nada,” a goofy story about a designer hawking possessed couture. “Theater of Pain” is terrible, marred by a tone-deaf script, dated theater references (dude, Miss Saigon closed ages ago), and stiff, amateurish art that makes it fiendishly difficult to figure out what’s happening. “The Devil Wears Nada,” on the other hand, boasts snappy dialogue, snazzy visuals, and jokes that work equally well for readers who remember the original movie and those too young to have seen its animated spin-off. Artist Chrissy Delk brings a stand-up comedian’s timing to the layout, knowing when to pause for a good sight gag and when to keep the visuals flowing. It’s too bad that Delk and Yamashita didn’t collaborate on more tales, as “Devil” is the strongest entry in this uneven anthology.

–Reviewed by Katherine Dacey

i Luv Halloween: Ultimate Twisted Edition

Art by Benjamin Roman, Story by Keith Giffen
Tokyopop, 496 pp.
Rating: Older Teen (16+)

Are you a fan of Spike and Mike’s Twisted Festival of Animation? If so, you might enjoy i Luv Halloween, a black comedy about five kids who seek revenge on an elderly neighbor for giving them apples on Halloween. At least, that’s where the story begins—by the end of its three-volume run, our trick-or-treating heroes have murdered a police officer, disemboweled a neighbor, tangled with zombies, and thwarted an alien invasion. The series might have been fun if Benjamin Roman and Keith Giffen weren’t so intent on pushing the envelope with truly tasteless jokes and crude fan service. (Hot news flash, guys—if the creators of South Park can’t make abortion jokes funny, neither can you.) The artwork is just as lousy as the humor; if anything, Finch, Mr. Kitty, Pig Pig, and Moochie resemble Garbage Pail Kids. About the best thing I can say for this gory, unfunny book is that Tokyopop has done a superb job of tricking out the omnibus edition with durable covers, cool extras (a bonus comic, instructions for making a Pig Pig mask), and colorized artwork. That’s right—Tokyopop pulled a Ted Turner on Roman and added color to every panel of the series. In this case, however, the retouched version is a marked improvement over the original, bringing new clarity and balance to Roman’s designs.

The bottom line: if you adore cartoon kiddies who talk and act like characters in a Quentin Tarantino flick, i Luv Halloween might be your cup of tea. All others are advised to seek laughs—and thrills—elsewhere.

–Reviewed by Katherine Dacey

Sugar Sugar Rune, Vol. 8

By Moyocco Anno
Del Rey, 208 pp.
Rating: Ages 10+

As someone who never played with Barbies, My Little Ponies, or Easy Bake Ovens, I had a hard time overcoming my deeply ingrained disdain for girly things and reading Sugar Sugar Rune, an all-ages tale about two young witches named Vanilla and Chocolate. There were plenty of ultra-femme details to set my teeth on edge: button-cute familiars, heart-shaped crystal wands, tiaras, poofy dresses, cute boys with cutesy names. Even the premise sounded impossibly girly, as Vanilla and Chocolate compete to become the next queen of their homeworld by making human boys fall in love with them.

I should have known, however, that Moyocco Anno would infuse this super-sweet confection with some spice. Early in the series, for example, the demure Vanilla collects more hearts than the tomboyish Chocolate, whose brash, confident demeanor initially terrifies the boys. Yet it doesn’t take long for Chocolate to gain the upper hand as the boys that do fall for her fall hard, yielding more valuable hearts in the process. (As in a videogame, each heart has an assigned value, from the lowly five-point yellow heart—associated with fear—to the 3,000 point blue heart—associated with respect—to the 5,000 point crimson heart—associated, natch, with passionate love.) Anno’s art is another big plus. Though her scenes spill across the page with no obvious panel boundaries to constrain or organize the layout, the story flows beautifully. Her character designs are the perfect mixture of cute and sassy, with big, sparkly eyes and smart-looking outfits that would be the envy of Gwen Stefani. Even Anno’s action sequences are competent, as she demonstrates a shonen manga-ka’s flair for drawing monsters and weapons; at the same time, however, she manages to assimilate these battle scenes into the story without compromising its softer, more feminine aesthetic.

So even if you share my dislike of all things pink and sparkly, I encourage you to give Sugar Sugar Rune a try—for its superb artwork, its subversive storytelling, and its sheer exuberance. It’s a genuine treat.

–Reviewed by Katherine Dacey

Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas

By Tim Burton and Jun Asuga
Disney Press, 176 pp.
Rating: Not rated

When first I spotted this slim volume in the manga section of a chain bookstore in town, I assumed it was an OEL media tie-in from TOKYOPOP, like Legends of the Dark Crystal or Return to Labyrinth. Closer inspection, however, reveals that it actually is Japanese, published by Kodansha in 2004.

I’m a little surprised to see that Disney Press did not flip the art or translate sound effects, since I assume they were marketing this title at least in part to fans of the movie who might not ordinarily be manga readers. The art is admirably accurate, with some characters (Dr. Finkelstein and Lock, Shock, and Barrel in particular) looking exactly like their movie counterparts. The only slight difference is Sally who, because of the limitations of the medium, has lost her light blue tint.

The storyline is preserved without much modification, and some scenes quote dialogue from the film verbatim. Unfortunately, song lyrics are not included, and the text inserted in their place often fails to achieve the same impact. Here’s a comparison of the scene at the end of the film where Jack joins Sally in the graveyard.

Film:

Jack: My dearest friend, if you don’t mind,
I’d like to join you by your side.
Where we can gaze into the stars
Together: And sit together,
Now and forever.
For it is plain, as anyone can see,
We’re simply meant to be.

Manga:

Jack: Sally. I hope you don’t mind the company.
Sally: Jack…
Jack: Sally…
Sally: Jack…

And that, in a nutshell, is the whole reason this earns a C. It doesn’t do anything that would annoy a hard-core fan, but it’s just not as good as the original. For the ultimate experience, one should really just watch the film instead.

–Reviewed by Michelle Smith

2 Responses to "Hallowinis, 10/31/08"

1 | swanjun // soliloquy in blue » Blog Archive » The Nightmare Before Christmas by Tim Burton and Jun Asuga: C

October 31st, 2008 at 8:28 am

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[...] This isn’t OEL, surprisingly, but a manga form media tie-in published by Kodansha in 2004. I reviewed it for the special Halloween edition of Manga Minis. You can find the review here. [...]

2 | MangaBlog » Blog Archive » Monday news roundup

November 3rd, 2008 at 6:27 pm

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[...] Phil Guie reviews Yonen Buzz: Plastic Chew and the staff pitches in for short takes on Halloween-friendly manga and other assorted titles at Manga Recon. Dan Grendell focuses on new and classic horror manga in [...]

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