Archive for February, 2017

girl-who-leapt-through-time-bandai-us

Comic adaptations from films are always a mixed bag as the different forms of storytelling don’t always work with a certain story. ‘The Girl Who Leapt Through Time’ is interesting in the fact that the film it is based on, is in itself based on a 1967 novel of the same name meaning that this is essentially the third iteration of the story. It’s also interesting as it’s one of those instances when a successful Japanese animated film is turned into a manga/comic to allow a wider audience to experience the story (as well as making more money).  The book follows the same basic story, but as usually happens, strips quite a few of the side elements to try an create a more streamlined piece.
The film is one of the most heart-wrenchingly beautiful pieces of fiction that I have had the pleasure of watching many times, leading me to wonder how or if the book would do it justice. I wondered how the raw and powerful emotion would translate to a static medium without the aid of music or audible vocal emotion. Now I’m not saying that books can’t have the same level of power as film, because they can and in some ways can achieve it on a far more intense level. This is usually down to the fact that we have been introduced to the story/ characters through description and clever use of written language. When it comes to comics though, I find emotion translates far worse due to the fact that the description is generally no longer written as we have fallen into the ‘show, don’t tell’ mentality of the more visual medium. It doesn’t mean that a comic can’t achieve the same draw of the heart, it just means that the writers and artists need to work closely and try much harder to try and evoke the same kind of level of power as they have none of the liberties of sound and moving image.
They say that ‘a picture is worth a thousand words’ and this is a statement that is generally true of stand-alone imagery, but when you have a book made up of hundreds of images it generally becomes much harder to find the statement true. Most of the images, if stripped back, work as a kind of filler, easing the reader into new environments or allowing the reader to see character movement. There is the odd occasion where an image stands out above the rest and lingers in the mind long after you finish the story. This is how you know that they’ve achieved the power.
Throughout ‘The Girl Who Leapt Through Time’ there are around 6 images that truly stand out with such emotional intensity that they hit the heart hard. Even though I knew what to expect of the story and I knew what was going to happen, I still found myself pulled left and right on an unexpected emotional rollercoaster ride. It’s amazing that fiction can manipulate ones emotions in such a real way as to bring about true feelings and here they’ve achieved it. I found myself audibly gasping at numerous points during the story and can even say that I felt a tear welling in the corner of my eye.
For those who have never heard of ‘The Girl Who Leapt Through Time’, It concerns Makoto Konno, a junior in high school who’s life suddenly takes a turn for the peculiar when she comes across a device that allows her to ‘time leap’. This sets about a series of events that will change her past, present and future forever. At its heart it is a coming of age story about acceptance and love but it is told in a truly interesting way.
Time travel is a plot device that is often used in science fiction as an easier way of telling a basic story in a slightly more interesting way. It’s hard to find a story that truly justifies the use of time travel as story telling device, but here is one of those exceptions. Here the time travelling element is more a visual means of explaining how Konno’s mind is working and where she is in her mental state, rather than showing the effects on the much wider world. It does look at some of the external effects of her new found powers, but these are still shown within her tight unit of friends. With all that’s said and done, ‘The Girl Who Leapt Through Time’ is a beautiful coming of age story that is told in a powerful yet very careful way.
I don’t want to explain much more about the story itself as I don’t want to spoil it for any potential readers, but I can say that it is a story with very little in the way of action but lots of emotional drama that’s far deeper then it first seems.  It’s a nice change from the usual comics that I tend to read and has more akin to fiction like the book ‘Norwegian Wood’ by Haruki Murakami then anything superhero related.
The characters in the story may be few, but each has a deep personality that makes them truly individual from one another. There are only four main characters in the story including Makoto Konno. Each of them work at pushing Konno on her path through the story and help her realise what she wants in life. Her friends Kousuke Tsuda and Chiaki Mamiya both show the contrasts of personality with one being more about studying while the other is more about fun. They work as a visual split in Konno’s mind. We also have Konno’s Auntie who acts as the voice of reason and I Konno’s main guide through the story.  The writer has dialled back some of the other side characters in the story which I was a little sad about as they further pushed emotional buttons in the film, but I guess it does mean that the story is far more streamlined with more focus on an end point. What we do have works brilliantly though and if I hadn’t seen the film I wouldn’t have thought I’d have questioned any of these gripes.
The art throughout is truly fantastic and helps the story flow forwards at a natural pace without ever rushing it. Some of the individual panel images contain so much in the way of emotion, that it’s truly quite a remarkable feat. It’s amazing how an image of a completely fictitious character’s eyes can evoke so much and at the same time feel so real. The character design is just as brilliant, even if they are taken straight out of the film. Everyone is individual making the story easy to follow and means that the artwork never gets confusing. In the art department side of things there is very little, if nothing at all to fault.
‘The Girl Who Leapt Through Time’ is a remarkable story on almost every level, from base enjoyment all the way through to being an emotional rollercoaster.  It really is a truly beautiful masterpiece of storytelling. A good story will take you on a journey, one that will make you forget about the real world until you’ve finished reading. This is one of those stories. How can something so entirely fictitious contain the ability to manipulate real emotions? It’s a question that can be applied to so many stories and can be applied to almost any visual or written medium, but it’s one that can never truly be answered. Why one person feels something while another doesn’t will always be one of those special subjective things that makes each one of us individual and ultimately is one of the things that can be linked to what makes us human.
So how does the adaptation hold up to the film and is it a worthwhile read?
I’d say that the manga holds up remarkably well and works well by itself or as a companion piece to the film. It’s a story that really should be experienced in any of its various mediums. Whichever you choose you’re in for a treat. As an emotional rollercoaster I’d say that the film version may work slightly better due to the added emotional pull that sound can have, but to deny the book of any emotion would be to do it a massive injustice. I have not felt like this after reading a comic in a long time and would argue never to the level.
I’d highly recommend the book and/or film to everyone who doesn’t just look for action in their storytelling and actually wants some truly raw feelings coming out of the words the characters say and the movement of the story. It’s a true masterpiece in any medium and a story that deserves to be experienced by everyone.

Advertisements
thv28c5xc6
This is a review that I should have written a long time ago as this is the book that got me back into reading ‘Marvel’ after many years reading Image, Top Cow and 2000ad publications.  Maybe it was the idea of a strong female character that has flaws and a dark side that appealed to me much. The character of X-23 was slightly reminiscent of the lead females in the Top Cow publications Witchblade and Aphrodite IX which I had been reading at the time. Whatever it was that drew me to the story, I am so happy I gave it a read as none of the magic has diminished over the years.
The story tells the beginnings of the character X-23 and shows how she was raised to be a killing machine, a monster for the government. It’s a far darker story then I was previously used to from Marvel as it touches on some important mental issues while focusing on the darker more sinister side of human nature. The story’s portrayal of some of these issues is far more realistic then the usual superhero fluff, with some of them making the reader truly think and question what’s happening. It’s quite a bleak story with very little in the way of brightness at the end of the 6 issue tunnel. If anything, it gets progressively darker as it progresses to its unforgettably powerful climax.  Craig Kyle and Christopher Yost have created a stunningly well written story that packs so much into the six issues that it’s very hard to fault.  The pacing of the story is carried across with an almost film-like quality to its flow. It balances the deep character driven story with some truly stunning action set pieces in an astonishingly well written way.
The characters are as equally well crafted, each with a purpose driving them forward in the story. This allows for some true emotion to run through the pages that never feels forced or out of place. I’d argue that our lead character of the story isn’t as one would expect X-23. Instead it’s more about Dr Sarah Kinney and her observations and feelings towards her daughter. The story is told from her point of view, from the point of view of a mother watching her daughter being crafted into a monster. The narration feels much like it is directed at X-23 with Kinney explaining the reasons for what’s been done to her and how truly sorry she is.  Seeing the story through Kinney’s eyes adds so much emotion and power to what’s going on, it’s hard not to get caught up into her pain and suffering.
X-23/Laura Kinney is such a brilliant character. This being her first solo series it was made to turn her into a strong relatable individual and in that it succeeds. Prior to this she made her first appearance in the ‘X-men Evolutions’ animated series, with her first comic debut in issue 3 of the series ‘NYX’. She made such an impression in these two small appearances that it was only natural for Marvel to try her out in her own series.  One of the things I truly love about her is how she’s been crafted from a mental stand point. She murders people because she’s told to but she at heart knows it wrong. Since she was born, she has been manipulated into this monstrosity and there is little she can do to escape it. It’s a side of human psychology that isn’t often touched on in this amount of detail in mainstream comics. The people in the labs see her as this monster they can use when at heart she is a troubled teenage girl struggling with real issues and some quite deep depression. She feels so fleshed out and three-dimensional that she could easily be based on a real person.
Before reading this, I had never read a comic where I had felt that almost all of the characters could be real people. If you got away with the claws, X-23 could easily be a person that would perfectly integrate into today’s society and youth culture.
The amount of emotion shown in each comic panel is amazing especially when the emotion is shown through X-23’s eyes. In reality people say that the eyes are the window to the soul and to a certain extent I’d agree. The eyes of a person can tell you so much about how they are really feeling and what they are thinking. This comic achieves this level of power through Billy Tan’s remarkable illustrations. Never have I seen so much power in the eyes of a comic character. This is what helps elevate the character above the usual two-dimensional entities comics are usually filled with.  The art is impeccable with very little that can be faulted. Everything from the page layouts to the character designs is near perfect.
If I had one minor niggle it would be that I’ve never been keen on X-23’s feet claws. I’ve always found them a bit out of place and silly looking. This is just my own personal opinion and I feel like they work to an extent. It’s by no means a major negative to anything to do with the story; I would have just preferred the character to just have the elegant twin claws on each hand.
After rereading this six issue series I am reminded of why it re-kickstarted my true love for Marvel comics. It’s a phenomenal masterpiece of storytelling and is as close to perfection as you can get in both story and art.  For me this is the comic that all others aspire to be like. I would even go as far to say that this is my favourite comic title of all time. It is no surprise that I would recommend this book to everyone who enjoys a good story and an amazingly good time. Check it out, You won’t regret it.
wh
WOW!
Rarely do I read a book completely blind of what it is about, but this had me intrigued by the title and the stark, striking cover. From the title I guess I expected something along the lines of ‘One flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest’ but what I got was unexpected.
What I got was a phenomenally deep and complex study of the intricacies of the human condition presented in an amazingly easy to read and follow story.  The writing flows so unbelievably smoothly that it’s easy to forget sometimes that the author ‘Luke Melia’ is exploring some truly deep emotions and some really powerful themes.
I won’t spoil the story for anyone as watching it unravel in front of your eyes is one of the many pleasures of the book. What I will say about the story though is that it is incredibly dark and at times pretty twisted.  It is definitely not a book for younger readers as it does feature violence, nudity, swearing and themes that could prove disturbing to some. But these points don’t hinder the story; they serve to help reveal the darkness that is inside the human mind. The things that a lot of people like to try and ignore and forget are there. Without such darkness the impact of the story may never have felt as fulfilling and as great as it did. Never did I feel that anything was particularly out of place or un-justified.
As a piece of fiction I find it pretty hard to fault. It moves at a brisk pace and keeps you reading until the very end. I read it all in one sitting and by the end I felt like I had been on an amazing journey.  Each of the characters are fully fledged out and all have reason for being there. Each has their own issues they are fighting and each helps drive the story forwards through some highly unexpected ground.  Every one of the inmates of the asylum feels different and each works to look at a different part of reason or emotion.
The art is equally as brilliant as each issue/chapter is by a different artist thus helping with the almost dreamlike state that the book creates. I will say that some of the art is stronger than others in my view but at the same time I loved all of it and thought that each reflected the situation that the chapters presented in a perfect way.  Each artist has their own interpretation of the characters while keeping the core of their looks recognisable. This really adds a punch to the book as we get to watch the characters evolve in front of our eyes.
So It’s pretty easy to see that I really enjoyed the book and I’m happy to say that I would easily read it again.
The book stayed with me long after reading and made me think about a lot of things about the human mind and conditions that some individuals go through. It had a power that I rarely experience when reading books, let alone graphic novels. I am still shocked at how amazing the book was and how I had never heard of it before.
All credit to the creative team for doing such an amazing job and a special credit to ‘Luke Melia’ who I believe could easily become the next best thing in comic writing.

cnv_08-1

I knew nothing about this book before reading it other than hearing on the side that it was a good bit of fun. After having a hard time trying to find a copy, I finally stumbled upon a copy of the complete series in a beautiful hardback collection.  From looking at the cover I knew that this was going to be something different and fresh. But covers can mislead and some indie titles out there try too hard to seem like a AAA title that they fall flat. How did this pan out…
I can happily say that the comic is about as indie as you can get in the fact that the characters are a bizarre mishmash of humour and seriousness that works for the most part. The characters are genuinely engaging and the story constantly throws new curve balls which only a story about an experimental regime in which people with multiple-personality disorders use their skills to be assassins and the like.  This is where the title falls in with our main protagonist Duncan who happens to think he is also a ninja, a Viking and a cowboy. It is told in a clever way that means you always know which personality is talking either by using portraits of the character or by putting a little image on the speech bubble like a sword or a gun.  I found this worked really well and helped keep the whole thing running forward at a steady pace.
The book is split into two story arcs and each feels different and great. The first really is an introduction and I guess as close as you can get to an origin tale of each of the ‘Triplets’. It has a few plodding moments but on the whole was fun and constantly engaging. The second story is probably a stronger story in both a fun adventure and writing sense although it also isn’t without the odd stumble.   The hardback ‘deluxe’ edition also contains a short story epilogue which rounds everything off perfectly and really makes you think about the whole saga.  I wasn’t expecting a story like this to be as thought provoking as it turned out to be and I will happily read it again and again.
The art by ‘Riley Rossmo’ is phenomenal. I would go as far to say that it is one of the best looking comics / pieces of art that I have ever seen. It really is unlike most other things and works in a stunning way. The only artist that I could compare the work to is ‘Ashley Wood’ and that would only be for the carful use of colours and heavily scratchy looking artwork. The book isn’t black and white but then again it’s not full colour as one usually sees it. There is a carful use of light and dark that echoes the locations and the characters that inhabit the comic world.  You can literally turn to a random page and you will see something that stands out. It’s truly a beautiful piece of work that never gets stale and never looks anything less than steller.
Although I love this book I do have a couple of issues with it. Firstly sometimes it is hard to figure out which way the panels run; i.e. . Across the pages or the usual sticking to one page. I found I had to guess a couple of times because I just couldn’t work out where the next panel was. I found that when this happened it did take me out of the story. Some of the characters get confusing in terms of who their alter egos are but again it wasn’t too bad. The same can be said for some of the dialogue which at times tries far to hard and just gets confusing.  I commend them for some of the clever statements they are trying to make in the story but sometimes less is definitely more.
With that said I couldn’t get enough of ‘Cowboy Ninja Viking’ and could have happily read more (fighting through the odd confusing moment). This is a phenomenal book and a great piece of fiction that happily now sits up near the top of the best things I’ve ever read.  If you can find a copy and think you’d enjoy something a bit weird, a little funny and surprisingly thought-provoking you’d be hard pressed to find something better then Cowboy Ninja Viking