Pop Culture Gadabout
Monday, March 23, 2009
      ( 3/23/2009 11:00:00 AM ) Bill S.  

MILKY GOODNESS: To begin with, the title to Jonathan Clements' Schoolgirl Milky Crisis (Titan Books) is a running gag: a three-word non sequitur that sounds like it should be the poorly translated title to some Japanese cartoon but isn't. Instead, it's the faux title the writer uses whenever he wants to protect the guilty in one of his industry stories. He uses that madeup title a lot in this very readable collection.

Subtitled, "Adventures in the Anime and Manga Trade," Clements' grab bag of anecdotes, critical commentary, historical pieces and interviews with influential creators provides an entertaining intro to one large part of the monolithic world of Japanese pop culture. Author Clements has worked in the anime biz as a translator and voice guy -- and is co-author of The Anime Encyclopedia -- so he clearly has an inside track to the subject. In his native country England, he has also written novelizations and audio scripts for a variety of well-known British characters (Judge Dredd, Dr. Who) along with columns and presentations on the anime field. The guy knows whereof he writes.

In America, perhaps one of the closest comparison I can make is to Mark Evanier, the California-based comics and television writer who has, for years, written about the fields in the which he's worked from both a fannish insider and a historian's perspective. Both share a chatty love of their respective areas with a clear-sighted sense of humor about the flaws and often-dubious actions of each biz's bigwigs. They love to wax positive about their favorite creators, but also like to regularly shine the spotlight on those lesser-known figures in the industry. For years, Evanier wrote his insights in a column entitled "PoV" for the Comic Buyers Guide; Clements produced a comparable feature for the now-defunct anime and manga mag Newtype USA. Evanier ultimately collected his best pieces in a trio of entertaining paperbacks; Clements hits us with his best scattershots in this book.

SMC makes no claims of being a comprehensive look at the anime and manga industry, though it's packed with plenty of juicy historical tidbits. If occasionally, his insider stories don't provide a lotta insight (gosh, some foreign anime distributors don't know a damn thing about their product!), his experiences doing voice work for Anglicized dubs of anime series provide plenty of telling detail. Clements' appreciations of major manga figures like Keiji Nakasawa (author of the Hiroshimo memoir Barefoot Gen, one of the first manga series to get published in the U.S.), Katsuhiro Otomo (Akira), Miyazaki and more are also really fine, displaying both a historian's and an aficionado's eye.

Elsewhere in the book, the transcript of a presentation on erotic anime proves both amusing and informative (we learn, for instance, how the infamous images of tentacles in sci-fi and horror erotica rose from a desire to circumvent Japanense censorship laws), while a series of reviews of some lesser-known manga series (Golf Lesson Comic, two different manga adaptations of Harlequin Romances, a manga mag entirely focused on making big bucks at pachinko!) displays just how far-ranging the manga audience is. Additionally, we're provided informative pieces on two classic rubber monster series (Godzilla and Mothra) and brief glimpses of the Chinese and Korean markets. His one-page column on the Death Note controversy in China is a concise look at that particular teapot tempest, though I have to wonder whether Clements was familiar with the entire series, which he mis-categorizes as a blend of "The Ring meets The Equalizer."

Clements' book could use a little tighter editing. Occasionally, he can needlessly repeat a point that he's made in an earlier column, while at times he'll make an assertion that I wish he'd elaborate. (What is it, for instance, that makes the manga version of Ghost in the Shell "right wing in the extreme"?) Still, his breezy writing style and ability to place the works he discusses within their cultural contexts makes Schoolgirl Milky Crisis a good entry gate into a world that's had a prominent influence on Western storytelling in the past decade. The book is wittily illustrated by Steve Kyte in a comic pastiche of Japanese cartoonery, though some readers may be taken aback by the book's cover of the bovine breasted big-eyed heroine of Clements' imaginary anime/manga title. Me, I wouldn't mind perusing at least one episode of that imaginary series.


# |

Pop cultural criticism - plus the occasional egocentric socio/political commentary by Bill Sherman (popculturegadabout AT yahoo.com).

On Sale Now!
Measure by Measure:

A Romantic Romp with the Fat and Fabulous
By Rebecca Fox & William Sherman

(Available through Amazon)

Measure by Measure Web Page

Ask for These Fine Cultural Blogs & Journals by Name!

aaronneathery.com News
Aaron Neathery

American Sideshow Blow-Off
Marc Hartzman

Arf Lovers
Craig Yoe

Sean T. Collins

Barbers Blog
Wilson Barbers

The Bastard Machine
Tim Goodman

The Beat
Heidi MacDonald

Kevin Church

Big Fat Blog
Paul McAleer

Big Mouth Types Again
Evan Dorkin

Laura "Tegan" Gjovaag

Blog This, Pal!
Gordon Dymowski

Rod Lott

Cartoon Brew
Amid Amidi & Jerry Beck

Cartoon Web Log!
Daryl Cagle

Clea's Cave
Juana Moore-Overmyer

Collected Editions

The Comics Curmudgeon
Josh Fruhlinger

The Comics Reporter
Tom Spurgeon

Christopher Butcher

Comics Waiting Room
Marc Mason

Comics Worth Reading
Johanna Draper Carlson

a dragon dancing with the Buddha
Ben Varkentine


Electromatic Radio
Matt Appleyard Aaron Neathery


Eye of the Goof
Mr. Bali Hai

Fred Sez
Fred Hembeck

Greenbriar Picture Shows
John McElwee

The Groovy Age of Horror
Curt Purcell

The Hooded Utilitarian
Noah Berlatsky

Hooray for Captain Spaulding
Daniel Frank

The Horn Section

The House Next Door
Matt Zoller Seitz

Howling Curmudgeons
Greg Morrow & Friends

The Hurting
Tim O'Neil

I Am A Child of Television
Brent McKee

I Am NOT the Beastmaster
Marc Singer

In Sequence
Teresa Ortega

Innocent Bystander
Gary Sassaman

Irresponsible Pictures

Jog - The Blog
Joe McCulloch

The Johnny Bacardi Show
David Allen Jones

Dirk Deppey

King's Chronicles
Paul Dini

Let's You And Him Fight
One of the Jones Boys

Mah Two Cents
Tony Collett


Michael's Movie Palace

Nat's TV
Nat Gertler

Ned Sonntag


News from ME
Mark Evanier

No Rock&Roll Fun
Simon B

Omega Channel
Matt Bradshaw

Pen-Elayne on the Web
Elayne Riggs

Peter David

Dorian White

Progressive Ruin
Mike Sterling

Punk Rock Graffiti
Cindy Johnson & Autumn Meredith

Revoltin' Developments
Ken Cuperus

Marc Bernardin

Matt Hinrichs

Self-Styled Siren

Spatula Forum
Nik Dirga

Tales from the Longbox
Chris Mosby


The Third Banana
Aaron Neathery & Friends

Thrilling Days of Yesteryear
Ivan G. Shreve, Jr.

Toner Mishap
B2 et al

Trusty Plinko Stick
Bill Doughty

TV Barn
Aaron Barnhart et al

Unqualified Offerings
Jim Henley

Various And Sundry
Augie De Blieck

Video WatchBlog
Tim Lucas

When Fangirls Attack
Kalinara & Ragnell

X-Ray Spex
Will Pfeifer

Yet Another Comics Blog
Dave Carter

A Brief Political Disclaimer:

If this blog does not discuss a specific political issue or event, it is not because this writer finds said event politically inconvenient to acknowledge - it's simply because he's scatterbrained and irresponsible.

My Token List of Poli-Blogs:

Roy Edroso


Jane Hamsher

James Wolcott

Lance Mannion

The Moderate Voice
Joe Gandelman


Amanda Marcotte & Friends

The Sideshow
Avedon Carol

Skippy, the Bush Kangaroo

Talking Points Memo
Joshua Micah Marshall

This Modern World
Tom Tomorrow

Welcome to Shakesville
Melissa McEwan & Friends

Blogcritics: news and reviews
Site Feed

Powered by Blogger

    follow me on Twitter