Jul 16, 2011

Japanese Manga Classics (2): Katsuhiro Otomo "Domu"

Today I'd like to introduce one of the greatest Manga author, Katsuhiro Otomo.

Manga graphics consist of characters and backgrounds. In ordinary Manga characters are described mainly, and backgrounds just give a sign of the situation of the characters. To emphasize the characters, the backgrounds describe simply as symbols. Manga graphics are different from "art paintings".

Katsuhiro Otomo reformed Manga graphics. He described characters and background as the same way. In his works we find the original landscape and composition, which we had never seen in previous Managa. In his most famous work "Akira" I was strongly impressed by the scene of the ruins of Neo Tokyo after World War III. His graphics are detailed and magnificent at the same time.

In the old style Manga characters were symbols, too. A cute character was described the way for the readers to be able to understand that the character was "cute". But Otomo describes a girl as the real girl, and the girl is so real that it doesn't look cute in the old style Manga context.

I don't like the Anime style Manga. In these Manga a "cute girl" has unnatural big eyes, breasts and hip, and slender waist. It isn't a real girl but a symbol of the "cute girl" like the figure of a "cute girl".

He has many followers, so I think that Japanese Manga history is divided into the pre Otomo era and the post Otomo era. But most his followers don't have the same skill as he has, and they can't draw Manga as well as him.

He got a worldwide popularity due to his work "Akira". It has influenced some Hollywood SF action movies, such as "Terminator 2: Judgment Day", "Matrix" and so on.

Of course I like "Akira" but I love the previous work "Domu (童夢)" more.

"Akira" is based on the format of boy's comics (少年マンガ). The leading character is a cool boy, and he has a rival. They are fighting against a big enemy. It's really fun to read a well-made boy's Managa, but I think that Otomo can create a more unique work.

"Domu" has wonderful graphics (same as the other Otomo's works) and a very original story. In a housing project there live an ordinary girl and an old man suffering from Alzheimer, who have supernatural powers. An old man is playing a trick without a sense of guilty, but it brings on a serious disaster due to his great power. She starts fighting against the old man to stop this disaster, because only she with a supernatural power can stop him.

Fortunately his main works was translated into English, so you can read his works. I hope that you'll enjoy the great experience of reading Otomo's works.

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