Faust Vol. 2 (Del Rey)

If you’re a fan of Japanese popular culture looking for something a little different, you’ll probably find something of interest in this anthology of manga-influenced stories, comics, and articles.

 

 

 
432 pgs., B & W; $17.95
(W & A: various)
Faust is a popular magazine published in Japan by Kodansha which carries a mix of stories, comics, and articles that are influenced by manga culture but tend more toward the innovative and cutting-edge rather than high school tales about bishie boys and big-eyed girls. These anthologies are like samplers which allow you to experience the work of a number of artists and writers at a lower cost than two volumes in a typical manga series, and each selection is preceded by a brief introduction to the artist and the work which can go a long way toward filling in the gaps in your knowledge of Japanese culture. You may not care for every work, but if you’re a fan of Japanese popular culture looking for something a little different you’ll probably find something of interest in the two Faust anthologies available in English (see our review of vol. 1 here).
About 20 percent of the pages in vol. 2 are devoted to graphic works, several of which are so brief they are more like impressionistic poems than stories told graphically. But they’re interesting because most of the art is so different in terms of style and layout from what you usually see in manga. The one exception is the longest piece, “Iron Man Military Unit” by Ueda Hajime, which was also my least favorite in this section because it just didn’t seem all that special. More appealing to me was the very weird “Dream of the Butterflies” by x6suke (and what’s up with the crazy pseudonyms for mangaka anyway?), which in only four pages takes apparently conventional manga art to a strange place indeed. I had a similar response to “Her Transparent Belly Button” by Wakako Katayama, which looks like something Marc Chagall might have cooked up after a little too much sake. The fact that I have no idea what either of these pieces “mean” doesn’t deter my interest in the slightest: I guess I just have a taste for the strange.
Looking at the fiction selection, the story which spoke to me most strongly was “Where the Wind Blows” by Otsuishi, which starts out as a tale of a withdrawn teenager trying to adjust to a new home who quickly finds herself in the Twilight Zone when a mysterious wind keeps blowing things onto her veranda, and it gets even stranger when she notices that some of them come from the future. “Magical Girl Risuka” by NISIOISIN (the longest story in the collection at 70 pages) is indeed about a magic girl, in this case one who can alter time, but it’s less conventional (and less appropriate for younger readers) than you might think. “H People” by Kozy Watanabe is a very strange story (in a series about hikkikomori, or people who withdraw from the world) about a young man who seems to have spent too much time with electronic versions of reality and not enough with the real thing. The fiction section also contains “Jagdtiger(PorscheLaufwerk)” by Kouhei Kadano, an excerpt from “Gray-Colored Diet Coke” by Yuya Sato, “ECCO” by Tatsuhiko Takimoto, and the very strange and very brief “Yabai de Show” by Ryusui Seiryoin  (no idea what this one’s about either). There are also two “counseling sessions” in which Yuya Sato and Tatsuhiko Takimoto give a satirical spin to a traditional magazine staple: the advice column.
Faust vol. 2 also includes several articles and interviews. Otaku (fans, in this case, of certain types of popular culture) are the target market for Faust so it’s entirely fitting that the collection should include an essay by Kaichiro Morikawa on the business aspects of Japanese products targeted to otaku. And here’s something I learned from this essay: ninety percent of the money made overseas in the anime business comes not from sales and rentals of DVDs and videos themselves but from ancillary products (e.g. figurines) based on the characters in the anime. There’s also a group discussion among NISIOISIN, Otsuichi, Yuya Sato and Tasuhiko Takimoto on many subjects including the publication of the first Faust anthology in English and an interview with Yukari Shiina and Andrew Cunningham on the difficulties of translation. | Sarah Boslaugh

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