Anime Primer, Manga, Manga Monday

Manga March: Kamikaze Girls

Certain graphic novels are never meant to be series, especially if born from short stories or movies, but really help inform a person’s sense of culture at the time of its’ publishing. 

To really understand the Gothic Lolita genre in a new way, you really have to start with Kamikaze Girls.  If you’re new to Anime, you might not “get” the subculture of Gothic Lolita, but you will be exposed to Gothic Lolita far more than the other subcultures: Lolita, sans Goth.

Now, don’t confuse the look of Lolita with the movie of the same name, they’re meant to be different.  Momoko from Kamikaze Girls would be the first to tell you:  Being a Lolita is a lifestyle choice.

Momoko falls under the “ama-loli” or “Sweet Lolita” genre.  It’s devoid of dark clothing, skulls, black striped socks.  Her frilly clothing are actually her form of independence.  She places high value on manners and appearance, as it gives her a sense of self and ownership.  While this appears on the outside to be superficial, it also gains layers as she has focused her attention on following her “bliss”.

As opposed to being a burden, she finds comfort and meaning in her frilly umbrella and white-laced pastel clothing.  It’s a freedom of expression for her.  While she completely befuddles Ichigo at first, you get to play the role of her companion in the story: and as you read, you come to realize – once you understand Lolita, Gothic Lolita makes so much more sense.

(Kamikaze Girls are two short stories bound together.  The first is PG13 rated, the paired volume is squarely R depending on the reader.  The manga was inspired by a light novel, and there’s a movie by the same name.)

Manga, Manga Monday

Manga March: Bizenghast

There was a buzz of press releases not too long ago about the resurgence of Tokyopop, who left behind a trail of burned bridges, and is not quite through with its restructuring.

There were quite a few talented emerging artists were swept into their contracts – and while there is something to be said about the resurgence of Tokyopop bringing about cautious optimism, there was a dark period for those artists – they held 50% of the rights to their work.  They couldn’t republish what Tokyopop still had under their control.  They couldn’t cancel the series or shop it elsewhere while Tokyopop was still undergoing restructuring.

I wanted to take a minute to talk about one of my favorite series under their control, and subsequently where to find the original adventures, and where to find the extended adventures.

(I still have the full version of the song from the intro.)

Bizenghast is the story of Dinah, an empathetic darling with big eyes and a Victorian look.  It has shades of Gothic Lolita all over the beautiful artwork.  As the series grows, she is encouraged to be brave and intrepid, searching for ghosts to save, and unbind.  There are metaphors to be had between true delusions and shared adventures as the series goes on.

The metamorphosis from victim to victor really is a triumph.  Her friend, Vincent, arguably sets the whole story into motion in the first place.  It is not that Dinah is unlikable, it’s more that Dinah’s personality becomes more focused on being clever, using her intellect, and believing in her own self-worth in learning that she, too, has more value than her mother and father seemed to believe.

The black-and-white artistry is lush, with lots of straight and curved angles to the lines to assist with the distortion of the world around them.  If you’ve ever seen unusual gravestones, then imagine them,  Then add to them.  Then put them all in the same graveyard.

It has shades of Alice in Wonderland, mixed with a hearty helping of Dickensian bleakness added in for flavor. I’m certain that Edward Gorey would be ecstatic to see this spiritual successor to his artwork as well.

You can purchase it here: Bizenghast is still available for purchase online. Support the creator!

After that, you can read the ashcan novels- the hand-created single-print on-demand adventures of Dinah by purchasing them here: M. Alice LeGrow’s Etsy

M. Alice Legrow, writer and artist of Bizenghast, has moved on to other fun and amazing things.