Ax is an anthology of alternative manga stories. I don’t really read enough manga, so I figure anthologies are a good way to help me find new things. There were a bunch of stories I didn’t like, because they were too crudely drawn or too much florid art/language (which might have been better in Japanese). But there were a few I did like.
Love’s Bride by Yoshihiro Tatsumi: A guy gets possessive about a girl he knows so she tells him to fuck off and he goes to the zoo and falls in love with an ape who truly understands him. I’ve read a bunch of Yoshihiro Tatsumi books before so maybe it’s just familiarity with his straightforward style, but the story was well-done.
Conch of the Sky by Imiri Sakabashira: This one was way more metaphorical and weird, with squids crawling into the sick guy’s futon and then going off on a chase through the dark. The narration and the sinuous but not overdone art really sold it for me. It felt like a fever dream. In a good way.
A Broken Soul by Nishioka Brosis: The art in this story was what I really liked. It felt kind of cubist as the main character discovered his soul was broken.
Enrique Kobayahsi’s Eldorado by Toranusuke Shimada: This is the story of an Eldorado motorcycle found in an uncle’s garage. Toranusuke Shimada draws in a style reminiscent of Joe Sacco and tells the history of these Brazilian motorcycle manufacturers who turned out to have gotten their skills from Nazis. This one probably felt the least like what I think of as manga of the book.
Close Quarters is the fourth book in Andy Diggle and Jock’s The Losers series. While the previous volume was side trips and flashbacks, this book is straight up Cayman bank heists (in England), motorcycle chases and stealing helicopters in the process of high-seas plutonium piracy. Have I mentioned what a fun book this is? It’s like the A-Team but not nearly so dumb. I have nothing more to add.
I wasn’t sure when I picked up Imiri Sakabashira’s The Box Man if it was an adaptation of Kobo Abe’s book to the form of comics. It’s not. It’s about a man carrying a box to the sea on a series of motorbikes. There’s a cat-thing that rides with him as they fight monsters and witness decadent wrestling matches and get chased by the police. It’s the kind of book that has very little dialogue and very detailed drawings. When the chase is across the corrugated roofs of a favela-esque part of town it’s almost hard to find the lines corresponding to the figures among all the background.
The whole thing is very spirally, with the recurrence of different events (most notably the acquisitions of new motorbikes). In the end there is a bit of an explanation for what you just witnessed. Actually, yeah, that’s a good word. Because of the lack of verbiage it feels like you’re a witness to this thing, without any more explanation than a person on the street would have. That witnessing thing plays into the voyeuristic aspect of some of the large spreads in the middle of the story.
I’d recommend not reading the back of the book because it gives you a bit too much of a possible explanation. It might frame it too much. Like I’ve done here, I suppose. Selah.