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SPECIAL #3

21 September 2005

A Fool's Dinner, part two. Early drawing, young Nuch.

I'm reading the manga Capitaine Albator right now. This is the French translation (which is cheaper to buy than imported English pockets), and I believe the English name of it might be Captain Harlock or something. Regardless, it was written and drawn in the earliest eighties by Leiji Matsumoto. You may know this man and his style from the animated videoclips of the latest Daft Punk album (coincidentally, also a French group) featuring wacky blue aliens who are abducted to Earth by a token mad cultist. Now, that story may not be that interesting, but Captain Harlock is another thing altogether.

I might have told you, -or you may have psychically probed my mind and consequently found out-, that I've grown a bit bored with manga ever since a year or so. There are a number of reasons for this, some more personal than others. One of these is that the sheer way 99% of all manga are (forcibly) produced is causing them to be formulaic and sparsely drawn. I can understand this, because if I had to poop out ten pages a day to satisfy the hunger of the massive anthologies, I'd be looking for ways to speed up that process as well. But that doesn't mean I appreciate it on an artistic level. Another reason is that a lot of manga look and read pretty samey. Of course there are numerous styles and even schools and genres within the industry, but the popular ones will always find their copied way to the surface, and to the western world exclusively. This isn't necessarily bad, -I'm certainly not judging or speaking against it-, but it does have the effect of me getting bored when reading the umpteenth collect-em-all magical shounen featuring kids with awesome powers becoming stronger and stronger and stronger. It's a fan-tas-tic, addicting narrative, no doubt about it, but I'm on overload here.

Which is why it was such a surprise to find complete originality, just by looking backwards. The good Captain Harlock is some 25 years old, but the therefore somewhat aged style comes off as fresh and inspired to me. Unlike the work of Osamu Tezuka for instance, which is so old it creates a barrier, so archaically drawn I have little fun in reading it anymore. Regardless, Captain Harlock. Groovy hairdos. An introverted and musing pirate, bold and courageous in his decisions. Pencilled with a brush, and clearly a love for detailed ships, mainframes and computers. It's weird and so strange, that I totally love it. Of course it helps that it's about space pirates. But it's the newness that comes as such a surprise. Funny.

Roderick.