Saturday, January 10, 2009


Comics World Busan

After I stopped updating this blog, I wrote a few articles and reviews for some magazines in Korea. Some of them were printed, some weren't. None of them are online now, so I might as well post them here.

Comic World Busan

Originally printed April, 2006 in The Ulsan Pear (you can find issues in pdf format at

On March 25th I attended Comic World 32 at BEXCO in Busan, Korea. I had no idea what to expect. When I arrived outside the convention hall the first thing I saw were tons of people, and tons of cosplayers.

Cosplay is the Japanese (and Korean) word for dressing up as a character from a comic, cartoon or videogame. People put a lot of work into their costumes and friends will all dress up as characters from the same story so you’ll see gangs of people in weird clothing walking around together. They hang around outside and pose whenever people want to take their photos, and there are tons of people taking photos.

Inside the BEXCO building was quite different from outside, and a bit disappointing too. The large hall that contained everything wasn’t the nicest looking, but that doesn’t really matter that much. There were several rows of tables with dozens of booths set up in them.

Each booth contained not the piles of back-issues you might expect, nor did it feature any hot artists of popular comics, not even piles of mini-comics made by local creators. Instead, looking at what was offered at the booths, it was clear that this was a fan convention.

The booths had merchandise that featured characters from popular comics; usually badges, stickers, art prints, bags, cards, cell phone danglies and dōjinshi.

Well, not actually dōjinshi, that’s a Japanese word. Dōjinshi are usually fan comics. They’re fanfiction taken to the extreme. A fan will read a comic and like it a lot and decide to draw, publish and sell their own adventures of the characters.

The comics themselves are beautifully produced. Square bound and slightly larger than the usual American sized comics. They also usually have covers, and sometimes a few interior pages, in colour. The art is generally pretty good, though it probably won’t look exactly like the characters do in the comic. Also, because Korean reads left to right these comics read in the familiar direction instead of “backwards” like most Japanese comics.

Dōjinshi creators usually produce their comics in low print runs to avoid the chances of them getting sued (they are using other peoples characters after all). So if you see something cool, pick it up, you might not get another chance. A number of comic creators started by making dōjinshi before becoming famous, so maybe that neat looking comic was drawn by someone who’ll become famous.

Interestingly, the costumes, comics and other merchandise seen at Comic World really showed that the most popular comics in Korea are Japanese ones. Naruto, One Piece, Death Note, Full Metal Alchemist, Inu Yasha, Kerero (Sergeant Frog) and Gundamn were all clearly visible at the event and are all popular, or at least available, in English.

The Comic World Busan events happen fairly regularly, with the next one happening on May 27th and 28 th. I only know one thing for sure, next time I go to one of these things I’ll be in costume too. Now all I need to do is learn Korean so I can actually read these comics.

Visit the Comic World website at (in Korean).

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Friday, January 09, 2009


Repo: The Genetic Opera

Repo: The Genetic Opera

Repo is a goth rock musical featuring Paris Hilton.

No, I'm being completely serious. I almost didn't go see this because she was in it, but it was my friend's birthday, I was procrastinating doing something else, and it was only $8.

We ended up being the only people in the theatre, which has only happened to me once before (High Fidelity, where I was the _only_ person in the theatre, and was kind of weirded out that a giant John Cusack kept talking directly to me).

Anyway, back to Repo.

It's set in a city fifty years in the future after some sort of super disease has made people's organs fail. GeneCo has managed to save the human race by creating new, artificial, super organs. Of course, that wasn't making them enough money, so they started pushing elective surgery, and it caught on because, well, elective surgery is popular now anyway, and it doesn't sound that ridiculous that people would want better livers ("Now! Drink more with LIV-R!") and stuff. I think one of the tag lines was "It's what's inside that counts!"

However, all this surgery is expensive. "Thankfully" GeneCo has a handy layaway method of payment. Organs now, money forever (or close to). And if you don't pay, the repo man (yes, there seems to be only one for the whole city) will come and take your organs back. Can they reuse the organs? I dunno, I can't imagine they could really. I guess they're just dicks.

Anyway, because of all the surgery people are having, they're also addicted to a painkillers (Zydrate). And while they could just buy these from GeneCo, knock off painkillers are available from street dealers, who somehow get the drug by extracting a blue liquid from corpses. This isn't explained either.

If this doesn't really sound like the plot for a movie (or anything), it's not, it's all background info.

The actual story doesn't really matter. There's some stuff about how the founder of GeneCo is dying, and he doesn't want any of his children (including Paris Hilton, and Ogre from Skinny Puppy) to be his heir. And there's this girl, Shilo, who's supposed to be really sick, and her father/doctor apparently killed her mother and gave her this disease, but none of that really matters that much, as the girl who plays Shilo isn't that good. Pretty ignorable really (and the appearance of Joan Jett during one of her songs is more embarrassing than anything else).

Similarly, while Paris Hilton doesn't do a bad job, she doesn't do a particularly spectacular one either, so I don't really understand why the director was so wowed by her (after initially refusing to even let her audition).

So yeah, some of the songs are okay, some of them are terrible, some of them are very Evanescence-y. The best ones generally involve the gravedigger character (see Zydrate above), who seemed to be the most interesting character in the movie, and was, of course, barely in it.

The computer generated sets are really nice though. I really liked the look of...whatever the city this place is set in. It was a pretty neat looking dystopian city. But I like pretty much any gothy dystopian future.

Oh, and something comic book related. There are these flashbacks told in comic book style. And by comic book style I mean there's pictures with word balloons and captions on the screen, and we go through them in sequence. There's some animation and I think a voice over or something. It seems sort of weird, but I guess it's a reasonable way to do flashbacks to "17 years ago" without having to get other actors to play the characters.g

Oh yeah, one problem I did have with them is that they _all_ happen "17 years ago" including the meeting and almost marriage between two characters, the marriage of one of those characters to someone else, and the eventual birth of their baby. That's one busy year!

If a goth rock musical sounds like something you'd like, it's probably worth watching once, even if it's not that good.



Club 9

As last year I published a grand total of nothing (well, I made a zine), I decided that this year in celebration of having an article published I should at least write reviews of stuff on a blog again. Nobody will read it, but at least it'll keep me writing. I can't believe how much I used to write for here.

First up, Club 9.

I picked up the first volume of this from the library (this will be a recurring theme as libraries are awesome!) because I had a total brain failure and thought for some reason it was by the same creator as Flowers and Bees (that's Moyocco Anno for those who don't know). I read the first volume of Flowers and Bees last year, and enjoyed it, but hadn't had a chance to read any more, so I figured I'd check this one out.

Of course it's not by her, but that doesn't make it any less good. The actual creator is Makoto Kobayashi, possible "best" known in North America for What's Michael?, his comic about cats being incredibly cute (and weird). It is, as far as I know, mostly out of print at the moment, which is a shame, as it's fantastic.

Anyway, Club 9 is about Haruo Hattori, a klutzy, naive girl who's just moved to Tokyo to go to university, and ends up working at a hostess bar. Of course you wouldn't know that from the first chapter, which is mostly about her high school baseball team winning the national championships, and their star pitcher not getting picked in the draft. Sure Hauro shows up (falling into a cesspit and then accidentally flashing all her classmates), but if not for the text on the last page, you could be forgiven for not knowing who this comic was supposed to be about.

Hell, even the next several chapters don't tell what the comic is "really" about. Instead we're introduced to Haruo (kind, clumsy) and her family (her father is stern, her mom is going crazy because she doesn't want to turn 40) before she leaves for Tokyo. Once there she befriends several other girls,and ends up in a dorm room haunted by a lecherous ghost (Kobayashi clearly isn't afraid of including completely fantastical elements in his stories). Eventually we get to the point where she moves out and she gets a job at a hostess club to pay rent.

For those of you that don't know, a hostess club is a type of bar, common in Asia, where men pay women to drink and talk with them. Generally that's all that happens, the men drink and talk with pretty girls, and they pay a whole lot of money to be able to do so.

At first Haruo doesn't seem cut out for the job; she gets lost on her way to the club, shows up without makeup and in clothes that leave the owner aghast, and manages to set a client's mustache on fire while trying to light his cigarette.

Despite this, she ends up doing well, as she's the type of person who can talk to anyone. She soon relaxes, and the men at the Club 9 bar (including one called Makoto Konbayashi, creator of the What's Bear? manga about an incredibly cute dog...), are all incredibly charmed by her Southern accent and mannerisms. Or whatever the Japanese equivalent is I suppose (the Akita dialect?).

This is one place where the translation is rather odd. It's an an example of how complicated translation can be; how do you express accents from another country that don't have any equivalent in English? Haruo (and everyone from her hometown) talks in thick Southern US accents. Haruo is supposed to be a hick, from small town Japan, and sound unsophisticated, so I suppose the accent used is one that most English speakers could understand. It's still a bit odd at first though.

By the end of volume one Haruo seems somewhat settled, and I assume the rest of the series continues to be about Haruo juggling being a "Ginza girl" (albeit, an incredibly clumsy one), being a student, and trying to stay a virgin for her boyfriend (the star baseball pitcher from her high school) back home. But for all I know it goes off in some other direction and the murderer at the beginning of chapter 3 shows up. No matter what does happen, I'm sure it'll be good.

Unfortunately, this comic never really caught on in North America. And while Dark Horse did at least finish translating it in Super Manga Blast, they only put out three or four of the five volumes. I had a coworker at a comic book shop I used to work at that really liked this series, going so far as trying to track down those last issues of SMB to try and find out how it ended. I don't think she was that successful.

Perhaps one of the reasons this series didn't really catch on is Kobayashi's art. I certainly enjoy it, but I can understand how the giant mouths everyone has and the giant eyes Haruo has could be off putting. While not "standard manga," they really help Kobayashi show the characters emotions, which he does extremely well. Yes, they're incredibly exaggerated, but you know exactly how the characters are feeling.

It's too bad Kobayashi's comics haven't been more popular in North America, as I wouldn't mind reading one called Chichonmanchi, about a woman who dies at 92, and is all ready to go to paradise, but! She's still a virgin, so she gets given a new, young body, and is sent off to "pleasure hell" until she has sex. Apparently there's not that much actual sex in the comic, even if there is a lot of nudity. There's some more information about it here.

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