New Del Rey Books
Nodame Cantabile 1
This is a fun series following a young man who desperately wants to be a music conductor, but an event when he was young makes him too afraid to travel abroad to learn. So he finds himself learning various types of musical instruments at home in Japan, all he masters quickly because of his innate genius.
This has made him a bit smug though, and feeling so apart from everyone that he is alone a lot. Until he meets Nodame, a sort of clumsy girl who has astonishing musical ability, but whose genius only really comes out when she plays from the heart not technically sound.
The two start off a bit strained, but quickly begin teaching each other things about music and life. I thought it very interesting to see the correlation between musical partnerships and romantic ones. How both are there to offer support in moments of weakness, and to blend with each other to come together in harmony for a greater whole.
It is a strong start to the series, that leaves me anxious to see what happens next.
Genshiken 1 : The Society for the Study of Modern Visual Culture
While Nodame is a strong start, this entry is a bit more shaky. It mainly follows the Genshiken club, who is a group of young men with a great interest in manga, anime, video games and cos play.
The group has all the usual fan stereo types, with a too self important leader who doesn't know as much as he thinks, a want to be artist who never put forth the effort required to become more, an over weight guy who loves dressing in costumes, and a fairly normal guy who fits in but finds himself a little out of sorts because he isn't used to knowing others who share his hobby.
Plus a type of fan I haven't seen much in stories, a good looking guy who others think isn't really a fan because he doesn't look the part. He also has a girlfriend who doesn't quite understand his hobby and would like him to spend more time with her. So there is a bit of a struggle there, with her wanting to be with him, but not understanding him.
He and the relatively normal one were the ones that really intrigued me, since they don't fall into the stereo typical behavior quite so much. I even found it sort of intriguing to see a sort of bias against "good looking people" that seemed to be a bit self loathing.
I wonder if the Japanese are a bit more open to laughing at themselves than American comic fans. Since so much of this book was laughing at some of the stranger sides of fandom, like obsession with girls as objects, porn and continuity minutiae. When similar things are done to certain weird sides of American fandom, it usually leads to anger and resentment.
The art itself was very detailed, but quite hard to follow in places. With panel flows going from the traditional side to side flow, to a jarring up to down in the blink of an eye flow.
With so much reliance of fandom fallacies, I was sort of luke warm about the series for a large portion of the book. Yet near the end a new element was addeded, that is sure to spice things up in future volumes especially. A girl from America joins the club, who happens to loves the stuff as much as the guys. Which startles them and also challenges the cute guy's girlfriend perspective on her boyfriend's hobby.
So I'll look forward to seeing #2 of it as well.