Manga 2.0: Yoshitoshi ABe’s Digital Dojinshi by Jason Thompson

Posted by on May 18th, 2010 at 9:00 AM

Yoshitoshi ABe is best known in America as an illustrator and anime character designer, whose quizzical waifs and lonely streets made him a cult favorite via Haibane Renmei and serial experiments lain. His presence in the manga community has been much smaller; the Haibane Renmei graphic novel from Dark Horse is just made of scanned anime screengrabs. But actually, ABe has drawn a fair amount of manga, just not through normal commercial channels; most of his manga output has been self-published dojinshi, including the original untranslated inspirations for both Haibane Renmei and his comedy anime NieA under 7. He is fairly tech-savvy for a mangaka; his twitter account, has over 200,000 followers, and he has released work for both the iPhone (the 53-page Pochiyama at the Pharmacy) and, recently, the Kindle (I am an Alien. I have a Question.) In short, ABe is a freelancer who jumps from medium to medium, very different from the sheltered house artists of magazines like Shonen Jump, cranking out 80 pages a month, carefully cocooned from readers and press. As the traditional publisher-centric, print-oriented model of manga dries up, artists like ABe may be the ones best positioned to stay on their feet.

Dojinshi one-shots, more than megavolume epics, seem well-suited to casual media. I am an Alien. I have a Question is not an original work created for the Kindle; it’s a bilingual edition of a very short work published in print. ABe’s art style, like that of most manga artists, is resolutely analog, but his ruler-free, probably assistant-free style gives it a handmade look that makes it seem intentional. The Kindle resolution is just about high enough to preserve the fine, scratchy line-work (a style reminiscent of adult artist Benkyo Tamaoki), avoiding the problems with the iPhone adaptation of Pochiyama at the Pharmacy, which has no zoom function and loses all detail on the tiny iPhone screen. Just 17 pages long (41 if you count the title pages and the duplicate pages with the same dialogue in Japanese), it’s barely a snippet of a manga, but at least it only costs $1. The plot: a lonely teenage boy is spending the holidays alone at home, when suddenly a girl kicks open his door, announces that she is an alien, and starts boasting about her knowledge of Japanese culture and giving him intelligence tests. (“Ha ha ha! It is understandable that you would be confused. It’s just the biggest thing since the birth of your planet.”) It’s a short-attention-span, all-ages bit of absurdity, which benefits from a better English rewrite than the poorly translated Pochiyama, although neither manga can do much to translate the Japanese puns. (Despite the crude translation, Pochiyama is funnier, particularly the chapter when Pochiyama the pharmacist is learning Web 2.0 and mishears “open source” as “oven sauce.”) Neither manga engages (or really even functions) as a story, but they work well as samples of ABe’s delicately detailed art, as well as DRM-shielded baubles, accessories for one’s iPhone and Kindle.

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2 Responses to “Manga 2.0: Yoshitoshi ABe’s Digital Dojinshi by Jason Thompson”

  1. Dirk Deppey says:

    ABe remains the only mangaka whose doujinshi I’ve ordered from Japan. His anime are among the best ever written and produced. If he can successfully make the jump, there may yet be hope for us all. Well, for ME, anyway — any opportunity to read new ABe means it’s going to be a good day.

  2. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Jason Thompson. Jason Thompson said: Review of Yoshitoshi ABe's digital dojinshi: "I am an Alien. I have a question." #manga #dojin #doujinshi #webcomics […]