oyceter: man*ga [mahng' guh] n. Japanese comics. synonym: CRACK (manga is crack)
Wow! An Urasawa series that ends before it hits the double digits!

Spoilers are the greatest robot on Earth! )

Overall, I still have some issues with the way Urasawa deals with the portrayal of Middle Eastern characters, as well as with the metaphor of individual and institutional prejudice against robots equaling racism. I found the original volume of Astro Boy that this is based on to be relatively uninteresting and focused on the tournament-style fighting that can be so frequently found in shounen, but Urasawa does an excellent job of looking at more of the underlying issues without ever changing the essential character of Atom. And although he doesn't up the number of female characters by much, I like his Uran so much more! But really, the main surprise for me was how much I loved Gesicht, a fairly one-off character from the original. Urasawa similarly adds depth to all the robots in the original, but Gesicht in particular walks that line between man and monster that Urasawa so likes to examine in the series of his that I've read.

The eight-volume length also allows me to keep track of the plot better, and to my surprise, Urasawa actually manages to pull together most of his loose ends. That said, while I think this may be a better-constructed and more grown up series than 20th Century Boys, I miss the latter's rush of adrenaline and idtastic ideas.
oyceter: man*ga [mahng' guh] n. Japanese comics. synonym: CRACK (manga is crack)
It's been so long since I've read these that my memory is extremely hazy.

...why did I think it was a good idea to try and catch up on at least some of my review backlog?

Anyway. I first read vols. 4 and 5 in Chinese and had no idea what was going on. I suppose robots and mass murderers and worldwide plots is too much for my Chinese. These volumes continue Urasawa's trademark ever-expanding plots; just as soon as we get one answer, three more questions pop up.

Spoilers )

I'm curious to see how Urasawa will wrap this up in two volumes; my current impression is that he could probably keep going with the story for at least ten more. Although I think this series starts off better than Monster or 20th Century Boys, its length may be its strength and its weakness. It's short enough to not be daunting or confusing, but it also means we spend less time with the characters and therefore feel less strongly about them.
oyceter: man*ga [mahng' guh] n. Japanese comics. synonym: CRACK (manga is crack)
At least this year I'm getting it out before Chinese New Year! Though that's mostly because it's super late this year...

As usual, these are my favorites out of the sequential art I've read this year, as opposed to what came out this year. The "new-to-me" series aren't actually always new to me; some series in particular are on the list because though I started the series earlier, what I read this year was enough to put them on my favorites list.

I was pretty terrible about writing things up this year, thanks to grad school getting increasingly busy every semester. If it's linked, I wrote it up, but feel free to ask in comments about anything!

Overall, I largely paused in my attempt to read more manhua, as there's still not very much being published in Taiwan right now, and the quality isn't so great. I am so sad there has been nothing new by Nan Gong Yu! At least I saw her series running in a magazine, so I'm fairly sure she's still writing. Just... very slowly?

I also read much less new stuff, at least, that's how I feel. I started two massive rereads during the summer (FMA and Fruits Basket), and mostly I was looking for rereading or at least a continuation of a series I knew thanks to my brain being extremely worn out by school. I also went on a brief superhero comics run to find out what happens to Catwoman; unfortunately, aside from Selina's Big Score, which I loved (and which started me on said spree), the rest largely reconfirmed that I'm not much of a superhero comics fan.

Favorite new-to-me series )

Also recommended )

Favorite ending series )

Favorite continuing series )

Total: 236 (74 rereads)

All sequential art read in 2009 )
oyceter: man*ga [mahng' guh] n. Japanese comics. synonym: CRACK (manga is crack)
(OT: May be (even more) out of touch than usual next week, as will be in Hong Kong and Shanghai, possibly without internet.)

This is Urasawa Naoki's remix of "The Greatest Robot on Earth" arc of Tezuka Osamu's Astro Boy. It's the future, and robots and humans live together, although robots are still constrained by the Three Laws of Robotics, and there's a growing anti-robot movement among humans. The POV character is a robot detective named Gesicht rather than Astro Boy.

There have been a series of murders, linked by each victim appearing with horns or antlers and each victim being one of the seven great robots or a human connected to robot politics. Much like Urasawa's other thriller series (Monster and 20th Century Boys), the pieces so far are very disconnected. Many of the chapters bring in more and more secondary characters and more and more pieces of the puzzle, and while it feels like we're not very far in solving the murders, Urasawa's presenting a lot of neat worldbuilding.

Many of the questions raised are about robot rights and if robots are human; Astro Boy, his sister Uran, and Gesicht can pass as human, which disturbs many people. There's a character who consistently confuses robot-detection machines, since he was heavily injured at one point and is now a cyborg. Robots can die, and one scene in the first volume has a robot grieving, and yet, people count robot deaths more lightly than human deaths.

I'm fairly sure many of these issues will be explored even more fully in later volumes; Urasawa's doing a lot of set-up so far, and if Pluto follows his other thriller series, pieces won't start falling in place until much later on. That said, the world he embellishes is so fascinating that I don't mind reading the worldbuilding, and as usual, I particularly love his secondary characters and how well he sketches them out in just a few pages or chapters. (My favorite was the piece on North 2, war, mass murders, and music.)

On the other hand, the parallels drawn between robot discrimination and other forms of discrimination—particularly racism, given that one robot hate group wears KKK-esque hoods—disturbs me. I'm tired of SF/F parallels to racism that create an entirely different group of beings to discriminate against, be they robots, clones, aliens, elves, or whatnot, when actual POC aren't included. Butler's Oankali series works because it explores fear of the other both in terms of aliens AND in terms of human cultures and races and gender; other series and works don't cut it because they pass off talk of overcoming differences without including actual diversity in their casts. I'm really hoping that Urasawa will include more non-Japanese POC later on in the series (amazingly, POC exist in Germany! I'm betting they still do in the future!).

Other than that, I'm enjoying the series a lot so far and looking forward to Urasawa pulling in more and more plot twists as it continues.

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