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Me and the Devil Blues Volume 1

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Me and the Devil Blues Volume 1 by Akira Hiramoto from Del Rey Manga

Me and the Devil Blues Volume 1

Me and the Devil Blues © 2005 Akira Hiramoto/KODANSHA LTD. All rights reserved.

The Bottom Line

Manga isn't always about ninjas, school girls and pocket monsters. With Me and The Devil Blues, Akira Hiramoto opts to explore the mysterious life of blues legend, Robert Johnson. Dark, irreverent and hypnotic, Me and the Devil Blues brings Johnson to life and offers some surreal embellishment of his deal with the Devil at the crossroads.

With few hard facts about Johnson's life to hold him back, Hiramoto weaves together an "unreal" narrative that mixes history, the supernatural and the raw power of the blues. While at times uneven, there are more successes than sour notes here. All that's missing is a soundtrack.

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Pros

  • An imaginative journey into the life and legend of Robert Johnson
  • Hiramoto mixes powerful, dark and hallucinatory imagery for a hypnotic effect
  • Visually captures the fury, elation, temptation and heartache of blues music
  • A grown-up graphic novel that will enthrall music fans who normally aren't into manga
  • Fills in the blanks of Johnson's life with unexpected twists and historical cameos

Cons

  • Lots of strong language, sex and graphic violence make this mostly an adult pleasure
  • The second half introduces Clyde Barrow, who acts as an odd plot catalyst
  • Sometimes, drawing about music is like dancing about architecture

Description

  • Original Title: Ore to Akuma no Blues (Japan)
  • Author & Artist: Akira Hiramoto
  • Publishers:
  • ISBN: 978-0345499264
  • Cover Price: $19.95 US / $22.95 CANADA
  • Age Rating: OT – Older Teens, Age 16+ More about content ratings.
  • Manga Genres:
  • US Publication Date: July 2008
    Japan Publication Date: January 2005
  • Book Description: 544 pages, black and white illustrations
  • More Manga by Akira Hiramoto:
    • Chinless Gen and Me

Guide Review - Me and the Devil Blues Volume 1

Compared to today's over-exposed, under-talented celebs, Robert Johnson is blues icon whose influence in American popular music is only eclipsed by the mysterious circumstances of his life and death. Legend has it that Johnson sold his soul to the Devil in exchange for the ability to play the blues.

There are only two known photographs of Johnson, a handful of recorded songs, and a few first-hand accounts of his mesmerizing performances before his death at age 27. But these artifacts, memories and Johnson's powerful musicianship are enough to make him one of the most revered Delta blues men, ever. With such a rich mythology to explore and so few historical facts to contradict, Hiramoto fills in the blanks with a tale that is hypnotic, human and surprising.

Hiramoto's artwork is moody and dark; alternately drawn with scratchy crosshatching or raw, calligraphic ink strokes. Both styles capture the hard times and dark days Johnson lived as a black man in the segregated South.

The best parts of Me and The Devil Blues are in the first half, when RJ struggles to live the hardscrabble life of a farmer while his passion for music burns brighter with every visit to the juke joint. Hiramoto captures the energy of the blues as played by Son House, Willie Brown and later Johnson. But to paraphrase Elvis Costello, drawing about music is like dancing about architecture -- it can never fully convey its true power and emotion.

The second half of this double-sized volume is when Hiramoto veers off the well-worn road of Johnson's legend and starts embellishing it in inventive, sometimes awkward ways. The introduction of Clyde Barrow (of Bonnie and Clyde fame), while clever, turns RJ into a sidekick rather than the star of this story. The mysterious metamorphosis of RJ's right hand also hits a rare sour note in an otherwise engaging, original story.

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