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Interview: Jason Thompson - Page 4

Manga Editor and Author of Manga: The Complete Guide


The Drifting Classroom Volume 1 by Kazuo Umezu, published by VIZ Signature

The Drifting Classroom Volume 1

© Kazuo Umezu


Q: In your introduction, you mention types of manga that you wouldn't be including in this edition (OEL manga, manga anthologies, Korean manhwa). That's understandable, because you had to draw a line somewhere, and the book did end up being quite long anyway. Is there any talk about including some of these other types of manga when you do an update, a sequel or second edition?

JT: That's a good question. The anthology titles like Robot aren't included and I kind of wish that they were. Other borderline cases include Frederick Boillet's nouvelle manga graphic novel Yuriko's Spinach (Fanfare / Ponent Mon), which is by a French artist, but was published in a Japanese magazine. In retrospect, it would have been interesting to add titles like these to the book.

But adding OEL manga and manhwa, that's a whole 'nother can of worms. Manhwa is a close one, because it's stylistically very distinct. There are also some subtle cultural differences between Korean manhwa and Japanese manga, and unfortunately, that kind of information about manhwa isn't readily available. Covering manhwa titles and manhwa artists could be a whole book on its own. I'm not the one to write it, but I'd love to read it if it does come out.

OEL comics are even more of a sticky situation. That becomes a question of subjective taste. If you define manga as a certain style, there's no real clear definition about where it begins or ends, or when it becomes not 'manga' style. If you look at Frank Miller or Wendy Pini's Elfquest, they're both very influenced by manga, but would they be recognized as manga by manga fans?

Or to take another current example, Scott Pilgrim or other earlier American comics that were heavily influenced by manga like Ninja High School. If I did want to include a listing of OEL comics, I'd want to list it all, and list all these borderline examples. Then it becomes a case of 'he says, she says.' There would be people who'd see things differently than I do, and say "I don't see the manga influence here."

I certainly didn't want to define by something as superficial as comics that are bound in the 5" x 7.5" format, or books that are manga because the publisher says they're manga. I’m fascinated by OEL manga, and I do read it. For example, I’m really into MBQ. We did have a discussion on whether to include OEL manga, and we opted to not to go there with this book.


Q: Since you mentioned recommendations earlier, can you recommend any manga titles that deserve a wider audience?

JT: Oh, there are tons. My friend Shaenon Garrity has a blog called "Overlooked Manga Festival"…

Q: Yes, right! I've read that. It's a lot of fun. She makes a lot of interesting choices.

JT: And I agree with most of her choices there. There are a lot of manga that deserve more attention. I'm a big fan of the shojo manga from the Seventies like Swan or ones from the Eighties like Moon Child and Please Save My Earth.

Classic manga in general deserves to get more readers. I love Kazuo Umezo's The Drifting Classroom, but I'm biased. (laughs) I love all the stuff that Fanfare / Ponent Mon is coming out with, and most of the Vertical releases. I also like all the obscure underground stuff that came out earlier in the manga boom in anthologies like Comics Underground Japan.

I was really sad when Pilgrim Jäeger from Media Blasters got cancelled. There's a lot of great old titles from DrMaster / ComicsOne. I’m a big fan of Iron Wok Jan, but that's kind of a cult title. There are many, many great titles that it's frustrating to see that their sales are so low.

Fumi Yoshinaga (The Antique Bakery, Gerard & Jacques) probably has enough of a following that she doesn’t count as an under-appreciated artist, but she does great stuff. And there are titles I've worked on like Jojo's Bizarre Adventure, which is a fine manga with a very individualistic style.

I enjoyed Parasyte. I like Hellsing, Satsuma Gishiden, a samurai manga by Hiroshi Hirata. All of Moyoco Anno's work. Sugar Sugar Rune is incredible, and of course Happy Mania.

Q: Are there any Japanese manga that haven't been translated yet that you'd love to see in English?

JT: Riyoko Ikeda's Rose of Versailles has already been partially translated, but it'd be great to see it get a real, complete release.

I'm a big fan of horror manga in general. I'd love to see more of Kazuo Umezu's work out there. It'd be nice to see more of Daijiro Moriboshi's work translated, he's really good. Atsushi Kaneko, the artist of Bambi and her Pink Gun, has done a lot of great work that hasn't been translated yet.

I'd also like to see more Shigeru Mizuki (Ge Ge Ge no Kitaro) or Go Nagai's work available.

Q: Right, Go Nagai's Devilman is mind-blowing. And his controversial sex comedy manga, something like "Shameless Classroom" or something like that?

JT: Ah, Harenchi Gakuen. I've read some of that one. My ex-roommate Patrick Macias is really into Go Nagai's work.

Oh! And also Keiko Takemiya's Song of the Wind and Trees! Vertical has put out several of her titles recently (Andromeda Stories, To Terra), but I'd love to see that one of hers come out from them.

Q: Do you have any personal favorites? Something close to your heart, that might have taught you something unexpected or something that you didn't expect to like at first, but you now really, really love to read?

JT: The very first manga I was really into was Rumiko Takahashi's work, like Maison Ikkoku. That's a very sweet story. I also like Rose of Versailles and Jojo's Bizarre Adventure. I actually learned to read Japanese so I could read Kazuo Umezu's Fourteen. Also, One Piece is great.

Q: I hear a lot of great things about One Piece, but I've only recently delved into it. What makes it special for you?

JT: I like One Piece a lot. It has such an original art style for an action manga and such a light-hearted spirit. When it came out, One Piece's style was so original, it was immediately ripped off by everyone; for example, Rave Master.

(More on Page 5)
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