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Since starting this blog back in 1998 and recording the podcast (2004) I’ve read several Collected Editions. Most have been America Comic Books or Comic Strips. I’ve only ventured outside the boundaries to read some Franco-Belgian comics, Marvel UK or some Italian or German interpreted material. All of those are fairly easy to find on Amazon.com or some other book market site, but when it comes to the Far East that’s another story altogether. I’m not talking about Manga. No, just about everyone, including me, has picked up Naruto or Bleach or has watched some sort of Anime at one time or another. No, I wanted to dig deeper, but looking for collected editions of pre-Manga Japanese or Indian, Chinese or Taiwanese comics is a far greater challenge.
But I have found what I was looking for with Manga Kamishibai: The Art of Japanese Paper Theater by Eric P. Nash (Abrams ComicArts). When I came across this book, I didn’t have much of an initial reaction, but upon opening up the cover I was struck by the classic artwork from a Japan that for the most past no longer exists – truly a Golden Age. Kamishibai is what Manga was before there was Manga. They are story board paintings set in sequence and one by one they are turned and narrated by storytellers. It was a very simple street theater and adored by thousand and thousands of children all over Japan throughout its rich history.
Mr. Nash does an excellent job going through this history and even citing example of where some of our modern day superhero creators like Bob Kane or Steve Ditko may have gotten ideas for certain characters. Also included are several stories starring the Golden Bat, Jungle Boy and Prince of Gamma, in which Nash has done written narration and history of the characters.
But like so many visual mediums, transformation occurs and when World War II began. The street theater became propaganda. Nash covers this period in detail and includes several examples of Anti-American and political Kamishibai. Some of which caught me off guard, the government was targeting children and teenagers after all.
Even the period after the war ended bought on new style Kamishibai, not so much a return to heroes and villains but slice of life stories such as the heartfelt Prayers For Peace, in which a girl struggles in a post-atomic bomb and war ravaged part of the city. The imagery is stunning and you can’t help but to think of her very existence and how, or if, it will go on.
Nash also goes into the birth of what we know as Manga and even a bit of Anime. With the rise of television and well placed American influences, Kamishibai took a back set to emerging technologies and even 1960’s Adam West Batman.
Any fan of Manga or Japanese and WWII history, for that matter, will welcome this book to their shelf. Along with rare artwork on every page, Manga Kamishibai: The Art of Japanese Paper Theater also includes a glossary of terms and the dust jacket folds out to a brilliant, giant poster. Due in stores on September 1, 2009, 304 pages, Hardcover, 9.2 x 8.6 x 1 inches, $35.00 US; $45.50 CAN; £19.99 UK
For more comments on this book and the latest Collected Edition news on Dean Mullaney’s Library of American Comics (IDW), Ed Brubaker’s Criminal Deluxe Edition (Marvel Icon) and Savage Dragon Ultimate Collection 1 HC (Image) listen to the Podcast.
Collected Comics Library Podcast #231
32,846Kb; 27m 48s
All this and the New Releases of the Week.
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