Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Tori Miki

(Sequel to "Dai Honya", from www.amazon.co.jp)

I mentioned Tori Miki briefly in regards to the manga that I'm translating here - Frozen Food Agent. If he's known at all within the U.S., it's as the scriptwriter for the third PatLabor movie. However, he's won the Seiun Award for best comic in 1997 ("SF Taisho"), and one of his titles - "Anywhere but Here" (which won the Bunshun award in 1995) is being carried in the U.S. by Fantagraphics. Amazon lists a number of his other works, but they're all out of print.

According to the Science Fiction Writers of Japan, Tori Miki (AKA: Mickey Bird) was born in Kumamoto, Japan, in 1958, and has quite a few titles under his belt. I decided to pick up what I could (which wasn't much) from the big Kinokuniya store in Shinjuku. These are my impressions so far:

Tooku e ikitai: (Anywhere but Here): So far, there are 5 collected volumes of these (usually) 9 panel sight gags. This is the kind of stuff that Mad Magazine used to be famous for back when geniuses like Don Martin still worked for it (yup, when Mad was still funny). A lot of the gags take several re-readings before the joke becomes clear, and even then you can't really be sure of that. This is a very surreal strip that is still running in TV Bros. (a magazine dedicated to Japanese TV).
Recommended (you can sample one volume at Amazon).

Dai Hon-ya: A silly SF adventure story written by Takita Kansei and illustrated by Miki. I haven't read it yet, but it looks to be a light-hearted piece, using some of the character designs that appear in "Anywhere but Here", and all the characters have his distinctive gag design style.

Sekishin Densetsu: (roughly "Legend of the Stone God"). A more serious SF mystery featuring two newspaper reporters trying to uncover the story behind strange events that occur at sites where large meteors have landed in the past. The character designs are more realistic and hence don't look like his gag works, but little hints and glimpses of his regular style do pop up against his will. There are 3 volumes that I know about, but I'm only 30 pages into the first one. So far, this is a pretty traditional Japanese mystery series, and doesn't really stand out against the crowd.

Machikado no Ojigibito: (Street Construction Signs): This is an essay on those figures that can be seen on construction warning signs of a guy in a uniform and hard hat, bowing to you. About 160 pages of heavy text and photos. Not recommended unless you're a serious collector of Tori Miki stuff, or street signs.

Overall impressions: Tori Miki is a very talented artist with a huge volume of output that crosses multiple genres. Although his serious works tend to be more mainstream, his gag material is definitely worth buying. Highly recommended.

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