Thursday, August 2, 2012

Umezz Updates

You never know with Kazuo.

Following the death of the Kazuo Umezu Official Homepage, he stepped out of the spotlight and embarked on a quest to leave the manga world behind in reinventing himself as a rock star. Now Kazz is staging a comeback, kicking things off with scattered television appearances and a session on Niko Nama last month. There's also the forthcoming Umezz Perfection release of has magnum opus, Fourteen, featuring a brand new ending spread out over 18 full color pages--his first manga work in well over a decade.

Even more, the Lumine department stores in Shinjuku and Ikebukuro are plastered with advertisements featuring his heroines and trademark red and white stripes. As bizarre as that may sound, Kazz is the original fashionista mangaka and one the first to give his characters revolving wardrobes. Kazz has always had an eye for costume design--including his own.

Everything is leading up to Umezz Carnival 2012, a day filled with live performances of material from Yami no Album 2, along with a talk event unraveling the mysteries of Fourteen, dancers, and a high-five session topped off with autographs. Kazz has never disappointed before, so be sure to grab your tickets when they go on sale August 20th!


  1. hold on, did you say a brand new ending for the epic tale of chicken gorge? like in alternative ending? or like the ending now come in awesome color pages?

  2. It's not clear if it will be an alternate ending or an after story to the original. Regardless of what the contents are, it will be NEW writing from Umezz which is enough to get me pumped up.

    1. well so i guess time will tell, this must be how starved dogs feels...

  3. I have to thank the Tokyo Scum Brigade for their stout promotion of Umezu which piqued the old curiosity enough for me to give Fourteen a read.

    I must say it is the craziest Manga I've read since Freesia. Freesia is a wonderful work of atmospheric art whose isotopic dissonance strikes a cord with me, but deuce if Umezu does not fare well in his own panache filled way.

    Of course thanks shall also go out to the faceless army of scanlation groups who are willing to scan such obscure works and translate them for all to enjoy. A mention should go out to their much hated brethren the scanlation aggregate websites that shamelessly and for everyone's convenience collect these scans in dubious quality into mega collections online, all complete with ad support.

    Lastly a cordial nod to the dirty lace that ties it all together, the iPad apps that act as convenient and friendly front ends for the aggregate websites.

    All these more or less free amateur enterprises are doing what is going to take old fashioned paper publishers years to recognize as a by then hopelessly missed opportunity.

    Keep the recommendations coming lads, Parasyte was wonderful too.

    1. Likewise, I dug up a copy of Freesia from the break room and like the setup so far. Let's hope it pays out!

      Dorohedoro is by far the best currently serialized manga AND it has a legitimate English release to boot. It won't disappoint.

      I have mixed feelings regarding the scanlations of Fourteen. On one hand, I'm happy to see Umezu receive more attention, especially after the official releases of his weaker material (Scary Book) faltered.

      On the other hand, it's a huge mental leap from Drifting Classroom to Fourteen. All of the groundwork is laid out in his previous titles, so that when you finally get to the end of the line, Chicken George and America don't seem so crazy. They make perfect sense in the Umezuverse!

    2. Thanks for the recommendation. I'll have to check Dorohedoro out.

      In the meantime I just finished the last chapter of Fourteen, and I have to say the ending seemed a bit abrupt, if not rushed, but somehow perfectly appropriate given what preceded it. As I read through the epic I got the feeling of Umezu being very energetic and enthusiastic but at the same also very easily distracted. Like a person hopped up on caffein, or your hyperactive drug of choice, while trying to have a monolog of some import that rapidly changes and morphs its direction and purpose like a bee flying about in a state of agitation.

      But to go back to Freesia. I am curious what you think of it. I still have not finished it because I am savouring it.

      It is not saying little when I claim that Freesia has now become the most loved manga that I have ever read.

      I was thinking about what exactly it is, that quality which it possesses that puts it above any other manga out of Japan that has crossed my path.

      Then it hit me, it has atmosphere. Atmosphere, in manga form, now that is something I had never experienced before.

      In fact the last time I experienced atmosphere from that format was when I in my childhood partook in the French bande dessinees for adults.

      That French stuff coming in the wake of Moebius and his influencial Arzach had the same quality, that same absurd dream like atmosphere to their worlds.

      It might just have been that I was too young to fully appreciate anything but the art in those works but I never remember being particularly fond of their stories.

      I may have to one day revisit those works to see whether those French authors really did have deficiencies in their narrative or not. But one thing that sets Freesia apart from my childhood memories is that it pulls off a very interesting narrative to go along and aid its atmospheric absurd world.
      Perhaps it just resonates with my own nihilistic sensibilities but I really do enjoy its bleak portrayal of the world.

      If there are any other atmospheric works by Japanese authors I'd love to know of them.

  4. Well, finally finished Freesia, used my arcane methods to find similar works and started on Dorohedoro, which is pretty fantastic as expected.

    I am sure the scum staff are already well familiar with works like Gyo and Uzumaki given that the author is said to be inspired by Lovecraft and Umezu.

    I also expect you fine gentlemen to already know about Homunculus as well.

    So that just leaves me to recommend the more obscure work Blam!

    Now, this one might not be for everyone. But I say if you are a fan of 70's-80's Franco-Belgian science fiction bande dessinee then this is one not to be missed.

    The visuals of the depicted world is very clearly inspired by the rundown, organic, dimensional and tubular universes typical of Franco-Belgian artists of those days who as their claim to fame inspired Hollywood to change their previously held clean sterile vision of the future through inspiring movies such as Blade Runner, Star Wars and Alien.

    Unfortunately the manga suffers from the same flaws of the works that inspired it. It really falls pitifully short on the narrative department. Characters have almost no depth to them and the plot is just an excuse to find more cool looking monstrosities for the protagonist to shoot with his deus ex machina gun.

    In short, it is worth reading for the visual imagination alone, and little else. But if you do give it a read be sure to find the sequel/parody which the author penned after the series wrapped up.

    It is a moe take on the characters and universe and a rather hilarious one because it is so detached from the tone of the original.

    1. Coincidentally I finished the last volume of Freesia just yesterday. Honestly I think it would have had a stronger finish had the story not shifted back to Kano. His apathy kept his psychological disorders from developing in any interesting way--after all, where can you go with a character that's already crazy? On the other hand, Tanaka struggling with his morals and the female soldier-turned bodyguard trying to pull her life together put the grimness of the alternate reality setting to good use.

      I tried reading Tsutomu Nihei in the past (ABARA) and found his art engrossing but totally incomprehensible when it tried to tell a story. Then again, it was a short work so it's probably not fair to pigeon hole him for it. I've heard good things about Knights of Sidonia and have decided to give him a second chance.

      Homunculus has been on my radar but always on the edge. I'm wary of "psychological horror" as the buildup always betrays the conclusion. (Freesia!)

    2. I think the problem with the ending of Freesia is the same problem that plagues any manga with a bit of a surrealist streak. Especially if it deals with existential topics.

      The authors of such works err a tiny bit on the side of pretension. I feel the main character in Freesia acted as a sort of author surrogate to share the, no doubt to the author, profound personal philosophies, which appear to anyone but the originator as pure incomprehensible nonsense.

      The problem is, I feel, that in such works the so called philosophies originate from somewhere deep inside the author's psyche and unless painstakingly narrated will come off as gibberish without the mountain of context that give them meaning.

      In short from the very beginning I had a good feeling that this was a work I would love everything about except the ending.

      You are right though, the most interesting characters had already been killed off by the concluding chapters leaving only the two most incomprehensible, Kano, Higuchi and the boring straight guy Yamada to wrap things up.

      Disregarding the ending though I felt the the latter half was anything but dull. Mizoguchi's final arc was quite nicely handled, as well was the revelation of the death of Kano's girlfriend. I did not see that one coming.

      A common theme of the work seemed to be the psychological balance brought on or destroyed by personal attachment. Mizoguchi went off the deep end once his wife committed suicide and same for Kano once he found out the truth about his girlfriend. Tanaka had abandonment issues which were tempered by his girlfriend etc.

      Anyway, Jiro Matsumoto is definitely on my radar from now on.

      As for Nihei, you certainly have him pegged. His works give off the atmosphere that somewhere in the author's brain there exists an extremely detailed, deep and fascinating universe but he only bothers narrating maybe 0.5% of it in the works based on them.

      I'd say give Blame! a chance anyway, the plot is really not important to the work. It is more like a visual journey. His art is fantastic. Well, it is fantastic as long as he is not drawing human faces.

  5. YO! let me recommend some too that are close or related to mentaly ill characters or just uncomprenhended ones:

    Ichi the Killer
    20th Century Boys (and 21st)
    Bamboo Samurai (Takemitsu Zamurai)
    Buraiden Gai
    Heaven's Door (KOIKE Keiichi)
    Legend of the Strongest Man, Kurosawa
    National Quiz
    Neighbor No. 13 (Rinjin 13-gou)
    Seizon - Life

    well lets see how you do with those there, i put it in alphabetical order so lets say they all are awesome, but i personally obsess over this one (Parasyte).

    also i don't know but i found Knights of Sidonia actually worse than his other works, even if this one actually makes sense, i mean i may be unfair with him after he made a manga whit a clear narrative, but i found it slow paced, and not in the sense of there being suspense, but some times nothing happens, other than ambiguous romance on bath house, i know he is going for an awkward comedy release echi hermaphrodite situation, but it gets old quite fast. in my own opinoin i deffinitely would put Homunculus before Knights of Sidonia, even more i would put it along the list i just posted, because Homunculus is not really "Psychological horror" is more of a detective feeling with shitloads of surrealism, mixed with society critics and skull trepanation, and the conclusion on Homunculus, well lets say is better to not believe what people with holes in their heads go around spouting, even if he nails a lot of things on the meantime.

    1. Thanks for the recommendations, I've already read Parasyte, seen the Monster anime. Manhole, Sanctuary and 20th century Boys were already on my to-read list.

      I'll be sure to check out the rest though.

      The conclusion of Homunculus was rather appropriate for a selfish character with the power to peer deep into the hearts and solve the issues of anyone but himself.

      Throughout the manga he acts selfishly in trying to find someone that can help solve his own issues. When he finally happens upon the one person who has that ability his selfish actions spoil the opportunity.

  6. oh also check BioMega by NIHEI Tsutomu i think s his best
    and talking about bios Bio Meat: Nectar is quite good too, is survival horror.