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  • Glaeolia 3, a blissful confirmation of vitality

    Glaeolia 3, a blissful confirmation of vitality
    The third volume of the anthology published by Glacier Bay Books collects the best of Japanese alternative and independent manga.

    Glaeolia 3 is the new volume of the anthology edited and published by Glacier Bay Books, a small American publishing house that in the past two years has been offering a series of outstanding works (here, here and here some analysis) never published outside Japan, choosing mainly from the diverse indie scene related to Comitia.
    In this volume, following the great success of the second one, which won the prestigious Ignatz Award in 2021, the publisher offers a collection of short stories by both authors known in Europe and the United States, young up-and-comers on their way to success, and cult but virtually unknown mangaka, all accompanied by an excellent editorial apparatus that provides valuable information.
    Given the quantity, quality, and variety of the works offered, it is necessary to go through each story to analyse precisely their characteristics.

    Everyday Scenery, crafted by Oratnir, is a story that under a layer of cuteness hides a dark core, where memory loss and the repeated mediocrity of the everyday are intertwined. Oratnir is good not only at dosing the pace, getting the twist in the last line (even though the reader might expect it), but they also manages to alternate graphic synthesis with hatching, especially in the darker moments.

    The Invisible Woman vs The Master Swindler, written and drawn by Tsuchika Nishimura, is one of the most accomplished stories in the entire anthology. In the bittersweet and surreal encounter between a woman whom no one can see, no matter what she does, and a professional thief, capable of stealing anything, the author manages to compose pages of great impact and elegance, thanks to clean, soft lines and simply exciting page construction. In both the more classic passages and the more complex sequences, the placement of panels and the choice of angles always prove optimal for clearly understanding the story, displaying excellent graphic virtuosity, and providing good food for thought.

    White Dream is one of the latest works by Isao Yamada, a cult underground filmmaker in Japan, author of several short manga released in the past in Garo and friend of Yoshiharu Tsuge. Powerful images and suggestions follow one another in White Dream, incorporated in a narrative that is very close to the structure of dreams (as the title said), presenting a calm and dilated rhythm, where Yamada’s dry mark – very close to early 20th century European etching – has the chance to portray the unreal world that unfolds out of his protagonist’s journey.

    In The Doggsoup is a dry, surreal pulp by Junichiro Saito, an up-and-coming alternative mangaka. Saito’s style is at times reminiscent of Tadao Tsuge, but it is noticeable how much the author favors immediacy: there is a certain nervousness in the line and a certain violence in the hatching that is inevitably reflected in the tenor of the story, in the communicative force with which the themes that permeate it are unveiled and thrown at the reader’s face, in the clarity of the storytelling and the solidity of the editing. Saito’s bodies, then, are so present, so blatantly alive, that the flesh conjured by the ink explodes in every panel and the acting often pivots entire sequences, especially as they are dropped into a bare, aseptic suburban and rural setting.
    Also by Saito is Midnight Hawks, consisting of short one-page visionary epiphanies alternating graphic punchlines and grotesque atmospheres, is also featured in Glaeolia 3. In this series of story-lamps, the author’s stroke becomes more immediate and nervous, while retaining its impetuous charge.

    September Friends by Suzuka Komachiya is a boys love1 that starts classically and evolves in unexpected ways, taking fantastic tones from magical realism. In telling the story of two boys who fall in love in a convenience store, Komachiya shows off all their drawing skills, sporting a fresh and detailed line, an appealing and well-chosen character design, and a remarkable care in evoking emotions through page construction and panels editing. It can be said with confidence: if Komachiya continues on this path in the future, they can become the next big thing in the BL genre without a shadow of a doubt.

    30th Century, by neo-manga master Yuichi Yokoyama, is truly a work from the future: within a rectangular layout reiterated throughout the pages, the author uses three or four panels at most to narrate the frenzy of the year Three Thousand with rounded shapes, extremely dynamic lines, and an uncontrollable use of onomatopoeia – a trademark of his manga – graphically conveying a sound carpet of intrusive noises. All of this is seasoned with a futuristic afflatus that characterizes the atmosphere created by Yokoyama, once again emphasizing how the author is constantly reaching out to a beyond not yet shown to us in order to expand the medium with each new manga.

    2999, created by Yagi Nagaharu, is a story of mathematical probability and logical paradoxes in a science fiction setting. If the narrative structure recalls the classic proceeding in steps or levels, Nagaharu’s almost indecisive line is somewhat the key to understanding the core of the work, which lies in the fragility of the protagonist in the face of the mysteries of science and the cosmos and her calm acceptance – and childlike amazement – at what is presented before her.

    Move Forward is a fantasy-oriented story by Oumi Konomi (whom I have already written about here). The sad and nostalgic tone of the tale is modulated through a completely free – form page setting -which implies, as a result, a narrative outside the classic binaries – and a rich and detailed linework, always seeking interesting visual experimentation. Moreover, relying exclusively on captions and thoughts of the protagonist, and not on dialogue, to carry her story forward, becomes a way to give it a more intimate slant that is particularly appropriate.

    Impatient Ms. S, by KOYUBI, under a kawaii design and a structure very close to yonkoma2, tells of strong themes such as marginalization, broken dreams, and death. These, however, thanks both to the drawing and to the calm, antidramatic atmosphere that permeates the panels, are addressed with a lightness that makes one smile more than cry, giving several very pertinent considerations.

    Rain in Nakasu, by Hadena Kangofu, is a story that stands out from the outset because of the contrast that emerges between the protagonist with a simple, minimal character design and the other characters and the world in which the events take place, drawn with a rough, dirty, imprecise stroke and sharp hatching. Out of this contrast emerges a dark and somewhat dystopian story – which has its center in a rape scene that is not at all sugarcoated – in which hopes for happiness are minimal and where water, present as rain, sea, and tears, governs the lives of the characters and asserts itself as the thematic and visual heart of the manga. In Hadena Kangofu’s flickering line, one can see also the talent of being able to convey much even through worldbuilding alone.

    Specimen Room of Existence, realized by Kotaro Mitsuhashi, is a story of dreams and guilt. Mitsuhashi builds impactful dream sequences, in which individual vignettes give visionary images that immediately stick in the reader’s mind, also thanks to the style employed that mixes pencil and digital, often creating peculiar plays of light and shadow. The lights, more often than not clear-cut, contrast with the soft style of the line, creating a pleasant counterpoint, which balance the tone and atmosphere of the story by proposing an original approach to the medium.

    Another of the most successful stories is Baby, it’s you by Reiji Fukitsu, which in a style that looks very much like heta-uma3 tells of a young couple coming to terms with an unexpected pregnancy. In the author’s line there is all the fragility of the characters, in an acting that is as ramshackle as it is realistic, and a direct and unfiltered communicative intention. Then, amid some superb visual metaphors, all the many themes unleashed by the course of events unfold: anxiety about the future, changing bodies, the end of youthful dreams, but also the joy of a new life and the sharing of happiness. Fukitsu composes on debut a mature and self-aware story, a gem that shines with new light after each reread.

    The last stories are a series of episodes from Akino Kondoh‘s New York Diaries. In the author’s always measured and calibrated storytelling, even in the face of the unsettling situation of the Covid or his house going up in flames, one finds, on a graphic level, a great sense of space and, on a writing level, excellent management between balanced dialogue function and external narrator. Kondoh’s line with this series and with Akosan no Koibito has veered very much toward minimalism and total synthesis, almost eliminating shading and screens, but has retained its great intensity, especially emotional, which confirms the author’s great talent and historical importance in alternative manga.

    To sum up, Glaeolia 3 is another great publication from Glacier Bay Books, which again proves the great commitment infused in the publication of independent manga far from the mainstream, with an eye always on the discovery of new talent and with due care for the masters who continue to offer extraordinary artistic performances. An anthology, after the first two excellent volumes, that only proves once again how vital the manga underworld is and how many possibilities it offers in terms of experimentation and creative freedom.

    We talked about:
    Glaeolia 3
    AA.VV
    Translation by zhuchka, rkp, Anna Schnell, Jocelyne Allen
    Glacier Bay Books, 2022
    408 pages, paperback, black and white – 35 $
    ISBN: 978-1-953629-17-3


    1. Romantic manga that usually feature two male characters as protagonists. 

    2. Manga in four panels, generally funny, set on the kishōtenketsu structure, i.e. introduction-development-turning point-conclusion. 

    3. Literally “bad but good,” it is a style born in the pages of Garo in the 1970s that features a deliberately clumsy line and incorrect anatomical proportions, characteristics that nonetheless evoke a punk attitude and an ironic approach to drawing that decree its great strength. 

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