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I’ll Give It My All… Tomorrow
Vol. 1
Shunju Aono
Viz
2010

As my twenties slowly drew to a close, I looked forward to turning 30 with no small amount of dread. But hey, at least I’m not 40! Shizuo Oguro is, and like so many men his age, he’s itching for a change in his life. His work unfulfilling, his life rather aimless, he finds himself looking for a new path that will give his life some direction and meaning. For many men in Shizuo’s position, such a midlife crisis is quickly solved by buying a sports car or finding religion. Not so for Shizuo, who quits his job and spends his days wandering the neighborhood and playing video games until inspiration finally strikes. His new goal in life? Becoming a manga artist! Never mind that Shizuo’s passion far outweighs his artistic abilities, or that he still has a teenage daughter to raise on his own (with a little help from his flabbergasted father, who also lives with Shizuo and can hardly believe his son’s seemingly delusional aspirations). Despite the odds against him and his new goal, Shizuo resolves to truly give it his all.

Resigned from his dull but secure desk job, Shizuo takes a job in fast food to support his family while pursuing his creative dreams. Working and hanging out with people nearly half his age — captions in many of these scenes list the various characters’ ages, highlighting his growing anxiety over his perceived (and real) lack of progress in his life compared to his younger peers — he tries to recapture the carefree spirit of his youth while simultaneously asserting the value of his age and experience. Whether it’s in his clumsy attempts to impress girls, or in his early drafts of cliche-ridden manga, Shizuo clings desperately to the belief that his age is an asset, and that his life experience, however dull it might have been, will give him the edge he needs to succeed.


I’ll Give It My All… Tomorrow is a deadpan but emotionally resonant slice of life comedy, with a premise that might feel familiar to anyone who’s read American Splendor or at least knows the tale of the late, great Harvey Pekar. But Pekar possessed an insightful appreciation of the mundane, an intelligent sense of cynicism, and a clear understanding of himself, all qualities that Shizuo lacks in spades. He also had help from numerous gifted artists willing to help bring his ideas to life. Shizuo’s artistic abilities — to put it in the most positive light possible — show potential, but are still a little too rough around the edges for publication. Will he ever find his muse and take his skills to the next level? Shizuo isn’t the brightest guy or the hardest worker (despite devoting all-nighters to his manga), and as a dad he’s nearly lost touch with his daughter Suzuko (who seems to relate to him more as a clumsy big brother than as a father). Despite his shortcomings, he’s a likable lead character, one you’ll want to root for through all the ups and downs of his quest for mangaka glory.

Allow me to vent for just a minute. I’m currently stuck in a dead-end job I despise, one where I wait on kids (er, usually 22 or 23 year-olds) fresh out of college who’ve just landed themselves a great job with a bright future. I’m still trying to start over and find a better career for myself, which has been a challenging and lengthy process, to say the least. I still go through periods of trying to “find myself,” despite being out of my teens and twenties, the time that society deems it most appropriate to try out new pursuits and identities in the way that I’d still like to do. While it makes no sense to constantly compare myself to others or regret my choices, I still catch myself doing it on a constant basis, regardless of the ill effects this has on my self-esteem (Psychology Today has a great article this month on this very phenomenon). Yet, I still want to believe that I have something worthwhile to offer to the world, an untapped potential that’s just waiting to be found, one that I’ll get around to discovering… one of these days. Maybe everyone feels like this sometimes? If you ever do, you’ll find plenty to relate to in I’ll Give It My All… Tomorrow.


This is the sort of title that’s poised to crossover to open-minded fans Western graphic novels. The story has a universal appeal, and the art style is very loose, looking more at home next to newspaper or in Japanese 4-koma comics than it does with traditional manga. It’s easy to imagine this having a good deal of success in America and beyond, if only it were shelved next to some of these books at Borders instead of Inuyasha. But hopefully savvy readers will still seek it out. Like Kingyo Used Books, IGIMA…T is a kind of meta-manga that explores the relationship between manga, readers, and artists in Japan. While it’s just one author’s take on the subject, I think it’s another insightful look at the culture and its prevailing attitudes, which are commonly painted in the most broad strokes throughout American fandom. Obviously, it’s not exactly an action-packed title, but every chapter is consistently rewarding in its own quiet way. Highly recommended, especially if you’re looking for a story that’s a little off the beaten path.

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I love buying DVDs. I wish I didn’t quite so much. I’d sure save a lot of money that way, but for better or worse, that’s the kind of anime fan I am, I guess.

I’d certainly buy more if they weren’t so expensive. But are they really? For years now I’ve been hearing people say that anime on DVD is even more expensive in Japan than it is here in the states. I’ve never found an explanation for this. Wouldn’t a country with more anime viewers/potential customers make for a more mass produced/cheaper product? I’m no student of economics, but it would seem to me that this logic would hold true across different cultures. Now I have heard that titles are deliberately delayed from being distributed in the US due to our comparatively low prices — which would entice Japanese fans to actually import their discs from America rather than buying them from the shop down the street — but I don’t know how much truth there is to that. But that’s a tangent of the matter that I’m trying to investigate here.

On Amazon’s Japanese website, the DVD for Evangelion 1.11 appears to have a standard retail price of ¥5,040, with Amazon selling it for a discounted price of ¥3,763. That’s about $58 and $43 in American dollars (according to this website, as all conversions in this entry will be). This discounted price in Japan is still higher than the standard retail price here in America of $29.98, with Amazon.com currently offering the film for as little as $13.49.

In Japan, Amazon is selling Ponyo for ¥3,651 (srp ¥4,935). That’s $42 and almost $57, respectively. The list price on Amazon.com for Americans? $29.99, with a sale price of $16.49.

I don’t even know how to wrap my mind around something like this. Like most of the series I’ve tried to look up, there’s rarely any kind of box set available, let alone a discounted “slim” set, as so many series are eventually released in here in America. A search for Bamboo Blade yields 10 results, each appearing (as best as I can tell) to be a single disc selling for ¥8,190, or about $94. The only exception is first result on the page, with a possible entry-level, “bargain” price of ¥ 4,935 (almost $57), on sale for ¥ 4,036 ($46). If you add up the cost of every disc on this page (assuming each disc is unique, which is probably a big assumption for me to make), the total comes to about ¥77,746, or $893.53.

Bamboo Blade, which I’m currently watching over on ANN, runs for 26 episodes. Now I’m going to admit that my methods for figuring this all out might be horribly flawed. If I’ve made any egregious errors, then I hope some better-informed reader of this entry will help correct my mistakes. Because it looks like Japanese fans buying Japanese DVDs are paying out about $34 per Bamboo Blade episode. How any fan is able to afford this is beyond me. Meanwhile, American fans can pick up the entire series on Amazon for just about $50.

For all our pissing and moaning about what gets licensed and doesn’t, or how anime companies are trying to “rip us off,” maybe we really don’t have it all that bad.


Eden: It’s an Endless World!
Vol. 2-7
Hiroki Endo
Dark Horse
2006 – 2007

Aside from its use of cyberpunk tropes, from artificial intelligence to cybernetic bodies, the dystopian future of Hiroki Endo’s Eden: It’s an Endless World! could almost pass for a modern day gangster story. And that’s one of the least likely genres that I imagined the plot moving towards after the first volume, with its reflective, existentialist tones. Eden seemed focused on a bigger picture, one ecological and geopolitical in nature. Nothing less than the fate of the world seemed to be at stake. If only it were that simple.

As the series has progressed, such greater problems have gradually given way to “smaller” ones: poverty, drug addiction, prostitution, organized crime and corrupt government. While the ragtag band of mercenaries and outcasts that make up the story’s protagonists are able to prove themselves in combat through teamwork and sheer will in early volumes, overcoming such social pressures (along with new foes) could prove to be too much for them to handle. But for the characters of Eden, life isn’t about changing the world, but just surviving in it one day at a time. This, as it turns out throughout volumes two through seven, is never a easy matter.

Volume 2 opens with the central protagonist, 15 year-old Elijah Ballard, unwittingly teamed up with a band of resistance fighters in the Andes Mountains. His companions (formerly his captors) set out to escape territory controlled by the right-wing, global dictatorship known as Propater. Outmanned and outgunned, they face off against their opponents in some of the most elaborately composed and intense action scenes that I’ve ever come across in manga. I’m no expert on the form so I can’t say how Endo stacks up against the greats as an artist, but I’ve got to admit that his attention to detail, no matter how gruesome it can be at times, is unmatched in my book.

Pretty pictures aside, his attention to detail concerning the characters is what makes Eden such a great read. The more manga I read (not to mention the anime I watch), the more I notice authors consistently going the extra mile to fully develop not just the protagonists, but the villains as well. From acclaimed Studio Ghibli films to popular shonen series, characters’ backgrounds and motivations are often explored to a degree that’s rarely considered (or truly valued) here in the West. This is a broad statement, for sure, but I think that most fans of manga and anime would agree with it to some extent. Eden operates well within this tradition, devoting multiple chapters to its characters’ troubled pasts. Little is revealed of the quiet but ruthless assassin Kenji during the first few volumes, until we’re treated to a flashback of his childhood and the events that lead him to choose such a dangerous path in his life. We also get to know the cyborg hacker Sophia, the gang lord Pedro, the prostitute Helena, the circumstances they faced from birth and the choices they made which eventually entangle their fates inextricably together.

In short, we’re presented with characters deep enough to, if not truly care about, then at least empathize with. This is important as it’s made clear quite early on, no character is truly safe from the violent twists of fate that are so common in Eden‘s hostile world. This left me more shocked and shaken than I’ve been by a manga in quite some time, and I don’t expect any respite in future volumes.

I’ll admit that I’m far from the most seasoned reader of manga in the otakusphere, but I think I can recognize a great book when I see one. Eden: It’s an Endless World! continues to be one of the more ambitious mangas I’ve ever read. Even as it’s set its sights on more conventional targets, it’s continued to grow more intriguing. With no small amount of trepidation, I look forward to more.

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