Monday, August 29, 2011

How do you teach an old librarian to read a graphic novel? Not easy.

Our teen MPL librarian Amy Winter offered a challenge to me some months ago, to read a Japanese and American style graphic novel. I took up this challenge because to be frank it is my duty to read what tweens find interesting and keep up with the trends.
Mrs. Winter warned me that I might find this a challenge, but gave me some instructions on how to approach reading one of these novels. Her enthusiasm and confidence in me was infectious, so began to read Black Bird by Kanoko Sakurakoji.

I was completely lost and could not comprehend the flow of the story. I called up Mrs. Winter and said this book is awful. How can these kids LIKE a book like this? It is SO hard to comprehend. Apparently, I was reading the Japanese manga book completely wrong. She explained I had to read the book starting from the back of the book and not to what I assumed was the beginning of the story. The Japanese graphic novels are read from right-to-left direction from upper right corner to bottom left. Comics are read like a standard American/Western Europe fashion from left to right - upper left corner to bottom right.

Well, I still struggled with Black Bird; I found the order of the reading format and placement of the graphics very confusing and even distracting to the story. In effect, it placed me, the reader, on the outer rim of the story, instead of being immersed and one with the characters. A disappoint since I love paranormal romance stories about vampires and demons, which this book had in spades. The characters were like strangers to me, I really didn’t care if Misao, (the female protagonist with the gift of sight, a bride of prophecy whose blood will give power to the demon who claims her) will get her man. Apparently the romantic interest and demon Kyo wants her for his bride.

The book ends without a satisfactory ending in regards to Misao and Kyo complicated relationship. This series goes on for nine more volumes in English and 13 volumes in Japanese language. I wasn’t hooked and I will not be dedicating anymore of my reading time to find out what happened to these two characters. I will chock this up to being a Japanese Manga newbie reader and not to the quality of the story. The writer Kanoko Sakurakoji is popular and has won some prestigious awards for his work.

I then read the American version of manga, in the story titled Pixie: Volume 1 by Mathieu Mariolle. I really liked, liked this book. It is like the comic books of my youth with bright vibrant colors, so different from the black and white version of Japanese Manga art. This fantasy story is about a young prince from the country of Daimoon who has been under the control of his tutor and a father who doesn’t care about him. The two prevent him from dreaming when he goes to sleep. He gets his dream, however, of escaping the palace through the kidnapping by a thief named Pixie.
An accident causes Ael to become unconscious and he starts to dream, which transports the pair to a land in another world. They meet warriors and beasts and find out that Ael can make things happen by just dreaming up his desires.

The first volume is an introduction of the plot and characters. A second volume concludes this fantasy story of magic and adventure. This story is not a manga series without an end. I am tempted to read the second story.

I am glad Mrs. Winter drew me out of my comfort zone and introduced me to a new genre of the written word. She is the lady you need to see, though, if you want a great referral or just to share a review of a book. The woman knows her manga and she loves reading them too!

Checking out,

Mrs. V

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