Dr. Strawberry: Or How I Learned to Stop Being Creeped Out and Enjoy Manga

Back when I was a kid, comics were a rare thing for me to get.  I remember my first comic books.  They were a series of Spiderman comics with holographic covers.  I remember liking Spiderman because he was a cocky bastard.  No matter what happened, he was always talking smack to whoever he was fighting.  He reminded me a little of me, without the superpowers or trophy wife.  Now Spiderman is a pretty typical comic book which has been published by Marvel since 1962.  He’s been around.  He has loved and lost.  He has gone damn near evil and come back.  Like a good action movie. 

A little background on Spiderman, for those not familiar with the comics or movies:

(from  Wikipedia article on Spiderman)

Lee and Ditko conceived of the character as an orphan being raised by his Aunt May and Uncle Ben as an ordinary teenager, having to deal with the normal struggles of youth in addition to those of a costumed crime fighter. Spider-Man’s creators gave him super strength and agility, the ability to cling to most surfaces, shoot spider-webs using devices of his own invention which he called “web-shooters,” and react to danger quickly with his “spider-sense”, enabling him to combat his foes.

So, we can already see a common thread between Spiderman and Ichigo (who I will talk about in just a bit).  They are both teenagers with superpowers having to deal with normal life and living with extraordinary life.

Comics are like a perfect mesh of books and movies for a couple of reasons.  They have the benefit of books in that you can use a narrator and thought bubbles to convey the internal thoughts and struggles of the characters.  On the other hand they are able to convey emotion and action better through the visual aid of the art.  Hell in good comics, half of the story is told through the art.  Now having friends in the manga world I have been introduced to a series that reminds me a bit of Spiderman.  Here is a review I did awhile back for Bleach:

I always thought that manga and anime were kind of cheesy.  I thought they were all demons and ghosts and giant swords and big shoes.  I loved Final Fantasy, at least VII, VIII, and X.  Recently my views have changed a little.   A buddy of mine gave me a stack of manga to read.  I have become sort of familiar with Bleach the anime as all of my friends here watch it every Saturday night.  So when he gave me the chance to read the manga I figured I’d give it a shot.

Bleach by Tite Kubo is the story of a young man named Ichigo who receives powers from Rukia.  These powers are the powers of a Soul Reaper, an intrinsic natural force of soldiers intended to cleanse the soul of recently dead lost souls called Hollows.  Rukia attempted to lend her powers to Ichigo so that he could save his family from an attack by a Hollow.  Ichigo takes all of Rukia’s powers and becomes a pseudo- soul reaper.

Ichigo is an interesting character.  He is a 17 year old high school student.  He is testy, immature and narcissistic.  Rukia dropped a huge responsibility on him with the transfer of her power.  It seems that he is going to have to mature very quickly to survive in the world of the soul reapers.  It will be interesting to see how his character changes over the series.  I can connect with Ichigo since I was once a 17 year old high school boy.  It was all image, friends, and girls.  Being able to connect with the characters in whatever you’re reading Rukia on the other hand is an interesting compliment to Ichigo’s character. 

Rukia has been a soul reaper for over a century.  She is a very responsible woman, but seems like she will break the rules when she deems necessary.  She is however very, very stubborn.  Seeing as I am also a very stubborn person, I can relate with her and it a gives her a very human (lol?) side.  Kubo seems to write very believable characters, people you can believe in and empathize with. 

The story is going to a very interesting place.  I have seen the beginnings of overarching plots and budding love stories.  There seems to be a strong connection between Ichigo and Rukia.  I have a feeling that they will continue to grow closer as the series continues.  There also seems to be a strong connection between Ichigo and one of his classmates, Orihime.  The attraction between them grows stronger with each volume.  As I have only read the first three volumes I can only conclude that something will happen between them later on.  Or maybe him and Rukia?  We’ll just have to see.

The plot is interesting, and the action is intense.  The fight scenes are fast paced and fun.  Ichigo loves to talk smack like a Marvel superhero.  No matter how bad the fight seems to be going he is always positive and witty.  The humor is clever and irreverent.  I laughed out loud quite a few times while reading each volume.

Bleach has changed my mind about manga.  It’s not all cheesy costumes and campy action.  It can be interesting and mature while still being funny and wondrous.  I look forward to seeing where Bleach takes me in future volumes.  I would recommend Bleach to any new reader to manga.  It has everything one might want in a story, action, budding romance, teen angst and beautiful women on every page.  Go and enjoy.

Now we can see the similarities between Spiderman and Ichigo.  Both have come upon their powers almost by accident.  They have love interests that may or may not unfold how they wish.  Comics and manga are not so much different that they must be mutually exclusive.  It’s ok to bounce back and forth across the line, I promise.

Yours in frame and panel (American and Japanese!)

Noodle

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