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Shameless Self Promotion Post

28 Feb

Hey howdy everyone.

Thanks for all the great contributions to the Barefoot Gen MMF! I had a fantastic time hosting it and hope to do it again in the future. As of now, I have become extremely busy with some work related stuff but wanted to keep this blog updated so I am going to post links to all the podcasts that I’ve done, just so you can check out more about me, if you are interested in learning about the personality behind this blog.

Episode #31 of the Manga Out Loud podcast, talking about the Barefoot Gen MMF with Ed Sizemore, Rob McMonigal and Patrick Jones.

Episode #25 of the Manga Out Loud podcast, talking about Twin Spica with Ed Sizemore, Johanna Draper Carlson, Daniella Orihuela Gruber and Tim Maughan.

Episode #20 of the Manga Out Loud podcast, talking about Batman: the Brave & the Bold with Ed Sizemore.

Jammer’s Animovie Podcast #16 with Daniella Orihuela Gruber and Doctor  talking about the Manga Publisher’s Coalition.

Jammer’s Animovie Podcast #9 with Daniella Orihuela Gruber, Mikey D. Pirate and Pwngoatjunkie talking about the whole new world of manga!

Enjoy!

Comparing Apples to Oranges: Barefoot Gen & Grave of Fireflies, How similar are they, really? by Patrick Jones

19 Feb

Patrick Jones is a guy, that happens to be on the internet, you can find him on twitter by the username @Johnny_Jobbs.

If you’re reading this, then there is a chance that you probably have heard of Barefoot Gen and a higher chance of knowing Grave of The Fireflies due to the prestige that it has garnered by Studio Ghibli & Roget Ebert and other people. You are most likely reading this during or because of the Manga Movable Feast since its hosted on the MMF site, as such I will save you the effort of telling you what these movies are about. The point of this article is that while Barefoot Gen is a phenomenal piece of work, reviewing or looking at Barefoot Gen in a vacuum is not just how we, Teh Internet, do things nowadays. We always make comparisons to other stuff whether it is for criticism or to get other people to watch it etc. It is simply a simpler way to convey things. Therefore a comparison MUST be made and I CHOOSE

GRAVE OF THE FIREFLIES, THE MOST HORRIFYINGLY DEPRESSING MOVIE EVER MADE (Claimed by me, Patrick Jones….the writer of this article)

To go against

BAREFOOT GEN, THE MOST TERRIFYING SERIES EVAR! (Second verse same as the first)

WARNING: the following content bellow does not contain BRUTAL IMAGES AND CONTENT. Viewer discretion is not needed.

Now to start at the painfully obvious comparison, Barefoot Gen & Grave of the Fireflies are both Japanese stories made by Japanese people that take place in Japan around World War 2. Barefoot Gen & Grave of the Fireflies are both based on real stories. Akiyuki Nosaka and Keiji Nakazawa both experienced to an extent the bad things in the two stories.

Please note that I said to an extent. The two stories have changes to what actually happened in real life, similar to what Tim O’Brien did with his experience in Vietnam in the semi-autobiography turned Fiction, The Things They Carried , they changed around stuff to make the story better and to portray what Tim O’Brien names in The Things They Carried the “Story Truth” which according to Tim, is what “truly” happens or what the person who wrote the story felt what happened, While The Things They Carried came after the two stories were written. I (teh writer, Patrick Jones) believe that Akiyuki Nosaka and Keiji Nakazawa had a prototype of that idea while they wrote down their stories While Akiyuki didn’t actually die (that’s how he was even able to write the story in the first place….whoops SPOILERZ) Akiyuki wrote the story as an apology to his sister because he feels guilty about her death. To Akiyuki, he felt like he died when her sister died (At least that’s what I think…you might want to take that with a grain of salt). And Keiji did not actually help give birth to his mother’s child during the aftermath of the atomic bomb , but in Hiroshima: The Autobiography of Barefoot Gen Keiji says that he was told about his mother’s birth in such exquisite detail that he felt like he was there helping give birth to his sister. This in my mind and hopefully your mind shows that the two authors had some prototype of the “Story Truth”…or not, but that would destroy my argument.

There are numerous other comparisons that can be made between the two; I can hit some out right now. They are both had live-action movies, they both were written by male, Japanese authors and they both were targeted to all audiences. But another important comparison that MUST BE MADE is symbolism. The two stories are heavily reliant on symbolism whether its B-29 bombers to Gen’s barefoot feet or to the bomb (or bombs in Grave of the Fireflies case) that was dropped on the main characters town, the two have symbols, but so does almost every story ever. What is truly notable about these two is that they use one BIG symbol that they use to HAMMER THE MESSAGE OF THE STORY INTO YOUR BRAIN. In Barefoot Gen, the main symbol is Wheat, that delicious delectable food that completes our sandwiches and makes most cereal possible, is used to tell Gen and the audience to be strong and to stick to what you believe in. In Grave of the Fireflies the main symbol is, of course, Fireflies, that blinking insect, is used to portray the brief life of innocence and to respect the dead soldiers, which brings me and you to another comparison that can be made, they are both staunchly anti-war, to what severity can be debated endlessly but it’s there, and it’s loud and it is understandable. Most, if not all, the bad things that happened to the characters in both stories can be attributed to World War Two.

If you had read or watched Barefoot Gen or Grave of the Fireflies which you probably have if you are reading this article (If not…then why are you reading this; You’re ruining yourself on a madding, depressing trip through hell and back) you may have noticed the passion, the people who have wrote these stories were driven to tell them, if it was not for that then who knows if we would have ever gotten these magnificent pieces of work, works so deep with symbolism and meaning that one could endlessly debate about the works and the similarities about the two, which means that this article could technically go on for hundreds or thousands of pages about the similarities and why that may be, but who has the time or the patience to read or listen to something that is complementary to the works that is longer than those two works combined. It is highly likely that few people will read this whole article in the first place so why even bother writing this article? Because I am DRIVEN BY MY PASSION FOR THESE WORKS SO MUCH THAT I WROTE A WHOLE ARTICLE COMPARING THE TWO, EVEN KNOWING THAT FEW PEOPLE WILL READ IT BECAUSE I LOVE THESE WORKS THAT RIPS OUT MY HEARTSTRINGS. But I am not talented,disciplined,nor driven enough to write about all the similarities between Barefoot Gen and Grave of the Fireflies, there’s just so many. I don’t how they can be so similar but somehow they are and even more bewildering is that they can be unique and good enough that I would recommend both to anyone.

See what I did there? I took a whole paragraph to tell you that I can’t write down more stuff about this while simultaneously writing down more stuff, I’m sorry, this article needs to be handed in on time. I give apologies to Sam Kusek and Edward Sizemore, who gave me this opportunity and I am sorry for this train wreck( but not sorry enough to stop this train wreck but I’m still pretty sorry). I also give a big apology to Thomas (a.k.a. @ABCBTom on twitter) He was supposed to do this article and would have done a much better job than me and yet CRUEL FATE caused him to be unable to do his article in time for the Manga Movable Feast causing me to pick up the torch; to him I am truly sorry. Since I am being so meta right now I might as well give credit where credit is due at this point. Thanks to Sam Kusek (@SamKusek on twitter) for creating the Manga Movable Feast and having this one be about Barefoot Gen. hopefully the MMF will spread awareness of this piece of work and I also give him thanks for giving me (Patrick Jones @Johnny_Jobbs on twitter) my chance to shine…and fail miserably. I also give thanks to Edward Sizemore(@edsizemore on twitter) for talking Sam Kusek into letting me write for the MMF. But I give BIG thanks to Akiyuki Nosaka and Keiji Nakazawa for creating In my humble opinion what is essential read/watching to anyone and is something that everyone should read before they die( you can find Barefoot Gen and Grave of the Fireflies and Hiroshima: The Autobiography of Barefoot Gen and purchase them by clinking the clicky links in this sentence). Now that I’m done I need some way to end this article………………………………………………Hm………………………………………………………….

P.S. I don’t  own any of the photos used in this article; now you know.

Barefoot Gen MMF Day Six

19 Feb

Rob McMonigal over at Panel Patter is working on a newer posting for the Feast but in the mean time, wanted to share his reviews for volumes one, two, three, four, five, six and seven respectively.

Anna of Manga Report, talks about an excerpt from the classic Frederik L. Schodt book Manga! Manga! The World of Japanese Comics and how it introduced her to our choice this month.

Michelle Smith, Soliloquy in Blue, shows us her stuff with a review of volume one, where she speaks more to her reactions to the Nakaoka family pre-bomb.

John Thomas at the Manga Village compares Barefoot Gen to The Drifting Classroom in his review of volume one.

Daniella Orihuela-Gruber of All About Manga talks about her atypical reaction to the series, due to her upbringing & experiences at a private Jewish school.

Ash Brown at Experiments in Manga brings another review of volume one to the table.

That’s all the postings for today. I will leave you with the banner from the live action Barefoot Gen film.

Day Five Postings

 

 

 

Retelling Trauma through Panels and Word Bubbles (Revisited)

17 Feb

Awhile ago, while I was still in school at Emerson College, I wrote a paper for a class called On Death and Dying, that explored different aspects of how we as people portray and ultimately deal with the inevitable ending of our lives. My case for this paper was to argue that the Comics medium, in the past few decades, has the ability to hold the same sense of emotional significance and conveyance when portraying traumatic events or wrongdoings that other media, like print and television, have. While I made my point, providing seemingly endless examples like Denny O’Neil’s Green Lantern/Green Arrow and specifically, a comparison of Art Spiegelman’s Maus and Keiji Nakazawa’s Barefoot Gen, a true exploration of the content was never fully realized. I was merely stating facts about how books conveyed emotion and trauma but not how they helped us to learn from the events.

That, ladies and gentlemen, is what I hope to accomplish with this posting: a comparative look at how Maus and Barefoot Gen, two outstanding works about horribly traumatic events, show us the basic human levels of survival and how trauma ultimately affects the rest of the world around us.

To start, I want to get my artistic points out there, before I get to the meat and potatoes of the discussion. I think Barefoot Gen‘s artwork really detracts the stories more serious elements for me. I have never seen this specific point brought up before, instead the opposite (that the artwork is frighteningly horrific) has, but I find the artwork a little too cartoony; almost in a Disney-esque sense. It really takes me out of the context of the story and we all know for a fact that this wasn’t Nakazawa’s intention. His images have struck chords with other artists, including Spiegelman who states “I will never forget the people dragging their own melted skin as they walk through the ruins of Hiroshima, the panic-stricken horse on fire galloping through the city, the maggots crawling out of the sores of a young girl’s ruined face.” Maus on the other hand, takes the cake in this aspect, creating a clever method of representing race and prejudice through the guise of animals, intentionally taking a less harsh route artistically. The Jewish people are mice, with their German hunters portrayed as cats; feeble mice powerless in the face of their predator. It creates this fantastic, easily accessible imagery that allows the reader to understand the realty of the situation by an extremely commong association. Maybe its because I’ve never been in any traumatic accident myself (godbless) but for me, a cat chasing a mouse is more representative an image than a city in flames.

 

When you boil both stories down, looking past all the agonizing moments of each book, both works place a large emphasis on the importance of familial connections. Throughout Barefoot Gen, the main character, Gen, is almost always surrounded by a larger group of people and no matter who they are, whether blood relatives or other bomb orphans, he regards them as family. There is that real sense of community in that respect; that sticking together and utilizing their unique strengths to survive is the best option. It is also allegorical to how Japan, a nation who had its spirit broken by the effects of the bomb, has to now piece together what they have left and rebuild, creating a wonderfully universal lesson that can be taken away from the work.

The idea of family exists in Maus in a very different way. Maus is a story that focuses much more on the individual experience of dealing with Trauma, both in actual victims and how it extends to their next generations. In fact, by sharing with the younger generation, survivors teach them to appreciate what they have and what their ancestors went through to pave the road for their future, however, this constant reminder cane create a severe implication upon 2G’s or second-generation survivors. Many 2G’s try to separate themselves from their parents and the holocaust experience. It is a scar on their mind, letting them know that “there is nothing we can ever do that will be as important as our parents suffering.” For 2G’s to forget what they were told about the experience is awful; almost a sin. Forgetting brings shame and anxiety to second-generation survivors. Thus they strive to remember, to understand and build upon the teachings of their ancestors. To remember these experiences is to discover a part of themselves; to understand their heritage. Just like their parents, second generation survivors forge the road for the future by remembering the past.

Throughout the book, Art Spiegelman conveys his struggle to deal with the past, especially as a child. Growing up with the memory of the Holocaust in his house, something he could never understand or share with his parents unlike his brother Richeu. Art sees this “ghost brother”, his actual biological brother who died in the holocaust, as “the ideal kid” who “never threw tantrums or got in any kind of trouble. He would’ve become a doctor and married a wealthy Jewish girl…the creep.”  This whole book is a result of Art’s attempt to reconcile these feelings of guilt he gets from his survivor parents, by understanding his father’s struggle, which I think within itself is an interesting contrast of Barefoot Gen. While Maus deals with the Holocaust, it is never really about the effect it had globally or on a historical level; if you look closely, there isn’t even a Hitler figure in the book. It focuses solely on individual experiences; Vladek’s survival in the camps, Art’s understanding of his father’s struggles and still dealing with unexpected suicide of his mother. The book takes a more indirect approach at how trauma affects people by exploring those intricate subtleties in how everyday is changed, over an extended period of time. Barefoot Gen is about a once proud nation struck down in their prime. Through Gen’s eyes, the reader experiences the immediate effects of tragedy; we are living in the present with him. We, as viewers, see Japanese families torn apart, talented artists and writers afflicted by disease, the rising of gangs and black market goods, famine, poverty, drug abuse and countless, endless deaths. It is the most direct way of discuss the effects of the bomb, by showing us how it effected the nation as a whole.

Barefoot Gen MMF Day Three

16 Feb

Here are your postings from Day Three:

Marc Sobel of Unattended Baggage, argues in favor of the series in response to Derik Badman’s dislike of the series.

ABCBTom provides an introduction to what he hopes to accomplish this MMF, a comparison of the film version of Barefoot Gen & Grave of the Fireflies and “the misuse and willful misinterpretation of victims’ literature”.

Here are the links from Day Two.

Great postings so far, lets head towards a better tomorrow!

Announcing the Next Manga Moveable Feast!

30 Jan

I am happy to announce that starting February 13th til the 19th, A Life in Panels will be hosting the 11th Manga Moveable Feast – Keiji Nakazawa’s Barefoot Gen.

For those of you not familiar with the  series, it chronicles the events of the Hiroshima bombings through the eyes of a six-year-old boy, Gen Nakazawa, as he and the surviving members of his family deal with the aftermath of the bombing. Published by Last Gasp, there are ten volumes in total, as well as two films and a live action adaptation. This is a series that, as you will soon find out, is near and dear to my heart and I am ecstatic to see what kind of articles & opinions this MMF will produce.

If anyone reading this blog isn’t familiar with what the Manga Moveable Feast is, can take a look at Matt (Rocket Bomber) Blind’s handy introduction to the project. If you’d like to participate but don’t have a blog or don’t think the subject is right for the blog you already have, I’d be happy to host your guest pieces during the Feast. Just email me the post at skusek at yahoo dot com.

Here are links to the Feasts that have taken place thus far:

  • February 2010 – Sexy Voice and Robo – Hosted by David Welsh (Manga
    Curmudgeon)
  • March 2010 – Emma – Hosted by Matt Blind (Rocket Bomber)
  • April 2010 – Mushishi – Hosted by Ed Sizemore (Comics Worth Reading)
  • May 2010 – To Terra – Hosted by Katherine Dacey (Manga Critic)
  • June 2010 – Color of… Trilogy – Hosted by Melinda Beasi (Manga Bookshelf)
  • July 2010 – Paradise Kiss – Hosted by MichelleSmith  (Soliloquy in Blue)
  • August 2010 – Yotsuba – Hosted by Robin Brenner (Good Comics for Kids)
  • September 2010 – Afterschool Nightmare – Hosted by Sean Gaffney (A
    Case Suitable for Treatment)
  • December 2010 – One Piece – Hosted by David Welsh (Manga Curmudgeon)
  • January 2011 – Karakuri Odette – Hosted by Anna/Tangognat  (Manga Report)

An X-Men Misfire! My review of X-Men Misfits

28 Jan

As many of you know, I am a big X-Men fan, as evidenced by the first entry in this blog and my contribution to the May To Terra MMF titled From Blackbirds to Battleships, and while Shojo manga hasn’t always been my cup of tea, the idea of taking a primarily masculine action comic and boiling it down to its core emotional human values was incredibly appealing to me. That’s what makes X-Men so great, is the emotional and romantic struggles that the mutants have amongst all this action; they are real relatable people. I’ve always been able to connect with these characters because I know how it feels to be different & shunned for it and I’ve always felt that the comics need a deeper exploration of these character elements and what better way to do it with a genre of manga that’s been known for doing just that?

So did it live up to my expectations? Did X-Men Misfits bring our merry mutants into a new thoughtful light?

Not exactly, X-Men Misfits is a bit of a weird mess. Written by husband and wife writing team, Dave Roman (Astronaut Elementary) and Raina Telgemeier (Baby Sitters Club, SMILE ) weave the tale (or in this case tail) of 15-year-old Kitty Pryde, as she discovers her intangibility or phasing, is sought out by Magneto (looking rather dapper) and is enrolled in the Xavier’s School for Gift Youngsters. The only problem: she’s the only girl at the school, surrounded by a bunch of winged, blue skinned, multiple and “accurate” (I hope someone gets this reference) boys all out to get in with her.

I have mixed feelings about this premise. I mean, is she really the only other female mutant aside from Storm and Jean (who isn’t in this volume mind you) that Xavier and Magneto have found? What I like about it is that it centralizes the readers focus onto the character and her struggles, rather than the school and its issues. It’s nice to have a concise approach to a lead character instead of the focus shifting in the book. What I don’t like about it is the objectification of Kitty. Immediately right when she walks in, Her being the only girl in the school makes her a prize to all the other boys. She gets involved with the overly possessive Pyro and his hellfire club, the manga’s Bishounen group, who treat her more like an exotic pet than anything else.

The worst part of it is that after she realizes this and all the issues that she has with Pyro, she doesn’t stand up for herself, her abilities or her womanhood. She instead runs and finds comfort & protection in the arms of other male mutants (Xavier, Iceman, Cyclops). That was one of my biggest problems with this book, is that Kitty Pryde, a character so synonymous with being a strong, independent female character is reduced a weak lovelorn teenage fool. There isn’t a sense of personal growth within the book. There isn’t a strong sense of female empowerment throughout the book on a whole. After Kitty shares her unique trait with the Hellfire Club, they refer to it as a “pretty girly power”. Another example is when Nightcrawler or Kurt Wagner & Kitty are paired to train together, Kurt refers to his teleportation as wimpy. This book emphasizes that violent & powerful element of X-Men that I’ve always disliked, the idea that mutant abilities (human evolution) are only  to be praised useful if they are destructive, masculine and strong.

In addition to this glaring issue, I found that the story was in need of that old media rule “Show, Don’t Tell”. There are a number of instances: where Kitty talks about Pyro being a good boyfriend to her and helping her come to terms with her special abilities, Magneto mentions what sounds like a really cool use of his abilities etc but we never get to see these played out. It creates this weird pacing issue with the story, where the reader has a fabricate a lot of this world in their head and fill in, what I think, is too many gaps.

I’d also like to bring up is the artwork, which unfortunately, is incredibly inconsistent. There are some magnificent scenes in this manga (when Angel descends down the stairs for the first time, when Pyro and Kitty first kiss) but most of the normal panel artwork isn’t very good. Characters faces change shape constantly, most everyone looks the same and there is a whole lot of super deformity happening. Anzu has a lot of talent, that is not without question. I just wish she could pick a style choice and stick with it; I’d love to see her really buckle down and focus on those minute details that bring her art to life.

Ultimately, I would only recommend this book to series Manga fans (and by that, I mean people who are in or care about the development of the industry and trying things like this again) but not to X-Men fans. I don’t think it really does anything for the franchise. The characters in this don’t complement or work from the original source material; they are only represented in image  & namesake alone. Heck, some of them aren’t even named! Did anyone catch the Gambit reference? I still don’t understand why he was in the story, considering he got one line and it was more or less your welcome. Want to know what I would do? Take this concept but use the First Class cast. It’s all already there: great tension between Warren and Scott for Jean’s affection, Bobby’s insecurity, Hank’s beastly changes. This book bite off way more than it could chew and it is too bad because this could’ve been great.

Each time we face our fear…(Usopp’s Yellow Lantern)

5 Dec

I really love Usopp as a character. Not only he is outrageous in his antics & anxieties about the world around him, he is also the conduit for the readers understanding of how emotionally intense One Piece can be. Usopp has always been, at least for me, the most accessible character in the crew. He is unsure of himself, lying to try to prove his worth. He has had to work extremely hard to rise to the level of combat and technical skill, all while standing in the shadow of giants like Luffy and Zolo. He really idealizes the crew members and the value of family that he gets from them and their adventures. They give him, like Chopper, a sense of value and purpose in the world and I think this is great because Usopp, for most of his life, has been afraid…

And I think knowing and beginning to understand that fear is ultimately what brings him to the Yellow Lantern/Sinestro Corp. For those of you not familiar with the rich history of Green Lantern, when the Silver Age Green Lantern’s (Hal Jordan) run began, he was taken under the tutelage of the greatest Green Lantern at that time, an alien named Thaal Sinestro. Though Jordan deeply respected Sinestro, he was aghast at his totalitarian methods of keeping his sector in line; by acting as a dictator instead of a protector. Doing the right thing, Jordan informed the Corp and Sinestro was considered a Rouge member, banished to the Antimatter Universe. There, Sinestro met the Qward, who formed him a yellow ring to fight the GL’s, seeing as their only weakness was yellow materials. Sinestro became a staple of the Green Lantern mythos and soon, his own corp was formed. A sheer mirror image, both in practice and uniform alone, of the GLC, the Sinestro corp members are selected on their ability to instill fear rather than overcome it.

The reason I chose the coward of the crew to be in the corp that brings fear, is because I think to first understand what scares people and how to successfully do it, you first must understand what you are afraid of and become it. I think Usopp has had time to do just that.

From what you can see here, there is a standard uniform to those who join the Sinestro Corp, however like my other designs, I didn’t simply want to forgo what I think makes Usopp’s Sogeking outfit so great. As you can see, I changed the mask, so that instead of being mysterious, it is a tribute to the great Sinestro (Sinestro is best known for his moustache, gaining him the nickname “Frenchy”). There is also that dynamic balance between black and yellow, creating a very science fiction look. You would not be surprised to see this outfit out in space. The yellow is also nice in this design because it isn’t overstating. Too much yellow, like in some of my other designs, can be too strong; this amount of yellow gets the idea of deceit and sneakery across perfectly. In the original SC design, the characters all have these arm and leg bands that look like stacked gold rings so I decided to keep those. They add a sense of dominance, as the color is more focused and contained than just filling in his arms with yellow.

Altogether, this was my most difficult design choice to make because there were so many things I could do with this idea. I revamped the mask in some cases to make it more jestery or devilish, as well as tattering the cape and making the shoes more pointed instead of combat boots. This makes him a Corpsmen but there are a number of ways that Usopp could become a devil…

Love is a temporary madness. (Sanji’s Star Sapphire)

4 Dec

Like Nami, Franky and Brook before him, Sanji’s lantern motivation comes from one the simplest character traits about him: he loves ladies. All of them I might add, in his field of vision.

Though it is often played for comedic affect, as he gets turned down, acts goofy or has to deal with some unattractive admirers, its hard to deny that Sanji is actually quite passionate. He’s a chef who touts quite a bit of knowledge about his craft and understands, better than anyone, the importance of food. He won’t fight with his hands at risk of losing them, his passion and reason for being. He’s passionate about the crew (especially the ladies), his dreams of the All Blue and his mentor for giving him life. He is a romantic and a lover of loving love and thats why he fits into the Star Sapphire’s.

The Star Sapphire’s wear violet power rings fueled by the emotion of love, one of the two emotions, with the other being rage, that most influence their user. The corp mostly consists of women, who have been loved and spurned and the Star Sapphire power was originally used as a way to enact revenge. Now they use their overwhelming power of Love to aid people, sometimes forcing them to change their minds along the way, by encasing them in a mind-warping crystal. This was the most difficult one to work with, not because of Sanji’s normal outfit, but because of the Star Sappphire standard wears. The corp is mostly made of women and their costume takes the form of a crystal swimsuit. I’m sure Sanji looks good in a violet speedo but we’ve already got on guy in the crew doing that so…

I think if you are out looking for love, a suit is the way to go guys. You look composed, thoughtful and all together powerful in the face of any challenge. Sanji knows this; he owns the suit. So it made sense to just work with the idea of a pink suit, playing to his sensitive and understanding nature. Pink is romantic and charming. Pink conveys a playfulness about someone.

There are several levels of sophistication in this outfit, especially when the pink is paired with his grey undershirt. The two compliment each other, blending rather than clashing. I didn’t want to adorn this outfit with the rather large symbol, so like Brook’s, I worked it into the shoes, which again I am very proud of. The reason that I am focusing so much on the importance of shoes stems from my love of a recent modern noir film titled Brick. The tale is about a former drug dealer who acts a detective & begins to unravel the murder of his former lover and if you haven’t seen it, I suggest you do. The director Rian Johnson uses shoes a design element and way to “instantly snapshot the essence of the characters”, a quote which really struck me. So Sanji’s shoes represent sophistication and a sort of chivalrous heroism. They are reminiscent of a more western style of shoe; a bit of a cowboy feel to them. Perfect for rescuing damsels in distress…

Anger is never without reason (Zolo’s Red Lantern)

3 Dec

Although Roronoa Zolo’s life hasn’t been the whirlwind of tragedy that many of the other Straw Hats have had, I still firmly believe that he is the crew member that best represents rage, which is the emotion tied to red light, and here’s why: According to Wikipedia, rage is a mental state that is one extreme of the intensity spectrum of anger, which is usually induced by a threat of some sort. When a person experiences rage, it usually lasts until the threat is removed or the person under rage is incapacitated. Rage can sometimes lead to a state of mind where the individual experiencing it believes, and often is capable of doing things that may normally seem physically impossible.

Zolo is not a character purely driven by rage but more of a disdain towards his situations and interactions with people and I think this stems from a past issues that he’s yet to overcome. As many of you may recall, when Zolo was first training to become a swordsman, he befriended a young girl who pushed not only his buttons but his limitations and belief in his own ability. She became the perfect catalyst for the growth of Zolo’s potential but unfortunately, met with an untimely end, prompting Zolo to make the promise to become the worlds greatest swordsman in her honor.

This character motivator is wonderfully complex. One on hand, it gives him honest and compelling justification towards his actions, making the reader feel more connected to the character, as he becomes closer and closer to achieving his goal. It allows the character to shine when he takes this step forward but when he gets set back, well that is a horse of a different color (sorry, really wanted to use that) Zolo, despite his notable victories, has been put in his place on a number of occasions. During his first encounter with Mihawk, he is devastated at his loss and nearly perishes because of it. Similarly, he is irked by the chance meeting with Tashigi, who bears a strikingly similar image to his long gone friend. What I am getting at, is that as much as this promise drives Zolo, he has essentially haunted by it and when he lacks to the ability to achieve his goals, it drives him to madness.

The same madness that many of the Red Lanterns in the DC universe have undergone. Formed by a shamanistic, intergalactic criminal, the RLC is a group of individuals who have had enough with the atrocities of this world. They, much like the Black Lanterns, are driven purely by the wrongs that were done to them and the revenge they seek to dish out to rectify that. The big notable difference between the abilities and appearance of the RLC with another other corp, is the use of blood. Upon donning their rings, the heart of the recipient is rendered useless, and the blood is changed to a corrosive, acidic state, used only in the violent nature of attack. But, as you’ll see in my Zolo design, blood is so much more than that…

I didn’t use the standard white shirt, haramaki and black pants outfits because to be absolutely honest, I find it really boring. I was really struck by a picture of Zolo, post battle, with his outfit torn and his body covered in blood. He looked defeated, hurt and like he was quietly building his rage to counteract this wrongdoing. So I took that, reformed his outfit to a toga-esque (but with pants) outfit and went “blood-crazy” with it. It’s interesting because the outfit is so unsophisticated that it really speaks to the nature of rage; that it is a baseline human trait.

The blood is on Zolo’s hands and its a fine color. It symbolizes the life and vitality that is in Zolo, covering his whole body to further emphasize the point that he is ready to take action. Red is also sometimes used as a color to protect us from our fears, because of its very bright intensity and associations with strength, which can also be interpreted here. As serious as this design is (blood stains on a black outfit. my lord), it is very energetic in a powerful, almost scary way. I had a lot of fun designing this outfit and this might be my most original piece in the collection. I wish I was better at doing the blood stains though.

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