3 months ago 3 months ago 3 months ago 3 months ago 4 months ago
The Kurosagi Corpse Delivery Service follows a group of five students who graduate a Buddhist university and find that their area of study isn’t in terribly high demand in the work force. The fact that one is an itako (traditionally blind, traditionally female - he’s neither) shaman who can communicate with the dead, and another is able to dowse for corpses, and a third claims to possess a psychic connection to an alien intelligence doesn’t sweeten their job prospects. Their solution is to take some entrepreneurial initiative and create a business for themselves. The Kurosagi Corpse Delivery Service will find bodies of the dead… crime victims… suicide victims and the like… and take them where they’re meant to be. This brings them repeatedly into the notorious Aokigahara forest suicide hot spot, police morgues, atrocity sites, grisly crime scenes, and basically anywhere bound to be stinking and maggot infested. Karmicly this might be rewarding, but finically, it means that the cast still scramble to make ends meet with odd jobs.
Kurosagi isn’t a case like Monkey King where it’s best not to try to read more than a chapter at a go. Sitting down for a volume long collection of three of its stories is really far from a bad thing. But it is another case where the long, serial story isn’t the emphasis. Here, it’s not that the manga isn’t going anywhere, so much as that it’s not the appeal. It’s televisual, at least televisual when TV wasn’t as ongoing story minded. However, development and revelation is happening so slowly, so infrequently, with so much reticence to bring any overarching element to a head, that that character growth/reconciliation is evidently not a priority for the manga. Character histories and destinies aren’t unimportant, but they aren’t the focus either. What in post X-Files parlance could be called “mythology” stoories aren’t what you read the manga for. Like many seinen series, the manga is developing by having the characters reconcile with their pasts. Those chapters are painful personal episodes that tie the characters to historical crimes, their own families or their nation’s. Like a TV series, it’s occasionally gives a glimpse into some history that makes the characters richer.From that first scene with the funny animal mask sex, the volume’s first story just gets odder and more complex, drawing in technology, cultural shifts, and esoteric psychological disorders in the convoluted mystery. The pleasure of Kurosagi is the dawning realization of exactly what you’re reading. Do yourself a favor and don’t study the front cover or read the back of this volume. They too much of a give away. Following the reasoning, and seeing the unfolding of what is very weird and also very considered and thought through what makes Kurosagi must read manga.What writer (here, creative duty is split between a writer and a distinct illustrator) Eiji Otsuka does is appears something along the lines of what Warren Ellis does in some of his comics like Global Frequency or Osamu Tezuka did in some of his manga like Black Jack: take something that they read in a paper or a science journal or a cultural trend and extrapolate it out into a genre story.Otsuka’s a real knowledge omnivore, resulting in some real go-for-broke monuments of stacked topics. He knows plenty of esoteric subjects. He’s on top of what’s current, and, his gift is weaving together disparate subject from folklore and Japanese history to recent technological breath through and cultural concerns and stringing them all together into specific episodes of Kurosagi Corpse Delivery Service.Manga has plenty of authors who study subjects well enough to write about them convincingly. Lone Wolf and Cub’s Kazuo Koike who can create realism in his absurd manga through fascination with details and process. Famous wine manga Drops of God’s Tadashi Agi (penname) is a professional writer with credits in a stack of manga, novels and screen plays. Those are all dedicated writers, but you also see the sort of dedication in plenty of other single creators who write well about a topic from a studied perspective, all the sports and cooking and food other subject based manga are filled with examples.Otsuka ranges in and out of areas with which he had prior expertise, but what’s especially noteworthy about him as a writer is his background as an editor, academic and social critic. He’s curious. His creative engine certainly seems to get primed by new developments in culture and technology, as well as studies into the past. He’s also professionally equipped to tease out significant factors and draw connections. It’s funny the number of time that his stories pre-figure real world events. Now, while it’s a coincidence that he wrote about the death of a certain world leader in this volume shortly prior to that figure’s real death, it’s interesting to see him thinking around something that was a credible concern at the time, which happened to become a real concern, and it’s truly amazing to see the connections that he draws and threads that he ropes into the story.There are plenty of manga that deserve to be niche or which I’m fine to see fight for attention in the crowded entertainment landscape, but Kurosagi is one that I wish would find a wider audience. It’s one of the most gruesome crime mysteries you can find and at the same time one of the smartest. It’s perfect for a curious reader. Otsuka weaves together relevant and/or fascinating subjects with real insight in a way that few do. If it’d takes animal masked people fucking to get this book some attention, fine by me. It’s certainly not entirely inappropriate to the series. (via)

The Kurosagi Corpse Delivery Service follows a group of five students who graduate a Buddhist university and find that their area of study isn’t in terribly high demand in the work force. The fact that one is an itako (traditionally blind, traditionally female - he’s neither) shaman who can communicate with the dead, and another is able to dowse for corpses, and a third claims to possess a psychic connection to an alien intelligence doesn’t sweeten their job prospects. Their solution is to take some entrepreneurial initiative and create a business for themselves. The Kurosagi Corpse Delivery Service will find bodies of the dead… crime victims… suicide victims and the like… and take them where they’re meant to be. This brings them repeatedly into the notorious Aokigahara forest suicide hot spot, police morgues, atrocity sites, grisly crime scenes, and basically anywhere bound to be stinking and maggot infested. Karmicly this might be rewarding, but finically, it means that the cast still scramble to make ends meet with odd jobs.

Kurosagi isn’t a case like Monkey King where it’s best not to try to read more than a chapter at a go. Sitting down for a volume long collection of three of its stories is really far from a bad thing. But it is another case where the long, serial story isn’t the emphasis. Here, it’s not that the manga isn’t going anywhere, so much as that it’s not the appeal. It’s televisual, at least televisual when TV wasn’t as ongoing story minded. However, development and revelation is happening so slowly, so infrequently, with so much reticence to bring any overarching element to a head, that that character growth/reconciliation is evidently not a priority for the manga. Character histories and destinies aren’t unimportant, but they aren’t the focus either. What in post X-Files parlance could be called “mythology” stoories aren’t what you read the manga for. Like many seinen series, the manga is developing by having the characters reconcile with their pasts. Those chapters are painful personal episodes that tie the characters to historical crimes, their own families or their nation’s. Like a TV series, it’s occasionally gives a glimpse into some history that makes the characters richer.

From that first scene with the funny animal mask sex, the volume’s first story just gets odder and more complex, drawing in technology, cultural shifts, and esoteric psychological disorders in the convoluted mystery. The pleasure of Kurosagi is the dawning realization of exactly what you’re reading. Do yourself a favor and don’t study the front cover or read the back of this volume. They too much of a give away. Following the reasoning, and seeing the unfolding of what is very weird and also very considered and thought through what makes Kurosagi must read manga.

What writer (here, creative duty is split between a writer and a distinct illustrator) Eiji Otsuka does is appears something along the lines of what Warren Ellis does in some of his comics like Global Frequency or Osamu Tezuka did in some of his manga like Black Jack: take something that they read in a paper or a science journal or a cultural trend and extrapolate it out into a genre story.

Otsuka’s a real knowledge omnivore, resulting in some real go-for-broke monuments of stacked topics. He knows plenty of esoteric subjects. He’s on top of what’s current, and, his gift is weaving together disparate subject from folklore and Japanese history to recent technological breath through and cultural concerns and stringing them all together into specific episodes of Kurosagi Corpse Delivery Service.

Manga has plenty of authors who study subjects well enough to write about them convincingly. Lone Wolf and Cub’s Kazuo Koike who can create realism in his absurd manga through fascination with details and process. Famous wine manga Drops of God’s Tadashi Agi (penname) is a professional writer with credits in a stack of manga, novels and screen plays. Those are all dedicated writers, but you also see the sort of dedication in plenty of other single creators who write well about a topic from a studied perspective, all the sports and cooking and food other subject based manga are filled with examples.

Otsuka ranges in and out of areas with which he had prior expertise, but what’s especially noteworthy about him as a writer is his background as an editor, academic and social critic. He’s curious. His creative engine certainly seems to get primed by new developments in culture and technology, as well as studies into the past. He’s also professionally equipped to tease out significant factors and draw connections. It’s funny the number of time that his stories pre-figure real world events. Now, while it’s a coincidence that he wrote about the death of a certain world leader in this volume shortly prior to that figure’s real death, it’s interesting to see him thinking around something that was a credible concern at the time, which happened to become a real concern, and it’s truly amazing to see the connections that he draws and threads that he ropes into the story.

There are plenty of manga that deserve to be niche or which I’m fine to see fight for attention in the crowded entertainment landscape, but Kurosagi is one that I wish would find a wider audience. It’s one of the most gruesome crime mysteries you can find and at the same time one of the smartest. It’s perfect for a curious reader. Otsuka weaves together relevant and/or fascinating subjects with real insight in a way that few do. If it’d takes animal masked people fucking to get this book some attention, fine by me. It’s certainly not entirely inappropriate to the series. (via)

4 months ago 4 months ago

Gyakusou in Context

In a time where fashion – and menswear specifically – is all about fusing and merging styles and brands, it’s easy to tire of collaborations and sartorial remixes. Too often quality is diluted as marketing strategies replace a genuine desire to further design ideas by enlisting outside help with a completing skill set. Nowhere else is that as visible as within the increasingly grey area between sportswear and high-end fashion; luxury houses team up with sportswear brands to gain access to iconic styles and a younger, more street-savvy audience. The results are, not surprisingly, mixed. But thanks to the car crashes, the honest ones stand out even more. The ones where you can see and feel a genuine respect between the two labels, where a whole new brand is born – not just a short-lived collaboration gaining blog hits and release day queues.

One such setup is Gyakusou, the high-tech running gear partnership between Nike and Undercover head honcho Jun Takahashi. Seven seasons in, Tokyo’s Gyakusou International Running Association (GIRA) has gone from strength to strength, practically revolutionising the idea of mixing high-end fashion and exercise clothing. It would be inaccurate to say that Gyakusou was the first such collaboration, and it’s not the only successful one. Yohji Yamamoto and Adidas have, with Y-3, created a brand with its own life through shops and shows. The main difference is that Gyakusou will most likely never have either of those. Early on, Nike and Takahashi realized there was a niche gap in a niche market and they went to work filling it. They probably don’t have world domination plans for the line, and it will definitely never be big enough to cater for a mainstream market. But, in only three years, Gyakusou has identified a problem and solved it. Arguably, GIRA should not even function within the traditional biannual season system. Instead, view the brand’s collection as Takahashi constantly working on developing and improving the brand rather than just remaking his first Gyakusou collection over and over.

Although Takahashi is the creative brain behind Gyakusou, it’s important to remember the group that enables the success. Behind each big-name designer there’s a team of talented and hard-working helpers; it’s often the assistant designers, pattern cutters, PR officers, studio managers and interns that carry the brand, making sure there’s a coherent collection to show twice a year. It’s not due to lack of involvement from the creative director, merely a sign that fashion is an ever-escalating business, constantly demanding ideas, concepts and products. Like his fellow catwalk designers, Takahashi relies on creative help for both his main line and Gyakusou. For his GIRA collections, Takahashi is able to draw on Nike’s longstanding expertise; few other brands posses such knowledge when it comes to innovative materials, high-tech details and advanced technology. As is often the case, this is all down to the staffers.

Ushi San is a product developer for Nike Japan. His job is to help create and merchandise the sportswear giant’s Asian output. “I’ve been working for Nike for 20 years, so I know all Nike’s sports history,” Ushi says. “I was there when Nike Air Max came in! So I know all about Nike’s innovations as well as the necessary features that an athlete needs for particular activities, whether that’s for basketball or for running outdoors.” Which is probably why Ushi was asked by Fraser Cooke, the Nike Global Energy Leader who initiated the project, to assist Takahashi on the Gyakusou brand. Ushi was tasked with facilitating Takahashi’s creative directions: “Every season we’ll have a kick-off meeting where we decide what we’re going to do. Jun will always come to the meetings with his recent discoveries, and he’ll always bring up real needs,” Ushi explains. This is key to Gyakusou: it’s all about substance – style is only a pleasant side effect. “For example, he’ll say, ‘Ushi, I went for a run this morning and I think we need more breathability,’ or maybe he’ll say, ‘It was really hot yesterday – we need more sleeveless singlets, or shorter lengths.’ A lot of the detail comes from his actual running experiences.”

If you study the Gyakusou collections – or better yet, if you wear them – you’ll soon discover a slow and organic change in the fundamental design approach. The focus has shifted from intricate and lavish concepts to a more stripped-down take on pure exercise. “Jun is getting more and more serious about running and his needs have become more specific and professional,” Ushi says. When visiting the Gyakusou Paris showroom for a collection launch last season, Takahashi echoed Ushi’s point of view: “Design-wise, it’s getting simpler. I wanted to focus more on the functions – and for the functions to work, the design doesn’t need so much space. The first season had more of a sharp design to it and that was a design that was not necessary for running – now it’s a lot more functional.”

As a designer Takahashi benefits from having two very different outlets. Undercover is a Paris catwalk line committed to mind-bending concepts, while Gyakusou deals with reality. Ushi agrees: “It’s about function and purpose. For Jun, running is real life, which is a totally different process in terms of the creation of the collection. All the storytelling surrounding the [Gyakusou] collections comes later on, and it’s more like a movie-ending. We are not creating the products for the core seasonal theme – which itself is actually more the result of what we’ve done.” If anything, this makes Gyakusou more credible. There’s enough image-led collaborations merging fashion and sportswear out there. No-one questions Nike’s running commitment and, the way things are going, the same can be said for Jun Takahashi. Last year he ran the Honolulu marathon for the third time in a row.