Friday, April 23, 2010

Artists I Admire: Naoki Urasawa

I've been getting into manga a lot lately. It really shouldn't be a big surprise since I read comic books from London. I read comic books from France. I read comic books in my underpants. So it would stand to reason that I would read comic books from Japan. Which is all manga is. Like Anime is just cartoons that are produced in Japan.

Most people deride Manga and Anime for the looking too simple. However, Manga and Anime are all about economy of line. It's about not playing an Ace when a 2 will do. Especially in Manga. Unlike American Comics which are produced monthly, Manga is produced WEEKLY.

Anyway, what got me started on this manga kick was the work of an artist named Naoki Urasawa. Junot Diaz, winner of the Pulitzer Prize for one of my favorite all-time books "The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao", said "Urasawa is a national treasure in Japan, and if you ain't afraid of picture books, you'll see why."

Simply put, Naoki Urasawa is the best mangaka (Japanese comic book author) working today. Hands down.

What got my attention was a story called Pluto. Which was a retelling/continuation of Osamu Tezuka's Astro Boy story. Which in itself was a Pinocchio story. But, the little boy was a robot and not a puppet. But it is a more adult retelling.

Yeah this scene is just as sad as it looks.

Now please don't misunderstand. There are several connotations for the word "adult". One is basically "pornographic". The other is "dark and violent". Pluto is none of those things. There is conflict. Which often manifests itself physically through fight scenes. But, this is adult in the sense that it deals with complex themes that would most likely go over the heads of younger audiences.

But what is great about Urasawa's work is the nuance and emotion that he injects into each of his characters. And that emotion comes spilling off the page.

After reading Pluto and being supremely satisfied I wanted more. My friend Matt insisted that I check out Urasawa's Magnum Opus "20th Century Boys". My brain was subsequently melted by the awesomeness therein.

"20th Century Boys" is a sprawling epic that spans decades yet it is never boring. Urasawa not only is a master of emotion, he also weaves mystery and horror elements into his stories. And "20th Century Boys" is a shining example of that. He creates a mood and a feeling. And is exceptionally adept at doing so.

Urusawa is a master in the truest sense of the word. He is an amazing writer as well as fantastic artist. And he serves as an inspiration to me to write my own stories and to execute them visually.

1 comment:

Morgan said...

I think I will start 20th century boys this week. Looking forward to it.