Well, the monkeys are back in school, so I’m back in the studio! How little time I managed to get in here last week during their vacation has me a little concerned about what summer will be like, but I’ll deal with that when that happens, just like every summer (though now I have a website to maintain and keep current, along with my personal goals). Maybe I’ll have to spend my night owl time in here rather than trying to relax and make myself fall asleep, cuz really, who needs sleep? I did spend a little time at my desk last week, updating the site once and working on a logo project for a group my cousin is involved with. Other than that it was dealing with the kids, going to some museums, and working on some house projects.
After I finish this update, I’m off to finish up the logo and get back to finishing up some of those t-shirt designs. Maybe I’ll get the Etsy site up and running before next year…
Anywhat, I thought I’d share what I’m currently reading/engrossed in that I (or rather, my wife) discovered recently: Makoto Yukimura’s Vinland Saga.
It’s published by Kodansha, the same people who published Akira, and it’s equally awesome. It’s an epic historical fiction tale of Vikings, specifically a young warrior named Thorfinn. His father was a legendary, feared and dangerous warrior who had a change of heart and gave up the pillaging lifestyle for his family. After hiding out as the head of his small village in Iceland, his past comes to find him.
Young Thorfinn is enamored with the romanticized warrior lifestyle and sneaks aboard his father’s ship bound for war as a child (this is all in flashbacks). In an ambush set by viking mercenaries, his father is killed after refusing to kill his opponent, their leader, leading to young Thorfinn joining said mercenary gang hoping to challenge their leader in an honorable duel to avenge his father’s murder. The meat of the story takes place 10 or so years later during some of the historical viking raids and invasions of England, with Thorfinn repeatedly earning his chance at revenge but continually falling short.
So far, the story is fantastic. I love historical fiction in general, but it’s tough to go wrong with vikings. I like the way the characters are developing, the seeds of growth have been sewn. The art is spectacular. Kodansha, as many publishers of manga are doing in the states now, translated the graphic novel in words only. Meaning, you read right to left, instead of left to right. It sounds like it would be awkward, but you adjust surprisingly quickly to it. This way we get to see the art and the flow of the images as they were intended to be seen.
I find there is so much to learn visually (as well as story telling-wise) from a lot of manga. The flow of the panels, the build up to the action, the pacing of the calm juxtaposed with the dynamic elements, creating depth and space and texture with black and white (and half tone). It’s beautiful.
A single fight sequence can take dozens of pages without feeling overplayed or redundant, without being visually exhausting. I think that’s one of the benefits of telling a story in hundreds of pages rather than 22.
Despite some of the cartoonish elements present in all manga, there’s always a strong sense of space and solidity. Vinland Saga has that in spades. The characters all have volume, which makes them seem more alive, heightened by the detailed backgrounds and textures. I also find it amazing how every character on any given page in any given panel is unique, even if they only show up in that one panel. There’s not much generalizing going on not only with what they wear, but also how they “act”. They are all doing something, it gives the impression that all these characters are real with personalities and stories of their own.
So there you have it, another (new) influence of yours truly. I’m really excited to see where the story goes, though with the number of volumes there are (I think it’s at least a dozen) and the price tag, it may take me awhile to accumulate the whole series. If you don’t mind viking manners (the violence and the pillaging, though the pillaging isn’t so graphic), find yourself a copy of Vinland Saga.