The science is back in science fiction

BiogenesisSpecimens submitted for examination:

  • Winged mouse: appears to weep blood-tears; tiny “wings” vibrate and glow faintly in the dark.
  • Female: pure white hair, no memory, abnormally-low body temperature.
  • Plant: diminutive foliage, hanging bell-shaped flowers, almost completely devoid of color; needs human blood for nourishment.
  • Marine creature: bumpy tumorous exterior; seems to have mysterious cancer-healing powers when ingested by humans.

Findings:

  • Species in danger of extinction
  • Species in danger of extinction
  • Species in danger of extinction
  • Species in danger of extinction

These “specimens” inhabit the pages of Tatsuaki Ishiguro’s four imaginative, haunting, and genre-bending tales, now in English for the first time in Biogenesis.

In both content and form, the short works in the collection at first seem to be scientific notes or reports. Yet, within the matter-of-fact, expository prose are startlingly beautiful descriptions and observations. The basic question is why some species survive, while others become extinct.

And the answer that Ishiguro reveals – that the existence of all species is precarious – will both challenge you and move you deeply.

Praise for Ishiguro’s “It is with the Deepest Sincerity that I Offer Prayers. . .”

“A metaphor of perdition, on the level of all of humanity, is concretized as a small, imaginary animal via the mediating factor of incurable diseases that bring death to two doctors of medicine. In our nation, such excellent conceptions used to belong to Kobo Abe.” – Kenzaburo Oe, Nobel Laureate in Literature

“The work’s novel form and style will be remembered as a turning point in Japanese literature. Moreover, the exploration of the enigma of the ‘winged mouse’s extinction’ can also be easily enjoyed as the finest of mysteries.” – Koji Suzuki, author of Ring and Dark Water

“Why does such dry writing in the format of a report touch me so? Why is it so beautiful? No matter how many times I read it, the tears keep flowing. This is no ‘fusion of science and literature.’ It is the overwhelmingly reality of animate ‘life’ itself.” – Hideaki Sena, author of Parasite Eve

Summer Reading

It’s June and summer is practically here. And with warmer days come longer days and more time for leisure reading. So why not partake in a Vertical Comics release or two this month while on the beach, on the patio while sipping iced tea, or as you jet to some holiday destination.

This month VC and Vertical have a wealth of cool titles for readers to dive into…

New from Vertical Comics:

  • Witchcraft WorksWitchcraft Works, volume 5: A wicked witch named Weekend has assaulted the entire city of Tougetsu. By planting explosives across the municipality this witch was able to use up and neutralize Tougetsu Workshop Witches’ magic while endangering the lives of the public. Will Honoka and Ayaka be able to find the strength to take on this cunning witch before more of Weekend’s explosives harm their hometown?

 

  • A Sky Longing for Memories – The Art of Makoto Shinkai: This unique artbook looks back at some of the most beloved works from award-winning anime director Makoto Shinkai. Featuring hundreds of background art pieces from such works as, 5 Centimeters per Second, Voices of a Distant Star, and A Place Promised in Our Early Days, this collection reveals rarely translated details of the Japanese animation process. The book also contains interviews with Makoto Shinkai and his staff about their experiences within the Japanese anime industry. A must read for anime fanatics and Shinkai admirers.

New from Vertical:

  • Ajin: Demi-HumanAJIN: Demi-Human, volume 5: In this latest volume, Sato and his crew of rogue Demi-Humans have taken to the offensive by launching an attack on Japan’s limited defense systems. And tension at his new home forces Kei Nagai to make his own move. But will it be in favor of humanity, or will he side with Sato?
  • Mobile Suit Gundam: The ORIGIN, Part X: Solomon is now in the cross-hairs. With Federation forces moving in it appears as if Zeon’s leadership is falling apart from the top down. The tide may be turning but some members of Zeon are willing fight to their end for their family!

eBook Releases:

  • Black Jack, volume 15 and 16

From beloved classics to new hits, and everything in between, Vertical Comics has the right read for every manga and anime fan this summer!

When Kuklo Met Sharle

Attack on Titan: Kuklo UnboundDiscovered as a newborn crying in a pile of Titan vomit, Kuklo  was known as the “Titan’s son,” and spent most of his young life in misery, caged and tormented. Then one night, his captor’s daughter, Sharle, snuck into the shed where Kuklo was kept, determined to kill the dangerous monster in their midst. Instead, her heart went out to her intended victim, who was as terrified of her as she was of him.
So begins a fast friendship between the pampered princess and the abused outcast. Sharle starts sneaking food to the captive Kuklo, as well as teaching him to speak and read, and behave like a human. And when Kuklo knows it’s time to make a run for it. Sharle is by his side, willingly leaving her privileged world for the rough and dangerous life of a fugitive in Wall Sheena’s underground city.
Made of delicate porcelain on the outside, and Iron Bamboo on the inside, Sharle is both Kuklo’s savior and the force that keeps him focused on surviving. As he forges ahead in his quest to confront a Titan and put to rest his fears that he is of their breed, Kuklo knows that if it weren’t for Sharle, and her good luck knife and persistent efforts to keep him alive, he would have been a Titan’s lunch long ago.

Anchors aweigh!

Nan-CoreSoon after his mother dies, Ryosuke stops by to visit his father. Although the house seems to be empty, Ryosuke wanders from room to room, just to make sure. As he’s leaving his father’s study, he notices a slightly open closet door, with a jumble of old boxes inside. Curious, he opens the top box and finds a purse, a lock of hair. . . and four journals with notes that seem to be the confessions of a murderer.

So begins Nan-Core, a provocative new novel that explores the blurred line between a “good person” and a “bad person”—and what happens when the line is crossed. As Ryosuke reads the journals, he must question what’s fact, what’s fiction, and who are these people he’s called “Mom” and “Dad?” In his search to discover the truth about his family, Ryosuke finds out some very disturbing truths about himself, and what he’s capable of when he loses his moorings.

Click here for a preview, Q&A with the author, and Reader’s Guide.

Welcome to Team Kurosawa

Compound CinematicsIn addition to being one of the greatest directors of modern film, Akira Kurosawa was also an accomplished screenwriter. However, almost all his works – including his three masterpieces, Rashomon, Ikiru, and Seven Samurai—were group efforts. Kurosawa’s method was unique: each of the writers in the group drafted his own version of the same scene, and the treatment that became the final screenplay was a negotiated blending of the different versions. Shinobu Hashimoto was a key member of Team Kurosawa, and in COMPOUND CINEMATICS, he offers a personal, behind-the-scenes account of his creative collaborations with Mr. Kurosawa.

The story begins in in 1948, as Hashimoto heads off to his first meeting with the famous filmmaker to discuss the project that would become Rashomon. The meeting lasted around two minutes, but it was a turning point in the aspiring screenwriter’s life.  Shortly after that, Hashimoto was introduced to Kurosawa’s writing process, which he describes as “multiple people writing the same scene through various perspectives (compound eyes), editing them, and creating a screenplay with the feel of a mixed chorus – that was the chief characteristic of a Kurosawa work.”

In the book, Hashimoto details what it was like to work with Kurosawa and the others on the Team – challenging, frustrating, exhilarating, and ultimately, hugely gratifying. But, when Kurosawa switched to a “straight-to-final draft” method for I Live in Fear (1955) and the films that followed, Hashimoto doesn’t hold back in criticizing both the process and the results.

COMPOUND CINEMATICS provides a rare close-up of both the art and craft of making films, and gives us a deeper appreciation not just of Akira Kurosawa, but of his talented co-writers as well.

All Hands on Deck

Cardfight!! Vanguard vol. 5Aichi and Ren continue their intense Cardfight battle. As both are capable of using PsyQualia to see the world of Vanguard and listen to the voices of their cards, Ren thinks he already knows how the battle ends—until something changes in Aichi, and a new card reveals a totally unexpected conclusion to their fight.

Later, Aichi’s younger sister, Emi, insists on going with him to Card Capitol, where the gang teaches her how to Cardfight. At the shop, Aichi and Kai battle again, Kai still intent on fighting only earnest battles. Yet as their Cardfight nears the end, Kai begins to sense a force emanating from his deck. Could he, too, be experiencing PsyQualia…?

Aichi, still new to the Cardfight world, has a natural ability to read the flow of the game, and his earnestness has an effect on those he battles, as both Ren and Kai, old dogs in the game, start to learn new tricks.

Time Killer

My Neighbor SekiIn almost every classroom there is that one kid that spends days staring off into space, daydreaming, and ignoring classwork. In the high school setting of My Neighbor Seki the person who does that more than anyone else is titular character Toshinari Seki. Every day Seki toils over his personal projects, usually giving them more effort than he does his studies. Whether making elaborate domino mazes or building his own desk-sized universes Seki never wastes a minute with education, instead he focuses on much more entertaining projects.

Penned by up-and-coming comedic cartoonist Takuma Morishige, My Neighbor Seki consistently finds new ways to entertain, while sticking to a simple formula and setting – high school.Whether Seki spends his school days delivering messages to classmates or playing Japanese chess, his actions are much more involved than they may seem at first glance. Easy to relate to and yet often surprisingly creative, through Seki Mr. Morishige is able to illustrate the curiosity and drive of youth while not having to resort to the gratuitous developing a story that embraces its limitations by pushing its limits with accessible visual humor.

So when readers need a pick me up or are in desperate search for something to entertain and inspire, Vertical Comics has their answer – My Neighbor Seki. Because within its 180 or so pages, there are at least a dozen awesome ways to find amusement and hilarity, all hidden from sight to most, in the back row.

Harried Husband

What Did You Eat Yesterday?Shiro Kakei is a lawyer by day and thrifty househusband by night. His passion is to cook, and furthermore, to do so with a cost conscious attitude that suits his lifestyle. But Shiro has faces numerous pressures that exhaust him outside of the law firm. His constant concern over his sexuality and how it may be perceived in society weighs on him much more than any case or consultation.

In this fifth volume of What Did You Eat, Shiro’s cover is repeatedly blown. While his decision to stay partially in the closet is something that weighs heavy on him, those pressures are not mutually shared by his friends and acquaintances. First it is the weekend cooking party with his friends that turns into an afternoon with the local tennis club. Then comes the trip to the jewelers with Kenji to get their rings. And then there was that awkward time with his parents. If only work at the law firm wasn’t equally stressful, but ultimately all of this frustration ends up leading him to the kitchen where he can relax.

Nothing can be more relaxing than a good meal and some conversation. And with every new chapter, Fumi Yoshinaga slowly peels back the layers of this unique manga couple. Revealing some insights about Japan’s Gay culture and sharing some hearty Japanese cooking recipes in the process.

Network of Terror

Prophecy part 1As technology continues to make our world smaller, it may also seem as if people’s freedoms are equally becoming more and more restricted. The internet is also being threatened as net-neutrality is becoming a hot-button issue. So what if those on the net decided to commit their own brand of justice, while they were still ahead of the police state? And what if in ways similar to the Anonymous Group, their word is spread and endorsed by countless unknowns on the net worldwide hoping for change?

Tetsuya Tsutsui’s Prophecy takes on these questions by presenting them in modern day Japan, where societal changes has driven many people to the web for their interaction and self-expression. These days with fewer and fewer people marrying or even getting into long-term relationships, the net is home to many in that country, and across the planet. And new forms of expression are rising from Japan in ways that only the internet could fully support. In Prophecy the net has created a place for vigilantism that is now streamed live on platforms like YouTube; commented on message boards like 4Chan; and shared and reblogged on network like Twitter and Facebook. There is no need for newspapers or radio anymore to spread this new form of messaging. And the four paperboys of this story are ready to tell the world their story.

Extremely timely and provocative, Prophecy is not your standard JUMP title. It is a thriller that does not rely on fantasy or fan-service, instead it turns its focus on themes and topics that are even more compelling – employment issues, class wars, immigration and internet-inspired movements.

SEARCH, POST, UPDATE, VIEW . . . . VOTE?

General Will 2.0: Rousseau, Freud, GoogleWhat if governments were elected through a system based on subliminal  desires?

What if the most sophisticated technology and analytics were used to determine what a community really wanted from their government rather than what their words and actions seemed to indicate?

In GENERAL WILL 2.0: Rousseau, Freud, Google,  prominent Japanese cultural critic Hiroki Azuma  suggests that the mechanisms for this actually happening are in place, and millions of people all over the world are already participating in the process, without knowing it.

Azuma takes as his starting point, Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s The Social Contract, which says that government must be in service to the general will of the people. Rousseau uses the term to mean a collectively held will that aims at the common good, which is different and separate from individual or group interests.

How does Freud enter into the discussion? Azuma looks at Rousseau’s premise of the general will through the lens of Freud’s concept of the unconscious, which is the notion that people are not aware of their true desires. Azuma writes, “Rousseau’s own description of the general will can be interpreted. . . as the grouping of unconscious desires rather than of conscious agreements.” He then goes on to show how the unconscious character of general will 2.0 is related to the defining features of the internet today. Without even realizing it, we’re revealing and depositing massive amounts of personal information every time we do something on the ‘net. Whether we post a blog, connect with a friend on Facebook, search on Google, send a Tweet, or watch a video on YouTube, we’re enriching a database that is, in effect, the general will.  Azuma says, “The individual statements and movements documented therein are perhaps made consciously by the users. But once the accumulated data reaches a massive scale, we can derive through analysis surprising trends and patterns that the users themselves would never be conscious of.”

So. . . if the government serves the general will, and the general will is an aggregate of the unconscious wishes of a community – unfiltered by peer pressure or fear of public censure, and aggregated by the internet —  then this coalescence of unconscious desires becomes the foundation of democratic government in the 21st century.