In 1931, Henry Yoshitaka Kiyama published the Four Immigrants Manga, a collection of comic strips that offered readers a unique window into the lives of four Japanese immigrants living in San Francisco in the early 1900s. Stonebridge Press rescued Kiyama’s work from obscurity in 1998 with a beautiful new edition that was translated by Frederik Schodt, and while it’s never been a mainstream hit, it has enjoyed a stellar reputation among critics. Playwright Min Kahng recently adapted Kiyama’s work into a musical that’s garnering rapturous reviews from Bay Area newspapers. Lily Janiak, the San Francisco Chronicle‘s theater critic, praises Kahng’s efforts to bridge the gap between page and stage with imaginative sets, music, and choreography. “To Kahng’s swashbuckling, jazzy score, played by a six-person live band, Dottie Lester-White’s choreography reveals the immigrant characters as the true engine of American might,” Janiak argues, continuing:
Arms churn and piston. Heels click jauntily… But perhaps most magical is the panoply of ways Martinson incorporates Kiyama’s artwork. She doesn’t simply parade static panels across the stage for performers to act in front of. They can reach in and grab props, cut-outs with thick outlines that might have been drawn by a giant felt-tip marker, and the panels might reach back. Projections, by Katherine Freer, swoop images in from different directions, moving along with the characters and creating the feel of a flip book.
Janiak’s sentiments are echoed by San Francisco Examiner critic Jean Schiffman, who praises “Leslie Martinson’s strong and sensitive direction” and Kahng’s “affecting second act.” “By the time the loneliest of the foursome send for picture brides from Japan,” Schifmann observes, “the struggles of the slowly maturing characters, set against the social and political backdrop of the era, has become truly involving, and touching.” Here’s a peek at TheatreWorks’ production:
For more information about performances, visit the TheatreWorks website; for more information about The Four Immigrants Manga, visit Frederik Schodt’s website. Let’s hope the positive buzz leads to performances in other cities!
MANGA, ANIME AND JAPANESE POP CULTURAL NEWS
Shelby Long posts an in-depth analysis of volumes 37-38 of Skip Beat! “While Skip Beat!’s switching to Saena’s point of view is memorable for a number of reasons, (including that it’s the first time an adult woman is telling a story),” Long explains, “I regard it as being especially important because it frees Saena from the caricature of being ‘just’ Kyoko’s mom. It explores motivations for Saena’s undiluted hatred for motherhood – a take on motherhood that all too often gets played down or marginalized in media.” [Black Girl Nerds]
And speaking of manga moms, Jocelyn Allen sings the praises of Aoi Ikebe’s short-story collection Nee, Mama. “Ikebe doesn’t focus on the usual notions of motherhood and family,” she argues. “And more than her gentle lines and quiet pages, it’s this that I love about Ikebe. Her characters seek connections with each other, they struggle to find themselves and their place. And they don’t always manage it perfectly. But they reach out to each other. And sometimes, that’s enough.” [Brain vs. Book]
As One Piece turns 20, Brigid Alverson asks manga bloggers Jason Thompson, Deb Aoki, David Brothers, and yours truly why Eiichiro Oda’s long-running series is the most popular comic in the world right now. [B&N Sci-Fi & Fantasy Blog]
The June 2017 Diamond Direct Graphic Novel sales figures are in. [ICv2]
Martin de la Iglesia highlights three anime-to-manga adaptations worth reading. [The 650-Cent Plague]
IndieWire assembles an all-star team of television critics to discuss their favorite comic book adaptations. And while many of the answers are predictable — Batman, Supergirl, Preacher, and Jessica Jones all got nods — InuYasha made the cut as well. [IndieWire]
Help the Anime Feminist team choose their next manga read-along project! Before clicking over to the discussion thread, keep in mind that there are two criteria for nominating a series: first, “that the manga are available to legally buy in English,” and second, that they “lend themselves to interesting feminist discussion.” [Anime Feminist]
This sounds too good to be true: Olympic figure skater Johnny Weir will participate in a panel discussion of Yuri on Ice!! at the Crunchyroll Expo in August. [Anime News Network]
Serdar Yegulalp profiles Ghost in the Shell heroine Motoko Kusanagi. [Ganriki]
Agent Dale Cooper prepared a Twin Peaks-themed bento box on Japanese TV. [io9]
Move over, Hello Kitty — there’s a new Sanrio character in town. Her name is Aggretsuko, and she’s a “white-collar red panda with anger issues.” The contrast between her public behavior — polite comments, pleasant smiles, diligent typing — and her private thoughts — expressed in fierce, 20-second death metal blasts — will be familiar to anyone who’s endured the tribulations of cubicle life. [New York Times]