I can't think of a comic in the U.S. that is primarily about bird feeding, or about humans' everyday relationship with nature, for that matter. (Mark Trail is about as close as we get). Which is why I love "Tori Pan," ["Bird Bread"] a four-panel serial running in Morning by "Torino Nanko." It recently published its seventh volume (cover above). The strip, which seems to be at least semi-autobiographical, features the observations and musings of a single woman living in northern Tohoku, Japan. The humor is very light, often revolving around some curious bird behavior. Such as the page below--my translation. Click on the image to read it. As you can see, the strip is full of seasonal and regional references as well as stories about about her relationships with birds (the brown-eared bulbuls [hiyodori] take center stage but others abound--listed midway down this wikipedia entry]. I wonder if there would be a market for a translated version in the U.S....
Below is full-color sticker insert pulled from Morning (and partially used) a few years ago.
I finally got my hands on a copy of Seiichi Hayashi's Red Colored Elegy (thanks, Newton Library), a serious manga work dating from the early 1970s published in translation last year by Drawn & Quarterly. It has been reviewed rather extensively and I agree with the positive tone of most reviews. The work is very much of its time and place but the art is idiosyncratic and haunting and the story satisfyingly moody, if not downright depressing. Hayashi stylizes his main characters but occasionally bursts into highly detailed and sometimes grotesque pen and ink sketches; one of his conceits is the deliberately blotting out of facial detail (obscured by shadows, overly cropped, or just left blank) which reinforces the overall theme of alienation.
For me, though, the real hook is the time and place. The main character is desperately trying to become a published manga-ka. The target for his efforts: the legendary alternative comic, Garo. [Curious self reference--Hayashi's comics actually appeared in Garo, though his character faces only rejection]. My favorite panel is below (you can click on it for a larger view). For me the key is the otherworldly surrealism of both the empty faced man and the scene behind the curtain. While Garo ran a mix of genres, including Sanpei Shirato's politically inflected action narrative, Kamui, I've always considered it THE home for comic dreamworlds. Indeed, the panel references Yoshiharu Tsuge's famous surrealistic Garo contribution, "Neji-shiki."
Here's a taste of "Neji-shiki" in untranslated animated form (via the tremendous manga blog, Same Hat!).
Garo was near the end of its publication life when I lived in Japan (1989-1990), but I bought it faithfully when I was able to find it. (Now my small collection lives in a box in the basement along with the first three issues of Comic Baku--another story).
Here's a taste of Garo from the June 1990 issue. (See my very own manga ink finger print on the cover).
This is a two-page panel from a story by Katsuhiro Mochizuki titled, "Doubutsuen" [Zoo]. (Click on the image to get a better view. I apologize for the blur in the center.) It doesn't take long to notice that there is something wrong about this zoo. And in fact, the comic soon slips into pure dream-space. I especially like the sinister giraffe.
A great crop of cicada skins under the white pine in the front yard. Lily helped me look for them. We found about a dozen. It occurred to me that cicada skins represent a primitive but very versatile sort of plaything, and in the pre-plastic years could have been a good imaginative resource. Especially as monsters. And thus inspired this dumb little piece of digital storytelling. (Captions via roflbot. Please view full screen for full impact. I need help with LOL SPEAK.).
UPDATE: Not that you asked for it, but here are some other cicada skin uses.
Four year old iMac dies (8 kernel panics on average before a stable boot) and a new one arrives. Larger screen (I mean REALLY LARGER) and iLife 09. I'm pleased that the revamped iMovie no longer completely sucks AND that iPhoto has included some interesting new features, e.g., face recognition.
Face recognition is a two-stage process on iPhoto. When you import photos, it tries first to find faces, any faces. Then it tries to match the faces to faces in the database. It has gotten pretty good at recognizing most of us, but Lily can be a mystery to it because there are so many photos from so many angles.
I'm enjoying the faces that iPhoto finds that aren't exactly there. I've started a collection.
Start with creepy bronze boy from Needham center.
Obama on a t-shirt.
But sometimes iPhoto makes it difficult to understand what it is seeing. Where are the faces in the following three photos?
I recently discovered the weekly show, Inquiry, on WICN. (Mark Lynch, the host, posts links to MASSBIRD when there is an natural history-oriented guest). It isn't available as a real podcast (I haven't figured out how to subscribe) but a couple years worth of programs are available for download/streaming. I downloaded a dozen of them and have been consuming them like candy. Lynch has a knack for getting interesting guests and is an enthusiastic, knowledgeable interviewer. He is also an old alt rock guy AND a hardcore birder AND a manga fan, able to reference SS Decontrol AND Hume's tawny owl AND Osamu Tezuka. It made me wonder how often those interests cluster--is there a predictable path from underground pop culture maven to amateur natural historian?
"Then there is electricity! -- the demon, the angel, the mighty physical power, the all-pervading intelligence!" exclaimed Clifford. "Is that a humbug, too? Is it a fact -- or have I dreamt it -- that, by means of electricity, the world of matter has become a great nerve, vibrating thousands of miles in a breathless point of time? Rather, the round globe is a vast head, a brain, instinct with intelligence! Or, shall we say, it is itself a thought, nothing but thought, and no longer the substance which we deemed it!" --Nathaniel Hawthorne, House of the Seven Gables.