19 July 2013

Alexandros - Dream for World Conquest (Some Thoughts About Good Manga 8)

Happyscans and I would finally like to present the scanlated release of Yasuhiko Yoshikazu's "Alexandros - Dream for World Conquest." As a big fan of Yasuhiko Yoshikazu and history, this project was an absolute dream and I hope you'll enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed working on it.
Since this is the first (of hopefully many) Yasuhiko manga I did, I want to take the time to comment on him, because as famous as he is, his contributions to manga are often out-shadowed by his work in the anime industry. It can't be helped though, when you have a hand in creating something as iconic and seminal as the Gundam series, but it's in manga where Yasuhiko shines best. Why? He is a FANTASTIC artist. My golden rule of setting apart good character designers from bad ones is if you can still differentiate characters even if their hair style, colour, and eyes were interchanged. With a simplified, "cartoonier" style like Tezuka's, this is far easier to do, since the artist isn't restricted by strict human proportions.
However, if you're going for a more semi-realistic artsyle, this is quite difficult to do without actually drawing the minute features of the human face. Now I might be just biased because I grew up with manga, but I think a lot of Western comic artists try to overdo the realism and end up compromising the appealing approachability afforded by simpler character designs, as Scott McCloud points out in the above picture. I think the current Yukimura and Yasuhiko are solid examples of artists that can strike just the right balance between this "distinct realism" and "approachability." Of course, as I've said before, my personal favourite is Katou Shinkichi (see pic below). That man knows all about this balance. Never goes overboard with cross-hatching and still keeps his designs distinct but clean.
In any case, let's go back to Yasuhiko Yoshikazu. He's a fantastic character designer as I've just said, and the only place you can appreciate this is in his manga because hell, it's just too damn costly to do in anime. But what about his stories? Is his writing as good as his drawing? Well, in the case of Alexandros, I think the answer is a definite yes.
Every good biography needs a focus. When you're telling a story spanning several decades (only about 3 in Alexander's case), you need a tight focus to tie it all together so it doesn't feel like the loose ramblings of an old man. For Alexander the Great, that focus has usually been to question his "greatness." Views on Alexander have ranged anywhere from a cultured conqueror spreading Hellenism for the world's benefit to an alcoholic, megalomanic, and brutish tyrant. "Alexandros - Dream for World Conquest" is Yasuhiko's own attempt to answer this question. Like a proper historian, Yasuhiko breaks away from Alexander's popular depictions in the media and presents a balanced picture. We see him at his best, bravely leading his hetairoi into the thick of every battle or nobly treating Darius' mother and daughters after the battle of Gaugamela. We see him at his worst, murdering Cleitus, torturing Philotas, or sacking Persepolis. As we follow his campaign, we see him understandably and naturally transform from a mere idolizer of Achilles into a ruler self-assured in his greatness and divinity. Lysimachus, our neutral narrator, never wears anachronistic modern-day morality-goggles, and is careful to only gently nudge the reader along in ultimately deciding for themselves on which side of the greatness-spectrum Alexander lies. Whatever your conclusion, Lysimachus' rousing monologue at the end reminds us that Alexander's deeds were something no man could follow up, and that alone deserves respect, regardless of the man's moral fiber. By the way, Lysimachus is a choice pick as the narrator, since he, as the second longest-lived diadochi, is in a prime position to look back on the effects that Alexander had, both during and after his life.
Of course, nitpickers might point to the omission of Alexander's consolidation of power through assassinations upon ascending to the throne, or the scant mention of the sack of Tyre (a pity, since it's one of the most interesting sieges in antiquity) and his purges, but that was really because Yasuhiko was restricted to a length of 1-volume, since this was supposed to be just a standard adaptation of the NHK channel's history special. So even though it'd be great to see a more detailed view of the Battle of Hydaspes or the various rivalries among Alexander's generals, you can understand how these aspects aren't as essential when considering Yasuhiko's goal in this manga. Still, you have to give credit to Yasuhiko for doing his utmost best at maintaining historical accuracy (except his handling of the march through Gedrosian Desert since he never met up with Nearchos' fleet). 
One final thing I'd like to mention as the translator is the spelling of human/city names. I often went with the ancient Greek spelling for flavour reasons, so you'll see Thebai instead of Thebes or Tyros instead of Tyre. Looking back, however, I wasn't very consistent, as I sometimes used Latin spellings like Ptolemaeus, Lysimachus, and Issus, instead of Ptolemaios, Lysimachos, and Issos. I sincerely apologize if this caused any confusion.

Alexandros - Dream for World Conquest:   Sendspace

3 July 2013

Rivera vs. Joe

Finally, the match we've all been waiting for is underway! It's been quite an eventful volume, hasn't it? It feels like every Joe volume is jam-packed with new developments. I'd ideally like to keep on rolling by moving immediately to volume 13 but expect Alexandros and Punpun to interfere with that. So don't expect v13 until both of these are scanlated.

Tomorrow's Joe v12:   Sendspace
Tomorrow's Joe v12 Part 6:   Sendspace