Breakdown Press have been doing a stellar job of bringing some of the best classic alternative manga to the UK including the works of Sasaki Maki, Masahiko Matsumoto and Hayashi Seiichi. But Seiichi in particular has been given special treatment. Following the release of The Flowering Harbour in 2014, this month sees the release of Red Red Rock and Other Stories 1967-1970 – an anthology of some of his best work that spans his career apex from his debut for specialty alternative manga magazine Garo in 1967 to his adult work for Josei Jishin in 1969-70.
Seiichi’s work is like nothing you’ll see in most manga today. Favouring heavy lines and strong contrasts between the black and white used on the page with often minimum background detail, this is far removed from your modern shonen or shojo affair. This style of art definitely favours Seiichi’s style of storytelling as the strength of the majority of the panels in his stories comes from the actions in the panel and striking images he manages to create with minimum effort.
Beyond the out of the norm life style, it is even harder to assign a strict genre to Seiichi’s collection of stories as they verge from horror to family drama and mostly have a surreal style that definitively mark it as Seiichi’s work. The opening chapter in particular is a great take on Heaven and Hell and grim reapers in the time of war which is hard to categorise as despite the subject matter, the gatekeepers of Hell are surprisingly quirky. The main highlights to be found though are Seiichi’s pastiches and mockery of popular culture at the time with both Japan and America getting it particularly hard. The best examples are the second chapter starring the ineffective Batman/Superman pastiche Justice Boy who is remarkably ineffective in his role and has a partlicularly clingy relationship with his Marilyn Monroe/Statue of Liberty combined mother and the title story Red Red Rock which amongst other surreal moments has an Elvis lookalike crooning over the sequences of a Mickey Mouse like character being shot.
If you have after something that is completely different and far removed from the manga that is released today, this is definitely worth checking out. And with a very informative essay included by the book’s editor and translator Academic Associate of Sainsbury Institute for the Study of Japanese Arts and Culture Ryan Holmberg, this is an excellent showcase of one of the greatest names in alternative manga.
Red Red Rock is published 11 May by Breakdown Press
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