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Kio Shimoku, the author of Genshiken, is an elusive individual. Portraying himself as a kind of ape, he so rarely makes public appearances that he is sometimes mistakenly believed to be a woman. In fact, when he appeared for an event to celebrate the Genshiken Nidaime (Second Season) anime, it was kind of a big deal. Thanks to Brazilian Genshiken enthusiast Diogo Prado, however, I’ve learned that photos of Kio do exist.

Apparently Kio had attended an event in Taiwan in 2010, where he promoted the release of his manga Jigopuri (also known as Digo Puri). His desire for privacy is respected here, as none of the photos actually show his face, yet it’s still pretty cool to see the man himself. Obviously I don’t know how he is as a person, but the fact that he looks like a nerd who knows how to clean himself up and dress nicely is a trait also demonstrated by the characters in Genshiken over time, namely Ogiue and Madarame. In fact, he looks pretty similar to Madarame from behind, while in the old Publisher’s Weekly interview with Kio he said that Ogiue is somewhat reflective of his own experiences.

By the way, I wonder how Jigopuri ended up doing in Taiwan.

Genshiken II‘s been running for a while now, and every so often I go back and look at the earlier chapters of the new series (would you expect me to do otherwise?). Upon a recent revisit, it hit me just how much the artwork had changed between the inaugural Chapter 56 and its immediate followup in Chapter 57.

For comparison, here is Ogiue in Chapter 56 on the left, and 57 on the right.

There’s a clear difference between the two versions of Ogiue (or any other character) that can’t be chalked up simply to the gradual evolution of art style that happened throughout the original Genshiken. This change, given just how drastic it is, was more abrupt, though one has to keep in mind that the real life gap between 56 and 57 was almost a year (Chapter 56 was originally a one-shot that got turned into the start of a new series).

Because of how much softer and more cutesy Chapter 56 Ogiue is portrayed, my suspicion is that Kio’s style was affected by his time working on Jigopuri. Indeed, Chapter 56 of Genshiken actually came out in the middle of his run on Jigopuri.

In fact, if you look at one of the characters in Jigopuri, the little sister Kaname (pictured left), she looks pretty close to the Ogiue of Chapter 56. What’s also kind of funny is the fact that Volume 1 of Jigopuri features an Ogiue cameo on the inside cover, and it’s clear that the Jigopuri style hadn’t fully taken over Kio’s artwork yet at the time he drew it.

I think it’s interesting how an artist can get so influenced by how they’ve been drawing that it makes it difficult to shift gears back to a different kind of story. It’s different depending on the artist of course, but I have to wonder how much effort Kio put into switching into a less moe-type art style. Something tells me it wasn’t easy.

Kio Shimoku is a manga author who is best known for his work on the 9-volume Genshiken series, about the members of a college anime/manga club. It’s personally my favorite manga series ever. It may come as a surprise then to know that Kio’s latest manga, Jigopuri: The Princess of the Hell, concerns itself with a topic normally far-removed from that of watching anime: Teen Pregnancy.

Well, not teen pregnancy per se, but it does center around a widowed 18 year old mother and her newborn child. The mother is Okiura Ayumi, her daughter is Okiura Yumeko, and living with them is Ayumi’s twin sister Hino Kaname. The raising and nurturing of young Yumeko, who is less than one week old when we first see her, is the central focus of Jigopuri, and the manga’s approach to a topic which is incredibly common in the real world but incredibly rare in comics is rather unique.

Despite its realistic tone and content, the art style of Jigopuri is closer to that of Kujibiki Unbalance than it is Genshiken, and it might be difficult to reconcile the fact that doe-eyed moe anime girls are discussing topics such as diaper-changing and the unbearable stress that comes part and parcel with raising a newborn. What can be even more jarring is the fact that Yumeko is drawn in a rather realistic style, more closely resembling a photograph than a kawaii anime infant.

No, Yumeko is not an ideal entertainment baby who is ten parts adorable and one part cuddles. She is a wrinkly, crying, pooping baby who needs attendance at all times because she’s a baby. Everything revolves around this fact, from the deliberately slow pacing of story (chapters generally span only a single day) to the way it handles all of its seemingly incongruous artistic elements, and understanding why Yumeko is portrayed in this manner is the key to understanding Jigopuri.

From the start, Jigopuri puts a young, inexperienced mother with no time or desire for romance in the spotlight, and in doing so makes Ayumi, and by extension the whole of Jigopuri, into something partially meant to stand against the tide of common trends seen in moe anime and manga. Although Ayumi at times feels helpless, it is never because she can’t do anything, but rather because she does so much. That doesn’t mean Jigopuri condemns moe, but it does remove much of the glamor and fetishism that accompanies many tropes of modern anime and manga. Nowhere is this more evident than in the comic’s portrayal of breasts.

As one might expect out of Jigopuri, breastfeeding occurs frequently, but the sight of an attractive woman exposing her large, shapely breasts (with nipples shown) begins to lose its erotic appeal once you are made aware of how inevitably their appearance is attached to the shrill cry of Yumeko as she wakes a sleep-deprived Ayumi up in the middle of the night. After a while, you begin to really feel for Ayumi, as you think to yourself, “She has to take out her breasts again?” And further cementing this un-fetishizing is the fact that Ayumi’s breasts are visibly veiny, an effect achieved through smart use of screen tones, and an indicator that these are not the idealized breasts you’d see in other works willing to show them with the same frequency as Jigopuri.

That’s Jigopuri as of Volume 1, and I really do recommend it, though I understand it’s not for everyone. Its cutesy art style combined with its realistic content can throw people off quite a bit, but if you can read Japanese or if it comes out in English, I think you should give it a chance.

A common sight in Jigopuri is a tired and weary Ayumi with deep bags underneath her eyes, a sign that each day wears on her even if she truly loves her daughter.

I recently purchased Volume 1 of Genshiken: The Society for the Study of Modern Visual Culture creator Kio Shimoku’s newest manga, Jigopuri: The Princess of the Hell, about an 18 year old mom trying to raise her newborn child. A review will be posted in due time, but there is something more important I must address.

Manga published in Japan generally has a dust jacket where the manga’s front cover is printed, as opposed to manga published in the US where the image appears directly on the book. As such, manga often have images underneath the dust jackets. Curious about Jigopuri, I looked underneath only to uncover this on the back cover.

YEEEEEEEESSSSSSS

Ogiue is saying, “Whatever the circumstances may be, there’s no way they could get this big.” (Thanks to prinny for correcting my mistake)

Even when the content isn’t even related to Genshiken, Kio Shimoku still finds a way to fit Ogiue in, and for that I give him eternal respect and devotion.

Incidentally, this is on the front cover.

Madarame: Why did he use these designs?
Sasahara: Who knows?

Recently I found out that Kuroda Iou, creator of Sexy Voice and Robo as well as one of my favorite manga artists, has a new series entitled Atarashii Asa (New Morning) in one of my favorite magazines, Monthly Afternoon. Afternoon was home to Genshiken, and is where Kio Shimoku’s current series about a teenage mom Jigopuri, as well as Mysterious Girlfriend X, are running. Suffice it to say, at this point I am almost, almost tempted to consistently buy Monthly Afternoon even though I understand how much the costs tend to add up after a while.

This got me thinking about why I like Kuroda’s artwork, as it’s a wild style unlike most other artists in the anime and manga industries. If you look at my previous Sexy Voice and Robo review, you can get a good idea of what his drawings entail. He’s detailed but not meticulously so, and his brush usage leans away from the “cleaner” style that is so popular with so many people. Often times his drawings and panels aren’t completely coherent, but I feel like these “mistakes” are part of what make his style so unique. I call them mistakes only in the sense that in the end he did not decide to redraw something so that the thickness of the lines made a little more sense or the proportions of a character’s fingers were more realistic, but ultimately it was a decision, and it’s these decisions of which I am fond.

I’ve mentioned before that his style is pretty much what I wish I had, and it really has to do with conveying a sense of energy that goes beyond “accuracy.” Accuracy has its place in that world, but it is not at the forefront, much to the dismay of people who scrutinize single frames from Naruto episodes. While I don’t think my own style will ever be JUST LIKE his, it’s good to know that he’s still in Japan producing works that hopefully will get brought over to America at some point.

Oh and I found out Jigopuri’s first volume should be out, but that’s it’s not listed on Kinokuniya’s website. Maybe it takes a while for new series to get over there.

Official sources for Genshiken Second Season

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