Before a manga artist gets a serial, they usually start with a few one-shot stories for a magazine. In this case, before she began drawing GUNJO, Nakamura Ching drew a number of one-shot manga stories that have been collected into a single volume, ChinMan (short for Ching Manga.) This collection is eclectic, odd and intruiging. Just the way I like it. :-)
The first story follows Sae, a young woman with a mysterious disease that causes extreme nosebleeds and some kind of internal convulsions when she’s over stimulated. ….Ahem. When’s she’s kissed deeply by a worried female friend, she realizes that her illness might not be so bad, after all.
Nanako listens to her grandmother’s story of how she and her grandfather lived through hard times and were parted during the war, but doesn’t really understand her grandmother’s feelings until she herself finds love.
“Sonny” is a boxer, whose son does not respect him, until he sees him give his all in the ring.
Noboru is a 19-year old slacker who decides that he wants to become a tattoo artist. He apprentices himself to a woman who really runs him through the traditional method of apprenticing – he cleans constantly, endures physical and emotional abuse until he proves himself worthy of taking ink and needle to the skin of his master. This was far and away my favorite story of the collection.
A local boy and girl have a very contentious relationship that ends with the boy becoming a hero eternally as a Kamikaze pilot.
“Lady Stanch” is a look at life among the bosozoku and the relationships that develop between friends, enemies and lovers in that world.
A young man faces the harsh real life of someone he admired when he was younger in “Cheerio.”
And the final story is a hyper-intensive look at an artist’s tools. I mean that literally. This is a manga about the pens, pencils and brushes and one woman’s over-the-top relationship with her writing utensils.
Each story in this collection is filled with remarkable intensity. The female characters really stand out as having some strength and every character shows resolve in a way that is bound to make a reader feel like s/he too can overcome any obstacle. But these are not comforting stories, even when they are funny. They are edgy in a very real sense.
I’m particularly glad to have had the chance to read the tattoo story, and in general to have gotten a glimpse at the early work of a woman I not only respect as a manga creator, but respect personally.
Art – 8
Story – Variable – 6-8
Characters – 7-9
Yuri – In the one story, 7
Service – 1, just on principle
Overall – 8
Before there was GUNJO, there was ChinMan.
And it was good.