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Pandemic mishandling and social injustice hit a nerve with comic artists

Harsh 2020 lockdowns retold in a comic book; Hokusai exhibition celebrates the vision of a hopeful genius; Knock Knock winter edition is out; Angoulême comics festival announces award nominees; The Wheel of Time and Witcher hit the screen ahead of The Sandman‘s release; voting will open for the Crunchyroll anime awards 2022 (and we drop three names that we think could be shortlisted next month).

A chronicle of a time plagued by misdeeds

Whilst No 10 is mired in controversy surrounding ‘work’ parties that took place during the harsh 2020 lockdowns, we are reading Dr Ernesto Priego’s The Lockdown Chronicles: A Comic Strip Quarantine. This comic book chronicles exactly that: the mismanagement of the pandemic contingencies by those elected by the British people to sort this shit out.

To draw parallel with the pandemic events of the past, Priego uses historical images and resonance to articulate – by dates and months – the statistics of the grim death tolls of Covid-19, the lockdown measures implemented by the UK government, the resulting social inequality posed by the pandemic and government actions, and the companies that profit from this situation.

We are sure that there will another lockdown chronicle from Priego. Since the beginning of the pandemic, he has been examining the upward and downward trajectories of the Covid infections and deaths on social media.

Do buy this comic book. It is reasonably priced, an easy read but very clever and gets you thinking about what to do next.

The Hokusai’s book that has everything

Hokusai: The Great Picture Book of Everything at the British Museum was the last exhibition we visited in 2021.

Smaller compared with the museum’s large-scale The Citi exhibition Manga マンガ in summer 2019, this exhibition focuses on some of the 103 drawings the artist made and compiled for “the great picture book of everything”. These were actually art print mock-ups carefully stored in a wooden box – much like the ‘work-in-progress’ drafts that any visual creatives keep in boxes and on shelves before they get published or produced as products.

Of course, you can expect The Great Wave of Kanagawa featured at this show as a star if not the supporting actor of The Great Picture Book drawings. The more sensational stuff – things that Hokusai, a twice-widowed man of five children, drew to support his family – are omitted. No Dream of the Fisherman’s Wife, brazen octopuses, exaggerated body parts or any of that shogun-commissioned gentleman’s relish. This is not that kind of show.

Instead, visitors are introduced to the inspiration behind some of the drawings in this mock-up book. There is an explainer on Buddhism and how it reached Japan via India and China. A section of the show features drawings based on scenes from The Lotus Sutra: the dragon kings, the dragon princess that reaches enlightenment, arhats and so on. Another section features fantastic creatures: birds, elephants and mammals. There is also anthropology as well: Hokusai depicts people from around Asia and in the West based on the books he read.

Pretty impressive given that he lived during the Edo period (1603-1868) when Japan was closed to foreigners and under the control of the shogun. It’s like during this restricted travel period in which we imagine how people live via what we see on digital media.

“For an ordinary man, he produced very extraordinary works,” said our Creative Director, a big fan of Hokusai. “His life was hard but his works are full of lightness.” Looking at the drawings, you have a sense that Hokusai was an artist forged by experience. He had little luck with love – he was twice married and twice widowed. He had children to feed. But we think he found solace in his faith as a Buddhist and in the Lotus Sutra that he chanted. Hokusai didn’t have to draw the Buddhist scenes for The Great Picture Book, but he wanted to.

That book didn’t get published in his lifetime, but he made sure the legacy lasted long enough so we can have this show at The British Museum.

Knock Knock winter edition is out

We received the winter edition of Knock Knock by Frisson Comics in November 2021. This edition was edited by Tom Smith and Katie Whittle. Frisson Comics told us there will be a bit of a wait for the next edition as they are focusing on other projects, such as the Etsy shop and the Occult Ornithology Tarot by Whittle, the principle artist.

It will be sometime before we see the next edition of Knock Knock by Frisson Comics. In the meantime, we will enjoy this rather fetching Christmas card. Merry Christmas!

We’ve always been a fan of Frisson Comics since we’d first met them at MCM Comic Con London in 2018. It was refreshing to discover a particular gothic narrative unique to the north, framed within the context of the environment – or the horrors done to it – and social inequality. Smith and Whittle don’t theorise about Marxian materialism or human ecology; they just spell out the horrors with as much gothic flourish as possible. And we get the message immediately.

We, too, had taken a hiatus between 2013 and 2017 to focus on the establishment of the studio that publishes Story Of Books. Establishing trajectory takes time for independent publishers. So we hope to see Knock Knock again.

Angoulême comics festival announces 2022 award nominees

The award season presses on regardless of the pandemic. The list of nominees and voting for the 49th edition of the Angoulême International Comics Festival are now made public. The festival will be held between 27 and 30 January 2022 in the town on Angoulême in France.

Publisher Europe Comics has announced that 10 of their titles are nominated for categories featured at this festival.

You can check out the 46 official selections for the 2022 official competition here. The online voting for the Grand Prix prize to be awarded to an author or an artist has been opened. We will find out the results by late January 2022.

Online voting for Crunchyroll anime awards to open next month

Anime fans have been looking forward to this moment: The Crunchyroll Anime Awards 2022. There are good ones and forgettable ones that we had watched in 2021 – but hey, this is a pop event. We’re not looking for an Oscar winner.

As usual, contenders will vie for categories which will be judged by industry experts and also voted for by fans. These include:

  • Anime of the year
  • Best animation
  • Best director
  • Best drama
  • Best fantasy
  • Best character design
  • Best score

Online voting will open between 18 and 25 January 2022. There are already a few names tipped to be shortlisted for the major categories. Organiser Crunchyroll reported that IGN, the US video game and entertainment website, selected Oddtaxi as the winner of its own anime award.

Oddtaxi is popular amongst the more discerning anime fans who appreciate subtle, dry black humour and intelligent story writing. The anime does what it says on the tin: odd.

Oddtaxi is highly imaginative, if not very odd and dry in its humour. It’s about a taxi driver who gets caught up in gang feuds, police corruption and pop star rivalry. He imagines everyone to look like animals.

But Oddtaxi over To Your Eternity? Okay, the latter is a tearjerker fantasy drama but it is such a wonderful story. Who does not weep by the time you reach Episode 20? We think it captures the mood of our dark, pandemic time perfectly.

We are trying not be biased but we think Tokyo Revengers can win one or two categories. Maybe more. It was the cult hit of 2021. Not the kind of show parents would like their kids to watch but the Machiavellian nature of the characters is exactly what these kids see in the public figures hogging their social media timelines.

Live action version of anime or comic book doesn’t necessarily translate well. At best, they poorly “capture the spirit” of the original work. But Tokyo Revengers‘ school gangster tale of injustice, inequality, power imbalance and revenge of the underdogs definitely capture the imagination and wallets of cinema-goers in Japan.

CBR.com reported that the live action version of Tokyo Revengers is the highest grossing action film in Japan in 2021, earning ¥4.38 billion (US$39.5 million) at the box office. It closely beat another highly anticipated action film of 2021, Rurouni Kenshin: The Final, which reportedly earned ¥4.32 billion (US$39.0 million). And that was a good film.

And we haven’t seen the last of Rurouni Kenshin yet. A new anime series will return in 2022. Here is the sneak preview:

And finally, when is The Sandman coming out?

The Sandman will be aired in 2022. So another six months’ wait for fans by the sound of it.

The Netflix series based on the graphic novels, that is. We thought it was going to be in September 2021, but we saw The Witcher Season 2 released first. It is reported that The Sandman will air on Netflix in spring or summer 2022 instead.

Of course, we’re sure the producers don’t want to release it at the same time as that marvellous Amazon series, The Wheel Of Time, based on the books by Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson. Every episode of Season 1 is released on Friday. If you want to follow it, we recommend you bear with it until Episode 3 – and then the whole story begins to make sense and becomes rather gripping. But do avoid reading the spoilers on Reddit if you want to enjoy The Wheel Of Time.

The Wheel Of Time Season 1 is out every Friday on Amazon Prime Video. It tells the story of a group of female sorcerers searching for the person called The Dragon Reborn whom they believe can save them, or destroy them if he sides with the Dark Side.