….and now for something completely different: manga! The first books I’ve bought since coming (back) to Germany: the first two volumes of The Book of List — Grimm’s Magical Items, by Izuco Fujiya. I’ll admit this is not my first encounter with Japanese comics — some years ago, when I was living in Utah, I was a repeat reader of Shojo Beat, which introduced me to fun series like Vampire Knight etc. For a brief time while I was in Germany, there even was a German manga / shojo* magazine, too, called Daisuki, that was similar in format, and I read that for a while. I also quite enjoyed the first volume of Bizenghast (I’ll have to track down the rest of the story!).
In the interest of full disclosure, I speak no Japanese, so am reading this one in its German translation. Don’t ask my why the German title is actually in English — it’s a cultural thing, I s’pose. Das Buch List doesn’t sound any less intriguing to me than the English title, but hey. 🙂
At the same time I’m also reading (finally) Scott McCloud’s Understanding Comics — the Invisible Art, which is really interesting. If you want to know more about it, CompGeekDavid wrote a pretty good blog post about it at Comparative Geeks. My main idea, when I bought the book, was that it might help me figure out how to teach graphic novels as literature. Because I’d love to include some stuff in my World Lit intro class. I’m thinking Gilgamesh II or the recent re-imaginatino of the Odyssey. Anyway. Back to The Book of List.
What made me pick up this particular title was the blurb / description on the back of volume 1: the premise is that Grimm’s fairy tales were, really, not tales, but that their collection was actually one of magical / powerful items. The brothers had (magically) sealed up these items in the pages of their book, but somehow were released into the real world, where they have been hiding ever since. What we know as Grimm’s fairy tales are just what’s left of that truth, as List, title character of the series, explains in the course of vol.1. It’s this idea of reinventing fairy tales that interested me, plus the obvious Warehouse 13 vibe, finding / figuring out artifacts and how to keep them from hurting people (or imploding the planet).
We start out with two main characters — List, a 9 year-old ‘expert on magical items’ whose mission it is to collect and re-capture the over 1,000 items in a reproduction of the Grimms’ book, and Akitsune, a 16 year-old expert on doing nothing, really. He sleeps his way through the school day, then goes home and sleeps some more.
That is, until he runs into List and accidentally ends up with a magical item: a watch named Aschenputtel (Cinderella). The watch has the power to turn back time by 24 hours, restoring items to the state / place they were in the day before.
So far, so good, but there’s a catch — the watch, it seems, is also sentient. It’s like it is the spirit of Cinderella, and when sloth-like Akitsune wants to rid himself of the hassle (a young man with a mushroom haircut promises to hunt him down – and kill him – to get the watch), she will have no part of it. The watch becomes fused with Akitsune’s wrist. Good thing there’s a 9 year-old girl to protect him!
The items are by no means stuck with the day and age (and technology) of the brothers Grimm: while there’s the chalk the big bad wolf used to trick (and devour) the three little pigs, and the watch that keeps Cinderella from being caught, and the breadcrumbs that Hansel and Gretel used to mark their way through the forest, there’s also… a magical media player. I’ll let you figure out / guess / read up on which fairy tale that one is connected to. 🙂
There is one item that could free Akitsune from the (growing) powers of Aschenputtel / the watch fused into his body, and the same item could also provide a shortcut for List’s quest, so the odd pair decide to work together.
According to the (German) publisher, over here, the series will have 6 volumes, two of which are currently available, with a third coming out later this month. At this point, I have every intention of reading all the volumes, because the characters are actually interesting and like-able.
The original / Japanese title of the series is Kataribe no List, in case you want to look it up. Clearly, the original version is much longer than 6 volumes: this fan-run online manga reader shows 32 issues (which you can read online for free, apparently).
*) shojo is a kind of manga usually aimed at a young female demographic, as opposed to shonen, which targets a young male audience. There are many types of manga, so that the ‘genre’ (if you want to call it that) a broad spectrum of genres including silly / humorous, adventure, romantic, crime, sci-fi / fantasy / supernatural, and erotic / adult stories.