80 Famous People – Neil Armstrong


(All rights belong to their owners. Images used here for review purposes only.)

Neil Armstrong – First man on the moon. What else is there to say? Ignoring the conspiracy theorists, Neil was a Navy pilot during the Korean War, continued as a test pilot, got into NASA and made it into the Apollo program, and was the mission commander for Apollo 11. After leaving NASA, he taught at the University of Cincinnati, served on two NASA accident investigations, and either acted as spokesman for several companies or served on their board of directors. He also did some voice-over work for an animated film commissioned by JPL/NASA. He died on Aug. 7, 2012, during heart bypass surgery.


(Notice the line of characters under the comic about 2/3rds the way down the page. The text reads “We’ll see you again!!”)

The intro manga has Merrino preparing to return home to the Sheep Planet after having completed his stay on Earth. Youichi and Mami recall all of the problems he’s caused them (eating their snacks, scribbling in their school notebooks, filling their backpacks with shed wool) and eagerly anticipate his departure. Since this is the last time for them to watch a lesson projected by Study Bell, all three of them kick back and relax for the film. In the wrap up, the two kids are starting to feel a little lonesome, when Merrino pops up from a trapdoor in the floor, asking their mother what she’s making him for dinner – turns out that Angora has installed a wormhole between the two planets and the sheep prince can come back whenever he wants. The story finishes with the entire cast telling the readers that they hope to meet them again some day.


(Neil talks to the ghost of Ed White.)

The artist for the main manga is Kamui Fujiwara, who had drawn issue 3, on da Vinci. Unfortunately, while he’d employed some interesting visual tricks in #3, #80 is presented as a straight-forward documentary, with really weird choices for the character designs. Most blatantly, Fujiwara draws Armstrong as being at least 20 pounds overweight. His face is consistently fat, and one of the postcard images has the spacesuit looking like a clown suit… But, the backgrounds are good, and there’s lots of pictures of space and the moon. One full page displays the intended route for the Apollo rocket missions, and would make a nice wall poster.


(Textbook page.)

The manga starts out with Neil narrating an incident during the Korean War when he’d been on a flight mission over North Korea and had to limp back to safety with half a wing shot off. Back over friendly territory, he ejected from the plane and floated down by parachute. This is followed by the USSR getting a jump on the U.S. by having the first human in space (Gagarin, vol. #50). The U.S. government goes into panic mode, and Kennedy steps forward to announce that they’ll have a man on the moon by the end of the 1960’s. There’s a bit where Ed White tells Armstrong that by being in NASA’s program that they’re about to fulfill mankind’s greatest dream. This is followed by a NASA tech doubting that the Lunar Landing Module is going to work right, when someone else runs up to announce that there’s been an accident over on the launch site – Apollo 1 had exploded and killed the three men aboard (Gus Grissom, Roger Chaffee and Ed White). Armstrong is next seen in front of Ed’s tombstone, wishing that his friend would still be around for what’s going to happen next. At one point, Neil contemplates his options if there is a failure in space; just as in North Korea, if the machine breaks down, it’d be dangerous to bail out. Two and a half years later, Apollo 11 lifts off, and the story follows the rocket to the moon and ends with an image of the footprint in the lunar soil and the Japanese translation of “One small step for man”.


(Postcards.)

The textbook section spends a little more time discussing Neil’s upbringing and his fascination with planes. His father was a state auditor and the family moved around a lot. Neil got good at making friends quickly, but he also liked to read, study and play sports. One book on airplanes triggered his lifelong affair with them. There’s some mention of his time in the Navy, and a list of his accomplishments at NASA. Sidebars talk about the U.S.-Soviet cold war, the Mercury Seven, and the post-moon landing parades in New York and Tokyo. The last two pages cover possible plans for trips to Mars, the concepts for Virgin’s reusable spacecraft and a space elevator, and what would be needed for living on the moon (basically, an underground station). A lot of this issue is taken up with talk about the Cold War.

Conclusion: Well, this is it. Last issue in the Manga Sekai no Ijin (Manga World Famous People) series. The inside back cover has all of the famous people standing around in various poses, and there’s credits for the main editorial staff. I’d say that Asahi Shimbun (Asahi newspaper) isn’t going to produce season 3. In a way, this is understandable. One of the biggest problems with having a weekly series like this is that the bookstores are running out of shelf space for them all. There are serialized collections for build-it robot kits, Japanese castles, famous Japanese historical figures, and TV series (DVDs for Galaxy Express 999, Macross, Gundam, Columbo, Gegege no Kitaro, etc.) It’s gotten to the point where each new issue is set out on the “Just Arrived” shelf for 1 day before being stuck in with all of the other back issues. Lately, there’s only been 2 or 3 copies of the newest Ijin issue on the shelf at the one bookstore I go to, and I’m thinking that the store has cut back on the numbers they buy. So, the most likely thing is that Asahi is planning on making the majority of their money by selling the magazines to elementary schools. But, I may be wrong about that. Regardless, since the Ijin series has finished now, I’m going to have to find something else to write about on this blog.

80 Famous People – Hideyo Noguchi


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Hideyo Noguchi (born Seisaku Noguchi, 1876, in Fukushima Prefecture), was a bacteriologist whose primary accomplishment was the discovery of the cause of syphilis. While he also claimed to have made other discoveries as well, most of his research has been discounted as slipshod, faulty or outright wrong. The wiki entry states that part of the problem was Noguchi’s insistence on working alone, combined with the Rockefeller Institute’s flawed peer review system, but the Ijin mook places emphasis on his having been part of a tight-knit team (which may have been made up for a Japanese readership). In any event, he’s revered as a researcher in Japan, and was the only scientist to have their portrait on the 1000 yen bank note. One of the defining moments of his life was when he fell into the cooking fire in his family’s home at age 1 1/2, and severely burned his left hand. His fingers were mostly gone. In 1883, his school raised the funds to have a Japanese surgical specialist restore about 70% of the mobility to his hand. One side-effect of this surgery was that Noguchi became determined to become a medical doctor. Both his father and his grandfather were layabout drunks, so his mother worked the family rice fields to support Seisaku and his older sister. In return, Seisaku  was devoted to his studies and was able to get into Tokyo medical school based on the recommendations of his teachers. He traveled to the U.S., where he was a research assistant to Dr. Simon Flexner at the University of Pennsylvania working on anti-snake venoms. Flexner became the first director of the Rockefeller Institute for Medical Research in 1901, and Noguchi followed him there. At the Institute, Noguchi (who had changed his name from Seisaku to Hideyo at age 21) isolated the syphilitic spirochete, for which he was nominated for a Nobel Prize in 1913 and several times more over the next few years. Later work involved Yellow Fever, which he thought was caused by a bacteria. His vaccine was only partly effective, so he studied in Ecuador, and then in Accra, Gold Coast, (now Ghana) to find out where he’d made his mistake. In Accra, he contracted Yellow Fever himself and died in 1928. Some time later, his team realized that the disease is caused by a virus, which was too small to be seen in the microscopes of the day. He is buried in NYC’s Woodlawn Cemetery.


(Ken Wolf’s mother, leader of the Wolf Gang, comes down with Yellow Disease.)

The intro manga has the Wolf Gang, led by Ken’s mother, invading Youichi’s and Mami’ house to capture Merrino once and for all. Naturally, one of the gang members yells out that they have to stop, but this time it’s because he’s just received a report that the Wolf People back home on the Wolf Planet are being decimated by a horrible contagious disease. The symptoms include turning yellow, developing a fever and collapsing. As he describes them, he too turns yellow and falls over. Ken’s mother contracts the disease as well, but is saved by Mohea, who uses a special curative scarf that had just been created in the last volume (the one on Rockefeller, which I didn’t buy). Scarves are shipped to the Wolf Planet and everyone gets well again. In the wrap-up, the third member of the gang is revealed to be the Wolf Planet President, and Ken’s father (to the shock of both Ken and his mother). Ken’s father declares the end of the hostilities between the Wolves and the Sheep, and everyone shares some delicious Earth rice crackers (Merrino and Ken’s father both agree that Earth has the best food).

The main manga is drawn by Yumehito Ueda (character designer on Idol Master relations, Sento Josai Masurawo, True Tears). He favors a big forehead, pointy little chin design that makes Noguchi look half-starved. It’s nothing like the well-fed look Noguchi has in all the photos. The backgrounds are good, though.


(Hideyo gets Yellow Fever and dies. Note his left hand in panel 2.)

The story starts out with Seisaku attempting to help his mother in the fields, but his crippled left hand prevents him from using any of the tools. He gets ridiculed by his neighbor for not being able to catch a ball. But, he’s good at studies, and assists both the neighbor and his own older sister, Inu, with their homework. One day, one of his teachers suggests that he visit Doctor Kanae Watanabe, who had studied surgery in the U.S. The school raises money for the the surgery, and eventually Seisaku is able to hold an apple in his left hand for the first time. In gratitude, he decides to become a doctor, and Watanabe allows him to stay in the clinic to help out with the staff work while studying for the medical school entrance exams at night. Before going to Tokyo, he carves a vow into the wall of the house that he’d graduate as a doctor or never come back home. He does graduate, changes his name to Hideyo (there was a novel written about that time where the main character is a loser named Seisaku. In kind of a shock, he decided that he needed a better name; “Hide” is the character used for “England”, and “yo” is “world”) and goes to America where he forces himself onto Doctor Simon Flexner. He starts out working on snake anti-venom at the University of Pennsylvania. Then, when Flexner is picked to be the first director of the newly-created Rockefeller Institute, Noguchi follows him and starts working on infectious diseases. After 15 years in the U.S., he received a letter from his former neighbor with a hand-written note from his mother stating that she misses him. Struck with homesickness, he sailed back to Japan to visit with her for 2 months. He returned to the U.S., promising to see her again soon, but she died 3 years later. At one point, his research team members give up for the night and Noguchi stays in the lab – they ask him if he ever takes time out to sleep at all. The story fast-forwards to 1928, in Accra. Noguchi is in bed with Yellow Fever. His last words are “I don’t understand”. He dies and the team redoubles its efforts to complete his work. They finally discover that Yellow Fever is caused by a virus, not a bacteria, and the story ends with the narrator telling everyone that the present-day researchers have been inspired by Noguchi’s hardworking ethic.

The textbook section describes Seisaku’s upbringing in a tiny rural town, the accident with the fireplace, and how the entire town pulled together to pay for his surgery. There’s some mention of his time spent at university and later research labs. Sidebars talk about the surgeon Kanae Watanabe, the teacher Shisakae Kobayashi, researcher Morinosuke Chiwaki, Simon Flexner, and Noguchi’s mother, Shika. There is a brief discussion of the problems with Noguchi’s research that surfaced immediately after his death, but a lot of it is kind of swept under the rug by saying that technology at the time was unable to detect viruses. The last two pages describe other disease researchers, including: Robert Koch, Shibasaburo Kitasato, Alexandre Yersin and Kiyoshi Shiga.


(Post cards: Hideyo, left, and Hideyo and Shika, right.)

Comments: It’s a bit too much to expect a Japanese publication to address the darker side of a national hero when the audience is Japanese children. But, the emphasis on Noguchi’s connection to his mother, his devotion to solving the world’s ills, and the claim that he worked closely with his U.S. team is poured on a bit thick. The artist’s interpretation of Noguchi as a starved brainiac doesn’t really work, either. If you want the pictures in the textbook section, then this volume is ok. Otherwise, you really should get a fully-researched biography on him in English.

Note: The series is almost finished. There’s German pianist Clara Schumann and then American astronaut Neil Armstrong. I’m only going to get the Armstrong volume. There’s no mention of the series being extended any further, so I’m assuming that the Merrino storyline will wrap up in issue 80 as well. It’s been a good run, and I’ve enjoyed reading about a number of the featured people. If a similar series pops up, I’ll check it out. Otherwise, this blog is probably going to slow down a lot more in the near future. Gakken isn’t releasing much of anything new anymore (the next kit is some time in September, and then we won’t see anything else until maybe December or January), and I’m not doing much in Java right now. I do have articles planned for the PAiA Fatman synth, and the HackMe Rock-it 8-Bit synth, but I don’t have either of them fully troubleshot, so there’s maybe only 3 article’s worth of material right now. And no plans for mods of the Otona no Kagaku Planetarium kit. (The Rockit kit was missing parts, and the designer may take 2-3 weeks to mail replacements to me.)

 

80 Famous People – Confucius


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Most people are at least familiar with the name Confucius, although in America he’s primarily known for being the namesake of the “Confucius say” jokes. The real Confucius lived from some time around 551 BCE to 479 BCE. According to the wiki entry, his father died when he was 2 years old, and his mother became a temple priestess to support the both of them, although she also died relatively young. Being raised around a temple gave him the rare opportunity to learn to read and write. At the time, China was a collection of warring states, and the one he lived in, Lu, was headed by a ruling feudal house. Confucius worked a series of jobs with the intent of climbing up through Lu’s bureaucratic system. One goal was to establish himself as a philosopher, promoting a more peaceful environment for the common people affected by the fighting. However, he butted heads against a few of the more influential local leaders and found himself being ostracized. In part, this was because his philosophy included displaying respect to others, justice, sincerity and governmental morality (which were counter to the behavior of the day). He left Lu and spent 14 years with his followers wandering from state to state, looking for a place to settle down. Finally, on returning to Lu at age 68, he was accepted due to the groundwork laid by a few of his students. He then continued teaching from a newly established school until his death at age 78.

His philosophy revolves around the concept of respect for authority. You do what you are told by the people above you, and the people below you follow your orders. To ensure that people will follow you, you need to be gracious, polite and morally upstanding. You should also be skilled in the 6 arts, which include writing, archery, music and horseback riding. The idea of hierarchy extends to the family, where the sons must follow the will of their father, and the women are obedient to the men. This philosophy made its way to Japan several hundred years ago, and formed the basis of study for anyone wanting to enter government work. In Japan, Confucius is known as “Koushi”.


(Angora: “Buy my books.”)

In the intro manga, Ken Oogami (Ken Wolf) is trying to find ways to pay back Mrs. Makiba for letting him stay at her house. But, Merrino prevents him from doing housekeeping or cooking, because the Sheep Prince does those in order to get Mrs. Makiba to give him more free cookies. Actually, Merrino’s butler, Angora, does the real work, while quoting from Confucius to explain his role as a servant. Ken is impressed and begs Angora to teach him the way of butlering. In the wrap up, Ken now looks like a respectable, upstanding young man. The girls (Mami and Mohea) ask him to design new outfits for them, but Merrino interrupts and demands that he get a makeover first. Youichi leaps forward, announcing that he also graduated from Angora’s class. Youichi turns Merrino into a clown, while Angora tries to sell the reader on his line of serialized “Famous Butler” magazine books.

Ryou Mitsuya (Haraguro Maiko-san no Takao Katsu, Soyokaze Soyo-san, Wan Pagu!) is the main artist. In this story, there’s almost no backgrounds, and the story is a mix of narrated poses, combined with occasional short conversations between two characters. All of the character designs are standard manga fare, and Confucius looks nothing like the statues portraying him. In fact, Mitsuya has him as some kind of starved bean pole with a fake-looking glue-on beard, rather than the big laughing fat guy from the statues.


(Confucius learns about court intrigue first-hand.)

The story starts out with an old Confucius giving a lecture in his hometown while a group of farm kids fight the crowds in order to get a glimpse of him. Most of the kids fall asleep in the middle of the lecture, complaining that it’s too difficult for commoners to follow, and Kangai, one of Confucius’ main disciples rewords things to make them easier to comprehend. The scene then switches to when Confucius was raised by his mother after she became a temple priestess, and shows how he continued to study philosophy and government operations as an adult. Most scenes serve as a backdrop for the artist to reprint one of Confucius’ quotes from “Analects”, and then reword it in more modern Japanese. At one point, Confucius runs afoul of a competing court adviser for the lord of a neighboring province, and that lord sends a bunch of loose women to Confucius’ state to seduce his own lord. The result being that Confucius can no longer work under these conditions and he takes his students out on a self-imposed 14-year exile. When he comes back to the state of Lu at age 68, he discovers that one of his disciples had stayed behind and built up his reputation so that he receives a positive reception now. The story ends with the author advising readers to follow Confucius’ teachings on how to live a righteous life.


(Textbook page.)

The textbook section has a fair amount of information on Confucius’ early life and the state of affairs during the warring states period of the time, which is remarkable in that the events took place close to 2500 years ago. There are a few paintings of Confucius teaching some disciples and photos of statues of him and his key disciples. The magazine makes a point of Confucius having had 3,000 students. The last two pages attempt to explain 4 of his key teachings: Study history to find new ideas; All things in moderation (trying too hard is just as useless as not trying at all); Do what you know is the right thing; Treat other people like you want to be treated.


(Postcards.)

Comment: Generally, the main manga is just an attempt to “put a face to the name”. A lot of the drama is manufactured specifically for the story, and that’s really obvious this time. And, I dislike manufactured drama. I usually prefer the textbook sections, and I like this one specifically for the paintings and statues at the back of the magazine. If you like old paintings, get this issue. If you want a biography on Confucius, find something written in English.

80 Famous People – Robert Capa


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Endre Friedmann was born in 1913 in Budapest, Hungary, and left for Germany at age 18 to find work. He started at a small news publisher as a writer, but was given a few photography assignments, and he decided to concentrate on becoming a photo journalist. Being Jewish, things got difficult during the rise of the Nazi party, so he changed his name to Robert Capa (Capa = “shark”, which was his nickname in school) to look more American. His first assignment was to photograph Leon Trotsky during a speech in Copenhagen in 1932. He went on to become one of the world’s greatest war photographers, covering the Spanish civil war, the conflicts between China and Japan, WW II, a trip with writer John Steinbeck, and a tour of the newly-founded country of Israel. He cofounded Magnum Photos in 1947 and became its president in 1951. He was asked to go on assignment to southeast Asia for Life magazine to cover the First Indochina War. In 1954, while traveling with a French regiment in Vietnam, he accidentally stepped on a landmine and died shortly after, at age 40.


(Ken Wolf discovers that his mother is stalking sheep. One of her minions is crushed to learn that she has a kid already.)

The intro manga has Ken Oogami telling Mami that he’s joined the school’s newspaper club as a photographer. Merrino overhears this and tells the wolfboy that he has a big scoop – as the prince of the Sheep planet, he’s being stalked by a violent enemy group. Ken excitedly asks “where and when?” Merrino says “here and now”, as the Wolfpack gang jumps out of the bushes behind them. The leader sees Ken and calls out a retreat. Back at their hideout, the others ask why she ran away this time, and she refuses to answer. Then, there’s the clicking of a camera as the leader is taking off her mask, and Ken yells out “Mom!” His mother explains that the people on the Wolf Planet have to eat, too, but Ken refuses to accept this. In the wrap-up, Merrino rejects the photos of the unmasked stalker gang, saying that the story is too boring. Ken goes into a rage and Merrino accidentally takes his picture, which gets accepted by the newspaper as being really scary. Finally, Mami, Youichi, Merrino and Mohea tell Mami’s mother that Ken has run away from home, so is it ok for him to stay with them? (She happily answers “yes”.)


(Hemingway tells Capa to continue working, following the death of Gerda.)

The main manga is by Shinobu Takayama (Amatsuki, Arcana, Mr. Morning). The character designs have a rough, edgy look that are in keeping with people that hang out in battle zones. The backgrounds are occasionally detailed (such as when Capa is in a bar with Hemingway), but generally they’re left blurred and minimalistic. Overall, the art actually contributes to the story this time.

The manga starts out with Capa in Vietnam, stepping on a landmine and getting blown up. The scene switches to a group of kids playing with a camera. The narrator introduces herself as Eva Beshunia. She was 12 when she moved to a new neighborhood with her family. Her parents had given her a Kodak Brownie camera, and when she met Endre, the two of them became very interested in photography together. Endre moves to Germany and gets a job at Defoto News Agency, where he gets sent to Copenhagen to take photos of Trotsky giving a speech. This was Endre’s debut as a photo journalist, and the camera he used was a Leica 35mm because it was small enough to hide in his jacket while snapping pictures. Later, as Hitler gained power, the growing pressure against Jews caused Endre to move to Paris, where he met fellow refugee Gerda Pohorylle. He’d asked permission to take her picture, and her shared interest in cameras led them to working as a team on the battlefields. To help sell his news photos, the two of them created a fictional photographer named Robert Capa (Capa was partly selected because it sounded like the American film director, Frank Capra). When the truth finally came out, Endre ended up becoming Robert Capa himself, while Gerda changed her name to Gerda Taro.

They go to Spain, where Capa snaps “The Falling Soldier”. In 1937, while Gerda was covering the Spanish Civil War on her own, the car she was riding was struck by a tank and the injuries she received proved fatal. Capa is then spotted in a bar with Ernest Hemingway. Capa is deep in despair and wants to give up photography altogether. Hemingway states that the two of them are similar, in that the reason they visit battle fields is to tell the stories of the people there, including not only the blood, death and fear, but also the joy and humanity. Thus bolstered, Capa picks the camera back up, covering WW II, and other conflicts, as well as co-founding Magnum Photos. But it all ends with that landmine. The woman leaves and the kids wonder who she was, as the manga shows a close-up of a signed photo of Gerda Taro.

The textbook section goes into deeper detail on Capa’s life and professional career. There are several of his more famous photos, including the last one he took in Vietnam. Sidebars discuss his love of gambling with the troops he embedded with, the rise of Hitler, the creation of the Robert Capa character, the fact that when he visited Japan he refused to photograph Mt. Fuji, and his friendship with Hemingway and his affair with Ingrid Bergman. The last two pages discuss other groundbreaking photo journalists, including Margaret Bourke-White and Kyouichi Sawada. Plus, there are sidebars on Joseph Pulitzer (Pulitzer Prize) and Oscar Bernack the German engineer that designed the Leica camera.

Comments: Overall, this is a pretty good issue. It’s not just an attempt to glamorize Capa or to vilify war. One section specifically deals with the controversy over the authenticity of “The Falling Soldier”, but the bulk of his remaining work attests to his skills as a photo journalist. Recommended.

80 Famous People – Howard Carter


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We’re back with the 80 Famous People series, this time it’s Howard Carter, the Brit who discovered Tutankhamun’s (King Tut) burial site in 1922. According to the wiki entry, Carter was born in London in 1874, but was raised in Norfolk, probably because of ill health. His father was an artist, and he encouraged Howard to draw as well. At age 17, Howard was attached to the Egypt Exploration Fund to assist in excavations and to document the various tomb decorations (required because still film photography was an emerging and expensive technology at the time; George Eastman had just created his film process in 1888, replacing the use of glass plates). Carter worked on several sites, and was appointed as the first chief inspector of the Egyptian Antiquities Service in 1899. An incident involving a group of French tourists and Egyptian site guards resulted in his resigning in 1905. He was reduced to selling paintings on the street for 3 years before a friend introduced him to the 5th Earl of Carnarvon, George Herbert. Herbert had been an explorer and sportsman until he was severely injured in a car accident. He was sent to Egypt to recover his health and he wanted to hire someone to do some excavating for him. Carter agreed and suggested that they look for the rumored tomb of Tutankhamun. They spent 5 years looking in the Valley of Kings before Carnarvon threatened to cut the funding for the work. Carter talked him into extending the support for one more year, and finally located the tomb in 1922 (work was suspended for 3 years due to WW I). All of the royalties from the discoveries went to Herbert. Carter worked on cataloging the thousands of items found until 1932, after which he retired from archeology and became a part-time agent for collectors and museums. He died of lymphoma at age 65 in 1939.


(Finding the cursed box.)

The intro manga has Merrino discovering a strangely decorated metal tin in a park, and Daichi claims that according to one of the school legends, there’s supposed to be a haunted box nearby. Youichi hesitates to open it because he’s afraid of the curse, then he drops the box and the cover pops off to reveal a dessicated frog. In the wrap-up, Youichi’s mother arrives from shopping, and reminds the kids that they’d buried a time capsule a few years ago. Daichi and Utako are relieved to find their toys and hair accessories inside, and Youichi suddenly remembers that he’d stuck his live pet frog, Mopy, in the box. A little later, Merrino finds another box, this one dripping with evil wards and a black cloud.


(Getting permission to work the Valley of Kings, and picking the first test dig site.)

The main manga is by Konatsu Uraji (Machikou!, Momokon Teacher), who had worked on mook #5 on Mozart. The art on this mook is pretty good regarding the backgrounds and treasures. Unfortunately, Carter, who had been in his 40’s during the period portrayed in the story, is drawn as being no more than 20 here. Most of the characters look nothing like their photos.

The story starts with Carter, age 17, working for Flinders Petrie and excitedly finding a buried box that turns out to be one of the local people’s lunch. Petrie tells the boy about Tutankhamun, and reassures him that archeology is all about not giving up. We jump to 1907, when Carter is reduced to selling drawings on the street. An unnamed friend comes up and gives him the name of someone that’s looking for an archeologist. Carter jumps at the paper and ends up interviewing with the Earl of Carnarvon. They agree to look for King Tut’s tomb, but that’s believed to be located in the Valley of Kings, and at the moment, the American Theodore Davis has the contract with the Egyptian government to excavate there. Carter and Carnarvon explore elsewhere, biding their time.

Finally, after working the site for 7 years, Davis gives up and returns his contract to Egypt. The government official in charge tries to talk Carter out of looking for Tut’s tomb, citing all the previous failures, but Carter is insistent. With the new contract, Carter first tries one specific location that only yields the remains of some small building walls. They go to Davis’ site, and after 5 years, Carnarvon’s health fails and he decides to pull his funding because of the huge expenses amassed so far. Carter demands one more chance and forfeits his rights to anything they find in the future. Carnarvon agrees, and his daughter, Evelyn, pleads with Howard to find the tomb for her ailing father’s sake. That night, Carter begs Tut to give him a sign. He remembers Petrie’s words about returning to where you started and to resume digging. The next day he goes back to where he uncovered the ruined walls. Soon, he finds a sealed entrance with stairs to an underground passage. Carter wires London to have Carnarvon join him in Egypt. With the Earl and Evelyn standing with him, Carter makes a small exploratory hole in the wall at the end of the passage. Looking in the hole by candle light, he makes his famous quote when the Earl asks him what he sees, saying “Wondrous things”. The story ends with Carter finally opening Tut’s tomb and greeting the long-forgotten king.


(Textbook section.)

The textbook section focuses heavily on Carter’s time in Egypt and his work with the Egyptian Antiquities Service. There are sidebars on Petrie, Carnarvon, and the speculated reason why Tut’s name had been removed from the List of Kings. There’s a mention of the shock Carter got when Davis prematurely announced that he’d found Tut’s tomb. One article claims that the current English spelling for Tut’s name came from the romaji spelling when it was rendered into Japanese and then back to English. Another section claims that while Carter apparently was attracted to Evelyn, their differences in family positions prevented him from marrying her. The last two pages include a floor map of the tomb with descriptions of some of the items found, plus partial instructions for how to turn corpses into mummies.


(The postcards.)

Comments: Overall, this is a very informative volume, and the artwork isn’t all that distracting. The main manga is as shlocky as most of the other mooks in the series, but that’s to be expected because it’s aimed at children. The textbook section is more complete, and better than the English wiki article. Recommended.

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The 80 Famous People series seems to be winding down, and so far there’s been no announcement I’ve seen about extending it again. The remaining featured names are Robert Capa (Hungarian combat photographer), Confucius, Oscar Shindler (Shindler’s List fame), John D. Rockefeller, Hideo Noguchi (Japanese bacteriologist), Clara Schumann (Pianist) and Neil Armstrong. I intend to get the mooks for Noguchi and Armstrong, and I’m tempted to also pick up Capa and Confucius.  We’ll see.

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On the Gakken Otono no Kagaku, front, Gakken has officially announced the release date for the next adult science kit (the updated pinhole planetarium) as July 25th. Interestingly, though, it seems that they’ve taken down their Facebook page and their developer’s blog. This really limits the amount of information coming out of the company to primarily just the newsletters (which usually get released a few days before the numbered kits come out). I’m particularly annoyed by this because I was planning to post a link to my video of the Japanino + Flip Clock to their FB page after I finished it. Sigh.

80 Famous People – Hokusai Katsushika


Back in the 80’s, there was a really nice little independent bookstore in the same shopping center as my favorite tex-mex restaurant. The restaurant was tied into the building’s PA system, so you could place your reservation and then walk around for an hour. When your table opened up, you’d hear the announcement no matter where you were. I’d go there every Friday night, and then spend the hour in the bookstore. They had a good selection of artbooks, including several coffee table books on Ukiyo-e. I bought one collection of Hiroshige‘s prints, and I was considering getting some others. Sadly, the entire complex closed up before I came to Japan the first time. However, as part of my first trip here, I worked for Hitachi in Yamaguchi prefecture, and during one day trip to Yamaguchi City, I happened past a used art print shop that had a box of ukiyo-e out on a table in front. I ended up buying several prints as gifts for $60, including Hokusai’s Great Wave Off Kanagawa. Later, when I was working on my History of Manga webpage, I picked up a copy of Hokusai Manga, vol. 1 from the Manga Museum in Harajuku. So, yeah, I know a little about Hokusai. Not that much, though.

I was debating whether to pick up this volume of the mook, because the character designs are modern-day manga style, and not at all in keeping with Hokusai’s self-portraits. However, the textbook section had some nice reproductions, and I figured, “what the heck”. Up until this point, I hadn’t seen that much personal information about the artist, so this mook is useful on that count. According to the wiki entry, he was born sometime around 1760, and died at 90 in 1849. His early years are up for debate, but he learned to paint at about age 6, was sent to work at a lending library and bookshop at age 12, and became an apprentice woodblock carver at 14. By 18 he entered the studio of Katsukawa Shunsho and he learned how to make ukiyo-e there. Ukiyo-e is a woodblock (“hanga”) printing system where different blocks are used for each color of ink. Initially only in black-and-white, it had become a full-color process by the time Hokusai was a child. It lends itself well to a factory-style assembly line, where the artist makes the rough draft drawing, someone else stencils it on the blocks, a third carves each block, and a fourth operates the actual printing press. It gets its name from the lower caste levels of society which treated the living world as impermanent or “floating” (“ukiyo-e” = “pictures of the floating world”) , and generally consisted of images of kabuki actors, geisha, folktales and landscapes. The term manga was first coined to refer to woodblock prints that were outside the typical ukiyo-e genres.  Hokusai’s skills surpassed simple landscapes and caricatures, and his volumes of “manga” contain thousands of drawings of workers, craftsmen, animals, mythical beasts and facial types.

(All rights belong to their owners. Images used here for review purposes only.)

In the textbook section, the mook discusses various aspects of Hokusai’s life. He took on over 30 pennames, to represent the different changes in his art styles. He moved 93 times, including a reported 3 moves in 1 day. While he traveled Japan extensively to do research and for his “36 Views of Mt. Fuji” series, he and his daughter, Oei, hated doing housework. When one apartment became too filthy to stand any further, they’d move out. Oei was also an accomplished artist, as well as a model for some of Hokusai’s drawings. Neither of them could be bothered to worry about money, so while their prints sold well, they’d occasionally find themselves broke. In 1839, his house and studio were destroyed in a fire; he supposedly worried only about saving his brushes. According to the wiki, his final words are translated as, “If only Heaven will give me just another ten years… Just another five more years, then I could become a real painter.”

In the intro manga, Youichi and Mami’s mother is getting ready for a visit from a foreign penpal. The kids suggest that she prepare a fancy dinner for the guest, but Merrino berates them because foreigners really want to see what Japan is like (that and he’s trying to get Mrs. Makiba to make more cookies for him to eat). The group agrees. That night, Mohea has a room made that combines a Japanese bath, with a painting of Fuji on the tile wall, with a living room that has anime playing on the TV. In the bath is a big fish. As the rest of the group talk to her, the fish stands up – turns out that the foreigner is actually a space traveler named Salmon Marineski, from Fish Planet. Everyone changes into swimsuits and jumps into the bath. In the wrap-up, Salmon is happy to learn about Japan, ukiyo-e and Hokusai, and he thanks everyone for making his trip so enjoyable. In the last panel, he picks up a slice of sake sashimi (sliced raw salmon), says it looks delicious and asks what it is as he prepares to take a bite. Mami stands by in shock.

The main manga is by Noboru Rokuda this time (Saigo Test, F, Dash Kappei, Ganso). The incidental characters are often portrayed in the traditional ukiyo-e styles (long thin head, crescent moon eyes), while Hokusai and Oei are more blocky and manga-like. There are a few reproductions of Hokusai’s drawings, and the backgrounds are pretty detailed. The art’s good, but I’d have preferred designs closer to Hokusai’s self-portraits. What really stands out, though, is the storytelling gimmick. Essentially, Rokuda introduces himself into the manga as an unseen reporter that acts in first-person. The narration is actually Rokuda talking as he walks through Edo (old Tokyo) and interviews people.

The story starts out with Rokuda visiting a young Hokusai in 1794, and tries to talk to him under the name Tetsuzo. He offers to buy the artist a rice cake and sake, so Hokusai slams the sake down and quickly passes out. Hokusei normally doesn’t drink because it affects his ability to draw and thus he can’t handle his alcohol. He asks if Rokuda knows about kintaro ame, which is a kind of hard candy with an image of a boy inside that is stretched out. While the image looks the same in cross-section no matter where you break it, there are actual differences if you look close enough – angry Kintaro, smiling Kintaro, sad Kitaro, etc. Hokusai then stalks off to play with one of his daughters from one of his wives (married twice, with 4 sons and 2 daughters). Rokuda asks if the reason he’s so busy is because he has so many mouths to feed and Hokusai throws a bottle at him.  Time passes, Hokusai changes names, publishes a variety of drawings, and grows in popularity.

In 1817, Rokuda finds the apartment empty and assumes that Hokusai has moved again. Wandering through the city, he locates the artist in front of a temple completing a brush painting of Daruma on a canvas 120 square tatami mats (600 feet long). Oei is walking through the crowd, throwing out handfuls of rice. On closer inspection, each kernel is seen to be painted with 2 small sparrows. Hokusai then goes on a trip for his 36 views of Fuji, and Rokuda now understands the reference to the kintaro candy – each aspect of Fuji yields a different kind of landscape. This is when he creates the Great Wave. In 1849, Rokuda interviews Oei, while her father lies passed out on the floor, a brush in one hand. Her father leaps up, demands that the gods give him 10 more years so he can become a real artist, or at least 5. Oei asks about his latest painting and he says its the soul leaving the body and traveling over a summer plain. He then collapses and dies soon after at age 90. Rokuda claims that he can actually see Hokusai’s soul over a field, and thanks the painter for all his hard work.

The textbook section describes Hokusai’s rumored early childhood, education as an artist, and professional background. Sidebars talk about his filthy living quarters, why he moved so many times, his occasional poverty, and many pennames. There’s a small discussion of Oei, and various representative reproductions of his works. The last 2 pages talk about how ukiyo-e prints made their way to Europe via a French importer named Felix Bracquemond as packing material for ceramic vases, and then grew in popularity with artists like van Gogh, Gauguin and Cezanne. There’s a mention of Hiroshige, and an explanation of the woodblock process. The final sidebar explores the mystery of Toushuusai Sharaku, an immensely popular ukiyo-e artist who came out from nowhere, released over 140 prints and then disappeared again. One speculation is that he’s one of Hokusai’s many pseudonyms, but there’s been no confirmation of his identity one way of the other.

Overall, I did learn a lot that I hadn’t known about Hokusai before, along with some details missing from the English wiki. The mook manga is just a brief introduction to the artist as a person and doesn’t get into any significant detail, but it is a nice start. Recommended if you can find a copy and can read Japanese.

80 Famous People – Vincent van Gogh



(All rights belong to their owners. Images used here for review purposes only.)

Vincent van Gogh is well-known as an impressionist painter, as well as “that guy that cut off his ear to give to a girlfriend”. Born in Zundert, Netherlands, in 1853, he moved around a lot as an adult, working as a missionary in Belgium, a teacher in England and then as an artist in Paris and parts of southern France. He had a close relationship with his brother, Theo, and attempted to establish friendships with other impressionist painters in Paris. However, his mental illnesses made him emotionally unstable, while probably also driving his artistic senses. He’s reported to have frequented various brothels, and it’s possible that part of the problem was derived from having contracted syphilis. He’d gotten into arguments with Gauguin over art, and at one point attacked the other artist with a razor blade. He then retreated to one of the brothels on Rue du Bout d’Aeles, and used the razor to cut off pieces of his left ear, which he then gave to a prostitute to protect. He later checked himself into an asylum, Saint-Remy, near Arles, for about a year. Reportedly, his mental condition worsened and he’s believed to have shot himself in the chest with a pistol, although the gun was never found. Two doctors attempted to care for him, but they weren’t qualified to do the surgery needed to remove the bullet. Theo was contacted and he rushed to see Vincent. At the time, van Gogh was in good spirits, but infection from the untreated wound kicked in a few hours later, and he died about 29 hours after pulling the trigger.

Theo set up a gallery to display and sell Vincent’s works, but there was only 1 sale while he was alive. A few months later, Theo died from the effects of syphilis. Theo’s widow, Johanna, published Vincent’s collected letters, and that eventually raised awareness of van Gogh as an artist and his popularity increased from that point. Later, both brothers’ remains were exhumed and relocated to be next to each other in Auvers-sur-Oise.

The intro manga has Youichi and Daichi looking at a poorly-drawn flier advertising an upcoming school dodgeball game. Youichi wants to win this time, but first he’s compelled to do something about the flier. He notices that Utako is wearing a pin with sunflowers, and she states that it’s a souvenir from her father’s business trip to France, inspired by van Gogh’s paintings. Youichi decides to use the yellow pull tabs from small bottles of milk to create a sunflower-like banner for his supporters to wave during the game. Unfortunately, he can’t drink enough milk to get the number of tabs he needs and he falls into despair. Then, Daichi and Merrino step in with the tabs they’d collected, but it’s Utako who’s smart enough to get a kindergarten class to help out in drinking all the milk. This gives Youichi way too many tabs, and the finished flag weighs several pounds. In the wrap-up, Youichi has made it to the final dodgeball round and it’s just him and one opponent in the last match. Youichi had injured his finger along the way, and he’s afraid he’s going to lose. Suddenly, he sees a yellow petal fluttering by – Mami and Merrino are waving the flag so hard that the tabs are falling off. The resulting image is like van Gogh’s sunflowers. Thus inspired, he manages to eliminate his opponent and win the tournament. The story ends with a janitor forcing the gang to pick up all the loose tabs from the floor of the gym.

Kazuasa Sumita (Flower Claw, Kamigariki, Witchblade) is the featured artist on the main manga. He’s done a very good job at capturing both Vincent’s likeness, and the spirit of his paintings. This volume is one of the most realistically-presented manga in the series so far. But, the story itself is simplified and reworked to appeal to a younger audience. There’s no mention of the brothels or sexually-related diseases, and Vincent is not shown attacking Gauguin with a knife. Instead, the focus is on Vincent and Theo’s brotherly bonds, and the paintings created at certain time points.

The story starts with Theo entering Vincent’s room in the “yellow house” in Arles, as his older brother lies in bed, dying. There’s a close-up of a pistol, implying that it’s in the room with them. Vincent says that he can’t take this world’s pain anymore, and he dies as Theo shouts out his name. There’s a flashbask to when the two were boys, and Vincent had been punished by his father. He feels alone in the world, and Theo promises to protect him. The scene shifts to when they were both young men and Vincent has failed to hold down another job. Theo is trying to understand Vincent’s artistic path, and gets yelled at for not getting what Vincent sees. Vincent goes outside to paint some landscapes, and finally produces “The Potato Eaters”. He sees some impressionist works at a museum and falls in with artists like Emile Bernard, Louis Anquetin, and Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec. He meets Gauguin and, moves into the Yellow House in Arles. But, Gauguin berates him for not understanding what an artist’s true function is and tells him to stop painting. In despair, van Gogh cuts off part of his ear and then checks into Saint-Remy. This is followed by a change in his artstyle and the production of “Starry Night”. He continues to exchange letters with Theo, and as a show of support, Johanna suggests that they name their new baby “Vincent”. van Gogh then moves in with his brother, but he hears Johanna arguing with her husband over the additional burden on their finances, since Theo is unable to sell any of his brother’s works. He finishes “Crows Flying over a Wheat Field”, and then supposedly shoots himself to stop causing problems for Theo. The scene returns back to Vincent’s death bed, and the story ends with Vincent praying that Theo could see the beautiful world of nature that he sees.


(From the last 2 pages of the textbook section.)

The textbook section describes Vincent’s upbringing and time spent wandering around western Europe and England before settling down in France. There is some discussion of his interactions with other impressionist painters, and the argument and fight with Gauguin. There are sidebars on Theo and Johanna, and photos of many of his paintings. Ukiyo-e, Japanese woodblock prints, were making their way to Europe at this time, and van Gogh avidly collected them. He included several in his later paintings, and “Almond Blossoms” (1890) was heavily influenced by ukiyo-e. The last 2 pages talk about 4 of his paintings and “reveal their secrets”. In one self-portrait, he’s shown as being left-handed, but that’s because he was using a mirror and the image was flipped left-for-right. There are two versions of “Vincent’s Room” (1889), and the big differences between the two are explained as their having been made for two different audiences. And, there’s a comparison of Vincent’s “Sun and Sower” (1888) with Millet’s “The Sower” (1850). The magazine wraps up with the 2 postcards.

Overall, the artwork is really good in this issue, but the story contains several obvious omissions and alternations. The most glaring are Vincent’s frequenting brothels, giving his ear to a prostitute, and the changing of his last words. Theo reported them as “The sadness will last forever”, while the mook gives it as “I can’t take this world’s pain anymore”. So, if you want to see van Gogh’s paintings, this magazine is recommended. If you want an accurate biography, go to the library.

80 Famous People – Isaac Newton


(All rights belong to their owners. Images used here for review purposes only.)

Isaac Newton was born small, reportedly able to fit in a quart mug at age three. His father died before he was born and his mother remarried when he was three, passing Isaac on to his grandmother to care for him. He was an introvert and was bullied at school. Although there is an indication that he was engaged at one point, the wiki entry provides no details as to who his partner was. The only things he enjoyed as a child were studying and doing woodworking.

Oh yeah, and he did some science stuff, or something.

The intro story has Youchi quarreling with Mami. Mohea asks why, and Merrino explains that Mami had been making a bead necklace for him when Youichi ran into the room and accidentally destroyed it. He refuses to apologize, so the fighting escalates. Mohea suggests using a Sheep Planet device, which Merrino interprets to be the planet-destroying bomb. Mohea corrects her little brother, pulling out the anti-gravity machine and turning it on. Everything starts to float, and gravitate to whatever is closest to it, so that Mami and Youichi are stuck against each other. Angrily, Youchi grabs the machine and tries to find the off button, but manages to break the thing and everything in the room starts getting pulled into a small ball. In the wrap-up, the butler, Angora, throws the emergency off switch, and Mami falls to the floor from a great height. Youichi reacts by throwing a pillow under her to break the impact. They apologize to each other, and Merrino asks them to get off him – he’d been attached to the pillow when Youichi threw it.

This time, the main artist is Nodoka Kiyose (Final Fantasy VII dj – Future, Final Fantasy XI: Lands End, Koukaku no Regios: Missing Mail). The main manga is pure shlock. It’s historical fiction told as a school-girl romance. The lead character is a girl named Ann Story, age 10 (loosely based on Isaac’s niece Catherine Barton?) Ann’s mother tells her that the son of her friend wants to study at the school in Grantham, and will be staying in their house during that time. Ann fantasizes about falling in love with a big stud, and is disappointed in seeing the dark, brooding 12-year-old wimp that arrives at the door. However, Newton perks up when alone in his room, plotting out the path of the sunlight on the wall to make a big sun dial. Ann finds herself attracted to this side of the inquisitive boy, and he responds by building jewelry boxes and a self-powered wooden car for her. When the local gang of bullies picks on him and destroys his inventions, Ann vows to protect him for life and they promise to get married when the time is right. Unfortunately, he withdraws again and Ann is afraid of losing him. She tries to confront the bullies, unsuccessfully, but Isaac sees this and develops a backbone – beating up all three boys at once. Eventually, though, Ann realizes that there’s no room for her in Newton’s rarefied world of pure thought, as he watches an apple fall from a tree, leading to the theory of gravitation, and when he uses a prism in college to determine that sun light is made up of individual beams of 7 colors. Finally, she decides to get married to someone else, but she’s so thrilled at reading about his discoveries that she promises to keep writing Isaac lots of letters.

The textbook section spends some time describing Newton’s upbringing and education, emphasizing his small stature and introverted nature. There’s no mention of “Ann Story”, but the book does say that he was living in the home of a pharmacist in Grantham from age 12, and that he spent a lot of time learning how to measure out the different medicines as a part-time job. There are various paintings of Newton and his inventions (primarily his telescope and a wooden bridge made entirely without nails or bolts), discussions of his Principia Mathematica and his work on optics, a sidebar on Edmond Halley and his comet, and mentions of some of the people Newton had feuds with. The last 2 pages provide overviews of four of the forces Newton tried to tackle – the Coriolis effect, buoyancy, centrifugal force, and tidal forces caused by the moon’s pull on the earth’s bodies of water. Plus, there’s the two postcards.

From a historical viewpoint, the creation of “Ann Story” to introduce an observer to be present at several of Newton’s discoveries is pure fabrication. Newton was apparently engaged when he was younger, but the few references I looked at don’t mention a name. He never married, but was reported by Voltaire to have had a favorite niece – Catherine Barton – who supposedly was the source of the “apple falling from the tree story”. The artwork in this mook is squarely in the shojo (flowery girl’s comics) manga camp and doesn’t come close to resembling Newton or anyone else. If you want a romantic historical fiction romp, this mook is fine. But if you want to learn more about Newton the man and/or his discoveries, keep looking. I do like the textbook part, but the science descriptions are very superficial. Not really recommended.

80 Famous People – Kiyoshi Yamashita


Normally, I’m not interested in illustrators and fine artists, at least not as far as the 80 Famous People series is concerned. If I want to learn about Chopin or Chihiro Iwasaki (and I know that Chopin is a classical composer), I can go to wikipedia. However, if there is something unusual about someone that isn’t a scientist or inventor, I’m going to seriously consider buying that mook. What makes Kiyoshi Yamashita interesting to me is that while he seems to have had a mental disorder, he had created his own form of art using pieces of torn paper that rivals oil brushwork for its level of detail.

(All rights belong to their owners. Images used for review purposes only.)

According to the wiki entry, Kiyoshi suffered a stomach disorder at age three that left him with a speech impediment and possible brain damage (maybe as an autistic savant). He was bullied in school in Tokyo, and reportedly pulled a knife on one student, so he was placed in a special needs school in Chiba, where he was introduced to chigiri-e, a Japanese style that uses torn pieces of colored paper and glue. Kiyoshi took the art form even farther, as hari-e, by making the pieces almost impossibly small. At age 18, he ran away from the school and wandered the countryside with only a small backpack, a rice bowl, chopsticks and a yukata (evening shirt). He was found 3 years later, failed the exam for WW II military service and was returned to the school. He then recorded his travels from memory as hari-e, and in a written diary. His life inspired a long-running TV drama, and he was in high demand as an artist. He died of a cerebral hemorrhage at age 49.

This is one of the few cases where the wiki entry is really short and lacks detail. The idea that Kiyoshi was “naked” because he just wore a vest is silly, and there’s no explanation for why he was known as the “naked general”. Instead, he wandered Japan in a yukata, which is a kind of evening robe that some men still wear outdoors at night during the summer when it gets really hot and humid. In fact, Kiyoshi had a habit of referring to cities and towns by military rank – Tokyo being “General”, Osaka “Lieutenant General”, etc. By using military terminology when asking for directions, people started calling him “General”. The “naked” part came from his only wearing the yukata on his travels.

The intro manga starts out with Ken Oogami wrestling with artist’s block, and Merrino suggesting that he put on a white undershirt, take a large rice ball with him, and then wander Japan for inspiration. When Ken decides that this is really what he needs, Merrino whispers that he just did this to be funny. Mami arrives and asks why Merrino is picking on Ken, but the wolf-boy figures that he’ll go on his journey anyway. When he comes back, he shows his sketches of space-alien super heroes in white undershirts to Mami. She is unimpressed.

The main manga is by Yuu Minamoto this time (Kamisama Drop, Samurai Harem, Samurai Harem: Asu no Yoichi). She’s got a solid understanding of Kiyoshi’s artwork, and does a good job on the backgrounds. The problem is that the human characters are manga-style, and both Kiyoshi and Kase are drawn as kids, while at the time they met they were both adults. Unfortunately, there’s no date specified in the story flashbacks, so we’re left guessing if the flashback was at age 20, or later. In any event, Kiyoshi wasn’t anywhere near as young as Yuu draws him when the fireworks event happened.

(Kase sees “Nakoaka Fireworks” for the first time.)

The story starts out with a department store opening up an exhibit of Kiyoshi’s hari-e pictures. While the attendees are surprised by the level of detail in the artwork, one particular man stands in front of an image of fireworks, called “Nakaoka no Hanabi” (Nakaoka Fireworks) (while the date given for the picture is 1950, Kiyoshi always made his artwork after returning home, so he could have been in Nakoaka closer to 1947, when he was 25). The guy yells out “I met him!” The flashback jumps to Kiyoshi trying to sleep in a train station, and the station master trying to kick him out. Kiyoshi starts walking away along the train tracks, then returns and asks for something to eat. A little later, Kase, a fireworks specialist, is talking to his crew about the new display he’s designed for that evening. He notices a vagrant sitting next to the canisters and yells at him to get away because it’s dangerous. Kiyoshi turns and asks how something that makes such beautiful sky flowers can be dangerous, and Kase shouts that they contain gunpowder. Kiyoshi flashes back to when people were celebrating Japan’s entry into WW II, and how the soldiers used gunpowder for their weapons. He wondered why, if people were so happy to be going to die for their country, that they’d be weeping at the same time. He wrote that if all the gunpowder used to kill people were used instead for fireworks, there’d be no need for war. That night, Kiyoshi sees Kase’s fireworks display, and is transfixed.

Back in 1965, Kase looks at the finished picture and realizes that he’s seeing the image of his fireworks display from that time. A female exhibit attendant comes up to him and mentions that Kiyoshi had also kept a diary and she reads the passage that relates to that picture. Kase comments on how Kiyoshi had captured perfectly his feelings of how that display was supposed to inspire people. He later buys a similar picture made by Kiyoshi, which he still has at his home now. The manga ends with a picture of Kiyoshi walking away from the reader, and the narrator saying that his final words when he died at age 49 were “which fireworks should I go see next?”

The textbook section goes into some details of Kiyoshi’s upbringing, including the illness at age 3 that left him with a stutter, the family’s house burning down during the Great Kanto earthquake in 1925, his father dying when he was 9, his being bullied and and placed in the Yawata school. At age 14, he started gaining attention for his hari-e pictures, and he was already in exhibitions when he ran away at age 18. He’d thought he could make a living on the road, but illness and severe cold weather forced him to try to find his mother’s house. He went on long journey’s repeatedly after that, and at one point, his younger brother found him in Kagoshima (where I live) and returned home with him again. An American newspaper wanted to write an article on him, but no one knew where he was, which led the reporter to enlist the public for help. Eventually, he was taken on a 40-day tour of Europe, and he created images of London Bridge and the Eiffel Tower afterward. At age 49, he fell ill and died a couple months later.

Sidebars illustrate several of his pieces, both hari-e and pen on paper. There’s a short piece on Kase, and a reprint of a Japanese newspaper article on Kiyoshi. He was also known as “the Japanese Van Gogh”, so there’s a short comparison of the two artists. There are several photos of him at different ages, and the last 2 pages give closer looks at 4 of his pictures, including London Bridge, and Kagoshima’s Sakura-jima volcano.  And, we get the two post cards.

It turns out that Kiyoshi is very well-known in Japan, and had inspired a “Kiyoshi boom” for his art in the 60’s. The Japanese wiki is more detailed than the English version, and is therefore probably more reliable. The Ijin mook does skip over some parts of his life, but it still contains enough information and artwork to justify wanting to learn more. Recommended.

80 Famous People – Heinrich Schliemann


The discovery of the City of Troy was never taught when I was in school. There was a special on the History Channel some years ago, but I didn’t watch much of it. If you’re not familiar with the story – Troy was an ancient city located in what is now modern Turkey. Little was really known about the city itself, and for a long time it was considered part of Greek mythology. Homer wrote both the Iliad and the Odyssey around the Trojan War, in which Paris of Troy steals Helen, wife of Menelaus, king of Sparta, and takes her back to Troy. Troy falls when the Greek soldiers hide inside the Trojan horse and are brought inside the city walls during a night of drunken celebration. In the 1800’s, a couple archeologists came to the conclusion that Troy actually did exist historically and set out to find it. According to the wiki entry, the German Heinrich Schliemann took up excavation at a location now known as Troy II following meetings with the Brit Frank Calvert. In the entry, Calvert is credited with giving Schliemann the encouragement necessary to search for Troy on his own.

(All rights belong to their owners. Images used here for review purposes only.)

Heinrich Schliemann was born in 1822, in Neubukow, Germany. At age 9, his mother died and he was sent by his Protestant minister father to live with an uncle. At age 11 he started attending the gymnasium in Neustrelitz, but his father was accused of embezzling church funds and the family fell into poverty. At age 14, Heinrich began working at a grocery to raise money for the family, but his health turned bad and he burst a blood vessel at age 19. He lost his job and took a position on a steamer instead. The steamer was bound for Venezuela, but went down in a gale. Schliemann and the other survivors washed up in the Netherlands and he took a job as a messenger office attendant in Amsterdam. At age 22, he joined an import/export company, which sent him to St. Petersburg, Russia. He took the opportunity to learn Russian and Greek. His brother, Ludwig, had become a gold speculator in California. When Ludwig died, Heinrich traveled to California and started up a bank in Sacramento. He made a fortune buying and reselling gold dust, but there were complaints of short-weight consignments, so he sold his business and returned to Russia. He married Ekaterina in 1852 and they had 3 children. He cornered the market on indigo dye, then made more money as a military contractor for Russia in the Crimean War. He retired in 1858 and spent a month studying the Greek language and history at the Sorbonne in Paris in 1866. He asked Ekaterina to join him in France but she refused to move so he divorced her, then formally decided to search for the city of Troy. In 1866, he visited several Greek locations and published a paper asserting his belief that Troy was at Hissarlik in Anatolia (modern Turkey). His divorce was finalized in 1869, and he advertised for a new wife through the newspaper. He met 17-year-old Sophia Engastromenos and they married in 1869 and later had 2 children. His major find in the Troy dig was called “Priam’s Treasure”, but after writing about it publicly, the Turkish government revoked his permission to dig and sued him for a share of the gold. It was smuggled out of the country and is currently in the Pushkin Museum in Moscow. He died in 1890 from complications from a chronic ear infection. Although most of his claims or discoveries have been either discounted or questioned, he’s still identified as the man that discovered Troy.

The intro manga has Youichi and gang following up a school rumor of a big stone hidden behind a Shinto shrine building near the school. Mami says that she’s heard a related story – about ghosts that haunt the area around the shrine. Now frightened, Youichi notices a button in the middle of the stone and pushes it. Everyone jumps back when the stone splits open – revealing Study Bell. The manga wraps up with Merrino’s butler, Angora, stepping out of the room behind Study Bell. The butler tells the kids that he had to return to Sheep Planet, and discovered a worm hole that connects his parent’s room on the Sheep Planet to Earth via the Shinto shrine rock. He introduces his parents to the kids, but they’re disappointed that their original discovery turned out to be a failure. The next day, Mami jolts upright in class, realizing that the existence of a worm hole is also pretty cool.

 

The main manga is by Setsuko Yoneyama (Absorb; Ability, Majyo Rin, Record of the Lodoss War: Deedlit’s Tale) this time. The images of the older Heinrich do come relatively close to existing photos, but that for him as a child, and all of those for Sophia, are pure cartoon. Setsuko does a pretty good job on the background art, though. The story is laid out a bit differently this time, in that Heinrich narrates the entire thing in first-person.

It starts out with Schliemann introducing himself and immediately going into a flashback. At age 8, he received a history book as a present from his father. Looking at the pictures, he notices that at least one of them matches up with another history book he read, and he announces that Troy is real and that he’ll find it. He’s passed on to an uncle who reads a dissertation paper he wrote, and decides to allow him to attend school. But, his father gets accused of embezzlement, the family goes broke, and he has to quit school. To raise money for the family, he starts working at age 14, but pushes himself too hard and starts coughing up blood. Unable to work, he’s fired. He finds a job on a ship heading to South America, but it sinks in a gale and he washes up in the Netherlands. There, he gets a job in a trading company. But it isn’t until about age 22 when he’s sent to St. Petersburg that he finally has time to study languages at night for his own purposes. He jumps over huge blocks of his life until deciding he has enough money to pursue his dream of finding Troy. He goes to Paris, studies at the Sorbonne, then goes to Anatolia with some history and mythology books. Based on the descriptions in Homer’s works, he settles on Hissarlik as the most obvious place for the Troy ruins. He hires some men, is joined on the dig by his new wife Sophia, has some difficulties with the Turkish government, but within a fairly short time uncovers a drinking cup that leads to the rest of the Priam Treasure lode. The story ends with Heinrich telling Sophia to wear the Priam gold headdress and jewelry, and the narration talks about his finally being able to achieve the dream that he held so close to his heart ever since childhood.

The textbook section goes into more detail regarding Schliemann’s upbringing, marriage to and divorce from Ekaterina, and his travels to India, China, Japan and the U.S. Sidebars describe his methods for learning new languages within a few months, information on Sophia, a mention of Arthur Evans’ discovery of Knossos, and the fact that Schliemann actually dug too far (to Troy 2) and overshot the section of Troy that dates to the Trojan War (Troy 7). The last 2 pages describe other famous historical ruins that maintain some level of mystery – Machu Picchu, Pompeii, Mohenjo-daro, the Mausoleum of the First Qin Emperor (which is surrounded by the Terracotta Army, Easter Island and Great Zimbabwe. Naturally, we also get the 2 postcards.

I know virtually nothing about the discovery of Troy, so I have to take both sources at face value. The Famous People mook treats Heinrich as a romantic dreamer that overcomes great odds to finally achieve on his own a dream that he’s had from childhood, and it includes the incident where a drunk sailor singing about Troy reminds him of that dream. The wiki entry pretty much rips that story apart, saying that the drunk sailor was probably something Heinrich fabricated, and that he’d gotten much of his start in finding Troy from Calvert (who’s not mentioned in the mook at all). The main manga ignores Ekaterina, and Schliemann’s semi-criminal activities in Sacramento and Turkey, although the textbook section does mention some of this in passing. As always, the primary attractions for me in the Famous People series are the photos and historical drawings in the textbook section, and this mook is no exception. I’d never heard of Mohenjo-daro or Great Zimbabe before, so reading about them now is pretty interesting. But, if you want a factual write-up on Schliemann, you’re better off finding a verified account from the library.