80 Famous People – Michelangelo

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

I think it’s a safe bet to say that most people at least know the name Michelangelo. Born in 1475, Michelangelo di Lodovico Buonarroti Simoni sculpted the two statues Pieta and David, created the frescoes in the Sistine Chapel, and succeeded Antonio da Sangallo the Younger as the architect of St. Peter’s Basilica. He and da Vinci are the two preeminent figures of the Italian Renaissance. Since da Vinci has already been covered in the Ijin series, it’s now Mikey’s turn.

The intro manga has Merrino posing in a muscle suit for a school art project Utako is trying to build in modeling clay. The rest of the group is getting bored, and when Mohea enters the room, they all suggest that she pose for Utako. Merrino gets upset at being ignored again, and is actually afraid of losing his title as Sheep-planet prince if his older sister usurps him. So, he tries getting attention by climbing up a pile of chairs, but they collapse and Mohea races forward to rescue him. When she steps out of the cloud of dust holding the limp body of her little brother, the group yells out that she looks just like Michelangelo’s Pieta, which fires up Utako. The story ends with Mami and Yuichi trying to see Utako’s finished model – it looks like an ugly lump of clay. Utako complains that what she imagined was much better than what her hands could produce, and Mohea says that’s all anyone could ask for.

The main manga is by Shinichirou Nariie, one of the artists on the Steins;Gate franchise. The character designs are overly stylized, and the expression on the Pieta doesn’t even come close to that of the real thing. But, it’s still better than some of the other artists used in the Ijin series.

The main manga starts out with people marveling over the beauty of the Pieta statue, but since it’s unsigned and no one else seems to be skilled enough to produce this level of art at the time, the audience speculates that it’s another of da Vinci’s pieces. Michelangelo is standing nearby, and the slight stings him enough that he carves his name into the statue that night. We then get a flashback to when he was a child staying at his grandmother’s hut. His father was busy with work, and he kept complaining about being bored, so his grandmother took him to a construction site when he became entranced with the stone workers. One of his uncles gives the boy a small rock carving, which inspires him to learn art. Later, he gets into an argument with his father, who wants him to start school to learn Latin to enter into the bureaucracy, while Michelangelo wants to further his art studies. The boy runs from the room, leaving his sketchbook behind. After looking at the quality of the drawings in the book, his father changes his mind.

The story returns to the present, where the Church gives him a large hunk of rock to sculpt. He agonizes over it for awhile, then produces the David statue. From here, he goes on to paint the Sistine Chapel ceiling. He acquires an assistant who is used mainly for mixing paints. The assistant asks how Michelangelo can draw such amazingly accurate figures, and he replies that he’s not sure. He just tries to see how people move and act from the inside and then works his way out. The story ends with the completion of his “Last Judgement” fresco in the Sistine Chapel in 1541.

As always, the textbook section talks about what is known of Michelangelo’s upbringing, schooling, and relocation between cities in Italy. There are sidebars on the Medici’s, pictures of lots of his works, and a mention of the rivalry between him and da Vinci. The last 2 pages discuss other people active during the Renaissance, including Raphael, Miguel de Cervantes, Johannes Gutenberg and Martin Luther. There are two additional sidebars mentioning the three top developments of the Renaissance (discovery of gunpowder, moveable print, and the magnetic compass), and the cultural developments in Japan at the time – called the Higashiyama Culture era (which introduced asymmetrical design, ikebana, Noh drama, sumi-e painting and and the use of tatami floor mats). Plus, of course, we get the two postcards.

(The two post cards for this issue.)

The artwork for the main manga is fairly weak this time – Nariie isn’t good enough to do proper justice to Michelangelo’s art. The main attraction in this mook is the collection of photos in the textbook section. Recommended if you’re an art student.

50 Famous People – Gaudi

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

50 Famous People takes on Antoni Gaudi, Spanish Catalan architect who lived from June 25, 1852 to June 10, 1926.  While the mook talks extensively about Gaudi’s ties to nature, and the wiki entry plays up his Catholic faith, it may be safer to say that many of his creations, such as creatures made from broken tiles, and weirdly-shaped houses, are simply surrealistic or avant garde (Gaudi did belong to the Modernism movement for a while).  Due to the costs of the larger projects, he needed a patron, which he found in Spanish entrepreneur Eusebi Guell.  However, when he tried to develop designs for new houses, no one in Barcelona had much interest in them and only a few were bought.  The houses include: Casa Calvet and Casa Batllo.  His most famous work is arguably Sagrada Familia, a Catholic church started a year before he was brought on board, and only a quarter-finished when he died after being hit by a street car.

(Ken running away from Merrino and Mami, plus additional recommended reading.)

The mook starts out with Merrino and Mami meeting Mami’s friend, Ken Oogami (Dog Wolf) in the park.  Ken is reading a book on architecture, and tries explaining Gaudi’s use of natural forms in his designs (the shapes of trees, mountains, birds, etc.) and he and Merrino get into a posing battle, with Mami crying for “Study Bell”  to get the lesson started.  Study is an intelligent bell with a projector built-in.

This brings us to the manga on Gaudi.  The artwork is drawn well, but the character designs are typical overblown manga caricatures that only barely resemble existing photos.  Gaudi was fairly sickly as a child, so his mother would take him on donkey rides through the countryside to expose him to clean air, which contributed to his interest in nature.  Later, he gets into an architectural college, where the Dean questions him about his strange habits in drawing blueprints.  He recalls getting his plans thrown in his face by a professor because he dared including drawings of people walking through the building (Gaudi’s argument being that buildings are designed for people to use, so the drawings should show those people employing the building).  The Dean gives him his blessing, and we jump to the 1878 Paris World’s Fair, where a glass case he designed for a company to display their gloves caught the eye of Guell.  Eubesi commissioned Gaudi to create a gate for his estate entrance, and the proposed skeletal dragon cemented their relationship.  The manga then takes him to Morocco to study middle eastern building design, and then highlights each of his subsequent major works.  It ends with Gaudi in his 70’s, dying after getting hit by the street car (according to the wiki entry, Gaudi had taken to wearing worn-out clothes, so that at the accident, people thought he was homeless and didn’t bother calling an ambulance.  After a few hours, a policeman took him by taxi to a hospital, but by then it was too late.  Eventually, a priest in the hospital recognized him and notified his friends.)  Sagrada Familia was only 25% done by then, and work continued on after his death.

In the wrap-up manga, Ken Oogami decides to overwhelm Merrino with his impression of a wolf, scaring the Sheep Prince, and almost exposing his own secret.  Ken races off behind a tree before Mami can see him with his hat off and his wolf ears exposed.  He comments to himself that he’s not the only E.T. on the planet.

(Examples of Gaudi’s works.)

In the textbook section, we get photos of Catalonia and Barcelona, a short biography and timeline, and a brief introduction to Guell.  Then there are photos of his houses and ceramic animal sculptures, followed  by mentions of unusual buildings world-wide (Palais ideal du facteur Cheval (France), Great Mosque of Djenne (Mali), Sazae Tower, (Japan), Sanbutsi-ji (Japan) and Mont Saint-Michel (France)).  And, there’s the expected 3 reference books if you want to know more about architecture or Gaudi.

The TCG sheet includes Buntei, Khosrau I, Mulan, Taisou, Kouso (高祖), Youdai, Genjou, Zongshen Ganpo and Harsha Vardhana. Again, they look more like baseball trading cards than anything, but they are of people that I’ve never heard of before, so there is some learning going on here, which is pretty much the point.

Overall, I’m finding that the best parts of these mooks are the photos of actual locations, buildings and instruments.  I really liked learning about Sanbutsu-ji and Sazae Tower, and I’d love to visit Sanbutsu-ji (a temple built into a cave in a sheer cliff face), although it may be too late to see Sazae (which is in Fukushima, the site of the reactor meltdown).