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.


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.