“Hoshizora ne uta e ba” by Masai Akiyosha

A 1950s shojo manga I bought online from a Japanese auction site, a relic of the era of kashihon, inexpensive rental libraries through which many manga books were distributed in impoverished, post-war Japan..   “Hoshizora ni uta e ba (If You Sing to the Starry Sky”) by Masai Akiyosha. Here are select pages, and my  non-Japanese-reading commentary/ guesses at what’s going on.   First, the cover and page one of the story.

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This is page 5, bit the first page after the title page. I love that even in the 1950s, even in an unpretentious kids’ manga, we start with this lovely “setting the scene” page (aspect to aspect in McCloud-ese), with the musical notes leading us into the start of the action on the next page (remember, read right-left):

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This is page 8.  More beautiful landscapes, as the story proper gets underway. I can only offer a guess as to what is going on, but I’ll try: on this page we meet the protagonist, a girl (whose name maybe a Japanese reader could figure out?), watching the sunset with her friend… They head home to (I am guessing her uncle). He has some news for her:

masai-akiyoshi-hoshizora-ni-uta-e-ba-8

Page 9. Our heroine has received a letter! I think the man giving it to her is her uncle… and I’m pretty sure it’s some news about her mother! (help me out, Japanese-reading friends). There’s clearly a big emotional reaction in panel 2, and some pensive-ness in panel 3. Then more of Akiyoshi’s beautiful landscape work, as the cock crows, the sun rises, and… (to be continued!) (I’m not going to post EVERY page…i’ll jump through the story via selected scenes, for those who are interested).

masai-akiyoshi-hoshizora-ni-uta-e-ba-9

 

Page 12: the next morning, Satsuki sets off by train, on the way to the city to see her sick mother. She meets a nice man on the train — doesn’t he look nice? I think there’s something important in Satsuki’s green suitcase ….

masai-akiyoshi-hoshizora-ni-uta-e-ba-12

 

Page 13. As the train rolls through the countryside, Satsuki returns to her seat: the Nice Man (henceforth referred to as the Bad Man) is gone! And her green suitcase is missing too!!

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As you remember, Satsuki is on her way to Tokyo to see her sick mother… when the “nice man” she meets on the train steals her very important Green Suitcase!! Here, on page 20, she confronts him in the station. She pleads, he snarls.. he raises his hand — to strike poor Satsuki? But then… his raised fist grabbed …. a hero! He looks like a detective maybe, from his hat…? To be continued.

As you can see, the story is now printed in a single color. Common practice in manga — in the 50s and maybe still?– to print the opening of a story in full color, but continue in monochrome (there are a few more full color pages later on though).

Also check out the little emotion graphics — the little anger blobs (?) surrounding Bad Man’s face in panel 2. The surprise-cloud surrounding him as his fist is grabbed… and the heavenly glow around the detective (if that’s what he is) in panel 7:

masai-akiyoshi-hoshizora-ni-uta-e-ba-20

Now here we are on page 21. As Satsuki explains something to the detective, the Bad Man gets away, slightly busting out of the panel border, even. They run after him. Some very exciting angles in those last three panels! Speed lines and blobby shadows. And panel 3 is interesting: that peculiar high angle, with the back of Satsuki’s head in the lower foreground, the detective’s feet in the upper background… with their word balloons in opposite corners, balancing the composition. Huh!

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Page 30.  Still missing her all-important-for-some-reason green suitcase, Satsuki finally reaches her sick mother. There is worry, but also happiness to be together. I have no idea what they are saying…masai-akiyoshi-hoshizora-ni-uta-e-ba-30

 

“Lunatic” process, 9/23-24… rethinking p 4

My first pass at page 4 was acceptable as a drawing, but I felt it lacked the drama I want for the sequence.  So I’m planning to force the perspective more, to feel the baby’ point-of-view, looking up…  and enlarge the moon.   Tried some little thumbnails:

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But I really get a better idea by messing around with the actual image in photoshop, skewing the buildings and enlarging the moon.  Here;s a comparison of the two versions:

 

First version
First version
p4-temp-2
new version

The chimneys are kind of messed up now, and the perspective isn’t exactly what it should be, and I think I won’t have the cloud overlapping the chimney like that… but compared side-by-side, I think the new way is better, much more dramatic.  So I will re-draw it with that composition!

“Lunatic” process, 9-21-16. Finishing page 4. Final? Maybe.

“Inking” with black, white and gray acrylic.  Plus a little charcoal pencil.

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A little white goache for the smoke… and done!

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Well, I worry that I may have overworked the bricks and roof… so much patterning it looks like it has some kind of pox.  Not sure about that.  But I do start to feel like it, while the picture is fine on its own, it doesn’t have the impact I want.  I want to try it with a more forced angle and make the moon bigger, so you really feel it LOOMING over you (from the baby’s POV).

So… final version?  I don’t think so!!

It’s going to take me a while to make any progress though… other deadlines are really starting to get gnarly.

“Lunatic” process: 9-15-16

Still stealing little bits of time when I can.  I’m still fiddling with the page layouts.  I feel like I want an additional baby reaction image in there, to break up the 3 moon pages in a row in the latest thumbnail.  To keep the page count the same I’m pondering doing a panel page: 2 moon images on one page, with the clouds moving away from in front of  it:

9-15-16-moon-sequence-sketch

Maybe.

But that’s jumping ahead.  I did a rough version of the fourth page:

9-15-16-moon-over-roof-sktch

Or is it better this way (digitally altered for now):

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I think that composition gives a better feeling of the moon “looking down” at us.

(work interrupted for a few days by going to Small Press Expo in Bethesda.  When I come back and asses….)

Now I begin to question my composition of this spread.   Thinking in terms of the sort of “eye flow” that I usually take into account when laying out a panel page, I’ve been pretty convinced that the complementary angles between the 2 facing pages was crucial : 3-4-spread-rough-1

But looking at it, I feel like this composition doesn’t actually work as well, in terms of feeling the 2nd page as the point-of-view of the baby on the first page.  Going back to an earlier sketch (but using the moon/clouds from this one), I think this works better:

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I definitely think that in the bottom spread you feel much more that you are the baby looking up at that moon in the second page. The angle of the rooftops is how the baby would see it (unless she’s looking across the street).

 

“Lunatic” process, week of 9/12/16

MICE stuff, SPX preparations and other things I had to do pretty much completely ate up all my work time this week.  Somewhere in there I managed to sit down and do a couple of sketches of clouds and moon, which will be useful when I get back to work, hopefully, after SPX.  These were drawn with charcoal pencil and black, white and gray acrylics.  Not much of a week’s work, but I like the way these turned out so that makes me feel optimistic.

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“Lunatic” Process, 9/9/16: Positive Effects of Daily Process Blogging

I’m entering a time of the year where I usually find it hard to get much work done.  There’s MICE, plus a variety of other personal and professional distractions.

This past Friday, having been on a pretty good run with posting process/progress reports about “Lunatic,” I came to the end of the day without having done a single bit of work on the project.  With a process post in mind, I made myself sit down and do this little gem of a two-minute sketch for the next page:

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If I hadn’t felt guilty about not posting, I might have done nothing that day!  So that’s something.

The next two days, I did nothing.

I hate to be lazy, but one of these seven versions is just going to HAVE to do (“Lunatic process, 9-8-16)

Got back on the horse the next day after three unsatisfactory attempts at page 3.  Took a deep breath and tried to stay in control.

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I’m okay with the expression.  Trying to make it a little more neutral, less scared or worried.  In fact, what was wrong with this version?  There was something I didn’t like about it, because I did it again, this time switching from the woven-textured charcoal paper back to regular drawing paper.

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I finished this and I wasn’t satisfied… overdoing the textures?  Getting fussy with the details?  Muddy?   Airless?  Without even time to scan it, I brought it with me to the BCR meeting and put it up on the board.  By the end of the meeting I was feeling actually pretty okay with it.   Time to move on.  When the time comes, I’m not even sure which version of this page I will like best.  But this last one seems the most polished.

“Lunatic” 9-7-16: Avoidance

Having been quite pleased with myself for my work on page 2, I made any excuse possible to avoid getting started on page 3.  I was able to procrastinate all day, really, squeezing my available work time down to a little over an hour at the end of the day, to guarantee the failure I was afraid of (because I would be rushing it).  Three attempts at the image, all disappointing.

I’ve changed the composition since the earlier sketches, so that you see more of the carriage from above, to get the nurse’s hands in (I think it makes a better transition from the side-view of her pushing the carriage).  This means the baby’s face is smaller, which makes it a little harder to get the expression right:

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Terrible expression.  Terrible carriage wheel

 

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Working on getting the tonalities better here. I have also decided to switch to charcoal paper, with that woven texture, because I liked it in earlier sketches, has a real “fine-art” look!  But, makes it harder to work on fine details.  The expression is here is better, but the drawing is muddy.

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I actually like this expression pretty well.  I switched back to regular drawing paper, but looking at it here on the screen I liked the way the texture worked in the middle pictures, especially in the sidewalk on the upper right, where I smudged it up a bit.  Better than the scribbly lines in the bottom image.

Oh well, at least I did something today.  Hopefully I can nail this tomorrow.