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Stunning, dark, exhilarating and disturbing, Murata's collection of contemporary Japanese comic art gives an inside view of the explosive work happening there today. The collection begins with an odd, almost wordless little piece, beautifully rendered in watercolor; it seems an innocuous tale of two teenagers taking a ride in the country, but why does the final panel show the boy, laughing, parked on the train tracks? Next is a tale of schoolgirls (it appears there are unshakeable comic conventions, even for the avant-garde set) in space, followed by another postapocalyptic piece about the serendipity of found imagery in the future. The beautiful, the charming and the downright bizarre all have their place in the collection. There are watercolor adventures in an otherworldly villa, a boy who rips the wings off angels, a cartoon bird that proclaims how adorable it is and more than a few well-endowed heroines slinging swords. Though the plotting is at times uneven, every piece is meticulously drawn, with a range of styles including pencil, pen and ink, delicate paint washes, and Technicolor graphics. The final effect is a nearly overwhelming work that bears repeated reading and is a must for older readers interested in contemporary Japanese comics. (July) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.

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