Ep. 35: City vol. 1, by Keiichi Arawi

The Mangasplaining Gang return to that most beloved of genres, comedy, to enjoy Keiichi Arawi’s CITY. Wait, they do enjoy it, don’t they? Listen on to find out!

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00:00 Keiichi Arawi’s CITY Volume 1
46:00 Mangasplaining Listen To Me! David talks to artist Nick Dragotta about the work of Tsutomu Nihei.
1:02:00 Picking new books! Seinen manga action, seinen manga romantic comedy, and a shonen manga classic!

City Volume 1
By Keiichi Arawi
Translation by Jenny McKeon
Production by Grace Lu and Hiroko Mizuno
Published by Kodansha/Vertical (Print/Digital)

00:00 Before we get started, here’s a little bit about Keiichi Arawi based on David’s introduction!

Keiichi Arawi was born December 29th, 1977. Arawi made his debut in 2006 with the manga Kazemachi, but quickly launched his smash hit Nichijou later that year for Kadokawa, his most famous work to date. For those works, Arawi won the Ace Newcomer Manga Award, presumably given out from Kadokawa’s Shonen Ace magazine. Nichijou continued on until 2016, and actually recently decided to restart the series just this year! More Nichijou on the way starting in December! Arawi-sensei’s other works in English include Helvetica Standard (a full-colour sequel/side-story to Nichijou), and City, which we read here. He recently started a different new serialization, this time running in Shonen Sunday magazine, called Amemiya-san. No word on whether or not that will get translated, but I assume fans are keeping their fingers crossed.

Also, we can’t not mention the huge success of the Nichijou anime, which adapted stories from its eponymous series as well as Helvetica Standard. The series brought Arawi to the attention of many fans, and clips of the gags from that series remain favourites of internet meme culture. In fact, David sent us two of his favourite clips, so I’ll share them here with you to get you in the mood for his work…!

When it is discovered that you draw BL Manga:

When a deer wanders into the schoolyard.

Okay, now you’re ready for this episode.

07:23 Haw! by Ivan Brunetti. No one should go look it up. I haven’t read it in… 7 years? It probably is not okay. Go re-read Way of the Househusband again if you want something funny.

11:17 Deb makes a couple of MAD Magazine references in a row here. Don Martin, Sergio Aragones, and Spy vs. Spy.

Don Martin (1931-2000)was one of the defining voices of MAD Magazine, according to Wikipedia he was promoted by the mag as “MAD‘s Maddest Artist”. His characters had a signature giant, bulbous nose and huge ‘hinged’ feet, and a goofy sort of cartooning style that became synonymous with the magazine. Check out his entry on the Lambiek cartoonist database.

Sergio Aragones (1937-) is a Spanish/Mexican cartoonist who is also one of the defining voices of MAD Magazine, best known for awesome gags and “scribbles” in the margins of other comic strips and articles in the magazine, as well as comics and illustrations. He’s also the creator of the beloved creator of the series Groo The Wanderer, an epic parody of Conan The Barbarian, which we’ve mentioned previously on the podcast. You can check out his work on his official homepage, http://sergioaragones.com/.

Spy vs. Spy is a series of comic strips that ran in MAD, a parody of Cold War spies that have the black spy and white spy endlessly murdering each other in various duplicitous ways. Interestingly, it was adapted into animated shorts that ran on the sketch comedy show MADTV, as well as getting its own stand-alone cartoon shorts that aired on Cartoon Network.

13:30 Yeah, this is powerfully accurate and also devastating for most artists to read. “You can’t fire my favourite artist!”

15:30 You need to read my “Yes, it’s very accomplished,” in the exact same style as the lady who doesn’t find Jerry funny in s6e11 of Seinfeld. I tried to find a clip, but it’s “The Switch” episode, and all the clips on YouTube are about being “An orgy guy,” so you’ll need to take my word for it.

16:13 We’re not gonna gloss every single joke with the image under discussion, you should go get the book if this all sounds good. I actually cut a bunch of “and then this happened!” out of the show notes here. Heh. But the banal, boring drawing of a cat trying to get broccoli is pretty good.

18:46 So the page-flip jokes are really good. They come at the end of the chapter, and like David says they provide an extra ‘stinger’ for the jokes of the chapter we’ve just read. This one was my favourite.

It works better as a page flip.

20:15 Chip’s favourite drawing: Guy getting hit in the head with a cork. I think I mentioned that this was giving me Akira Toriyama “Mr. Hercules” type vibes, but it’s maybe closer to a sort of 80s tough-guy manga style, like Fist of the North Star, or something? There’s a lot of subtle stuff happening with illustration styles in this first volume, there are definitely allusions to other manga-ka and styles of manga that go uncommented upon…

…as opposed to the times when they do get commented upon, like the chapter with the manga-ka itself. I know this part of the discussion didn’t happen at this timestamp, but I wanted to tie these ideas together. Basically, the mangaka in question is playing with manga-style a lot, and even gets into self-flagellation or criticism of his peers with the chapter on the manga-ka. This was my favourite chapter of course. Here’s the first page of that sequence, that Chip mentions.

The hatching on this page is wacky. As mentioned, the shading on the mangaka is a big deal, but things like the hand-drawn textures on the tatami, the wood cabinet behind the mangaka, the shadows. Even the cushion he’s kneeling on has rendering, in addition to toning. This is definitely a parody of a self-serious manga-ka’s attention to detail, and also the stress of creating manga, exacerbated by the fact it’s a 4-panel gag strip about life’s little bummers.

The editor offers up a “bummer” of an idea for the manga creator to use.

The whole sequence is overwrought, and it’s a commentary on art in general (particularly because the kicker to the joke that ends volume 1 is the sequence we included up top–the editor (fan stand-in) is more excited about the new manga creator coming on board anyway). Anyway, it’s an amazing sequence. It also acts as something of a pre-rebuttal to any criticism of the art in this book. I found the art pleasing in general, simple and fun, and I even really liked this specific panel for setting the scene of the newspaper office…

…until I actually cropped it and really looked at it for the show notes. The perspective is… deeply broken? Hah. I didn’t notice it while reading, but cropped out you can see that the table at the back right and the bookshelf on the bottom right have perspective that does not line up at all, and the panel gets an uncanny quality. Suck-it, one point perspective.

In addition to the mangaka sequence, there’s something different about the art in Chapter 6, “Wako Izumi” that I can’t put my finger on either.

I wish we’d talked more about the art because I think it’s doing a lot of interesting stuff in a commentary kind of way. I think it might be because Arawi-sensei made his manga debut at 29 years old, which is kind of late for a mangaka, and when you have a very different perspective on manga and the industry as a whole, and definitely more life experience. Not that you need to be like a young god of art to do a parody manga (though Shonen Jump’s Sakamoto Days might tell a different story…), but it really is interesting to me and I would love to get the team’s take on it at some point.

Okay, sidebar over. Back to the episode.

Page 113 – So Chip went on a roll when asked about his ‘favourite gag’. First up, he calls out the chef leaning in to whisper “We just have to cover it up.” as his favourite sequence.

But his favourite overall gag? Why, that would have to be the cop, wanting to shoot the sky.

Chip’s right, the font really sells it.

21:30 Meanwhile, on a completely different note, David’s favourite drawing is the guy retching when reacting to the ‘encouraging ducklips’ moment. This one is definitely going on Instagram.

23:20 Finally, Deb’s favourite gag comes from pages 34-36, with Nagumo gradually increasing the depths of her apologies as she bows so hard and low, her head breaks the concrete. This one is ALSO going on Instagram.

Someone’s gonna make this a reaction meme, right?

27:00 I’m including this next gag because I think you really need to see it on the page for it to work. “I am blessed with…”

35:30 I’m so glad that David came in here with the comedy-styling language, specifically referencing the flip-take, which is huge in old time-y comedy comics and has sort of fallen out of fashion in western comedy (though cartoonists like Noah Van Sciver use it semi-ironically).

He also reintroduces the idea of the Face Fault, which I think we first discussed in one of our early shoujo manga outings, maybe Paradise Kiss or Helter Skelter. Deb references the insane amount of Face Faults happening in the “Wano” arc of Eichiro Oda’s One Piece manga, so here’s a good example of that.

These faces are so good.

I couldn’t find Nico and Usopp unfortunately, but maybe Deb will edit that in here if she can find it. 😉

[Deb:] Haha! Okay, I found it!

One Piece - Usopp and Nico Robin

38:35 What’s your Adult Swim show? So I gotta come clean, I actually didn’t hear David asking that at the time! I kind of went off on a tangent about Frasier here, I dig Frasier. But since David asked, the least I can answer is: Go Team Venture! I like a lot of Adult Swim shows, but that’s the one I actually bought on Blu-ray. Current favourite is Rick & Morty but haven’t seen much of the new season. I used to watch a lot of Robot Chicken, too. Oh, and I’m excited to dive into Season 2 of Tuca & Bertie at some point, not sure where that’s airing in Canada.

Sorry I messed up your question, David!

40:52 Fumi Yoshinaga is a personal favourite manga-ka, and her What Did You Eat Yesterday? is one of my favourite ongoing manga. That said, Deb is 100% correct that she does not expend a lot of effort differentiating the faces of her protagonists, unfortunately.

43:20 North American comics creator Kelly-Sue DeConnick is famous for writing comics like Bitch Planet, and is also known for doing duck-face in photos. 🙂

The late Congressman Jon Lewis and Kelly-Sue Deconnick. Photo by Lauren McCubbin.

Here’s a photo of her with the late Congressman John Lewis, from this nice article at The Beat.

45:51 THE BREAK!

It’s the Mangasplaining team with Nick Dragotta! L to R: Christopher, Deb, Nick, Chip looking at his phone because he’s too cool for photos, and David.

It’s time for another special edition of Mangasplaining Listen To Me! David interviews comic artist Nick Dragotta, best known for his art on the series East of West, written by Jonathan Hickman. You can find Nick online at https://twitter.com/nickdragotta.

Nick had ALL KINDS OF OPINIONS on our episode on manga creator Tsutomu Nihei, episode #29. Nick is someone we actually wanted to have join the podcast for that episode and it didn’t work out, but maybe having him as a response a few episodes later (especially cuz he starts off giving Chip the gears… 😉 makes for an interesting interview! Let us know what you think!

Thanks to Nick for joining us for this chat, and having a reunion of sorts since we traveled to Japan together in November 2019.

Hokkaido, we’re eating grilled lamb. L to R: Nick, Deb, David (holding the complete digital edition of Fist of the North Star) and Chip.


This week we’re choosing books, ONCE AGAIN! It’s true, we’re picking them a bit quicker and further ahead than last year, because of the printing and manga shortages right now it can be tough to get your hands on manga that we’re discussing. So if we let you know a month or two ahead of time, you can buy it new, track it down used, check your local library for a copy, ask a friend to borrow one, etc. We’re trying to give you options!

David recommends Mobile Suit Gundam: The Origin, by Yoshikazu Yasuhiko, published by Vertical/Kodansha.

Deb recommends the romantic comedy that David loves, Wotakoi: Love is Hard for an Otaku, by Fujita, published by Kodansha.

Christopher recommends Golden Kamuy, by Satoru Noda. Published by VIZ Media.

Which means the schedule for the next couple of weeks looks like this:

Oct 26BL Metamorphosis Vol 3-5, by Kaori Tsurutani. (Seven Seas)
Nov 2CITY Vol 1, by Keiichi Arawi. (Vertical/Kodansha).
Nov 9Dan Da Dan Ch. 1-8, by Yukinobu Tatsu. (Shonen Jump/VIZ Media)
Nov 16: A Drunken Dream and Other Stories, by Moto Hagio (Fantagraphics)
Nov 23: RaW Hero vol. 1, by Akira Hiramoto (Yen Press)
Nov 30: Look Back by Tatsuki Fujimoto (Shonen Jump/VIZ Media)
Dec 7: Vinland Saga vol. 1 by Makoto Yukimura (Kodansha)
Dec 14: Golden Kamuy Vol 1, by Satoru Noda (VIZ Media)
Dec 21: Wotakoi Vol 1, by Fujita (Kodansha)
Dec 28: Mobile Suit Gundam: The Origin. (Vertical/Kodansha)

Alright now it’s time for shout-outs!

Chip goes first and shouts-out the hilarious comedy novels of Joe Keenan. The books include Blue Heaven, Putting On The Ritz, and My Lucky Star.

Christopher shouts-out Local Retail. Support local retail, in-stock items. Because things that you think you’re going to order in time for Christmas maybe aren’t gonna show up, the entire supply chain is borked and everything is out of stock. Shop local, early.

Deb shouts-out The Complete Demon Slayer box set, containing the manga of Koyoharu Gotouge. It is supposed to arrive on November 9th, we’ll see what happens, but expect it to sell out instantly upon release. I’m personally convinced they won’t even be able to fill all pre-orders…

David doesn’t have a shout-out, and that brings us to the end of the episode!

Thanks again for listening to this episode!

Find a comic store near you at comicshoplocator.com

Check out Mangasplaining theme song composer D.A.D.S. on Spotify

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13 Responses

  1. Tim Burnham says:

    I can’t help but relate to Chris’s reaction to this volume. I didn’t love it. I didn’t hate it. But as I listened to you all discuss CITY Vol. 1 I find myself thinking back on this material more fondly than I remembered feeling when I read it! I did appreciate the way the various chapters ended up intertwining/referencing each other though. I thought that that was well done.

  2. Aki says:

    Listening to this episode really made me want to catch up on City! I got the first few volumes when they were released but fell off of it.

  3. Lovely episode; I’m mega-glad to hear Chip liked CITY! If you ever do an episode on Nichijou, I’d love to hear y’all discuss how it received its ostensibly unlikely status of “otaku icon” despite lacking the stereotypical otaku elements (moe, fanservice, etc.). It’s such a fascinating cultural phenomenon – in addition to being top-tier comedy, of course.

  4. Stephen Recker says:

    It’s pretty likely that I bought my copy of Ivan Brunetti’s Haw! from Christopher back in the day.

    I remember meeting Brunetti at a Beguiling event and when I mentioned to him how much I loved Haw! he looked shocked and aghast.

    Flipping through Haw! now, I wonder if his career as a respected lecturer, children’s book author and New Yorker cover artist would come crashing down if it fell into the wrong hands.

  5. Miguel Corti says:

    I came to this episode without having read the manga, because I figured I could learn about it here. Even though you all had wildly different reactions to it, I went out and bought the first few volumes immediately. I appreciate that you all didn’t find humor in the same aspects, but could appreciate what the manga was trying to do. I feel horror and humor (H&H!) are just such personalized experiences, that you can really love or hate either independent of their quality.

    I was thinking of bringing this up in the comment for the Saint Young Men episode, but I couldn’t figure how to do it with sounding like a hater. Since you all didn’t outright love this series, or like it in the same way, I feel I’m on safer ground here. Do you think you give certain humor a pass when it’s in manga that you would disdain or cringe it if it was in a Western medium? I’m think specifically some of the overreactions in the facial expressions you mention. An example from Saint Young Men would be the store clerk yelling at Jesus for taking pictures. I find that funny, but also know a store clerk in Japan would never react that way. And I know if something happened like that in The Simpsons or Family Guy, the clerk yelling at whomever would be more subdued about it. In fact, they would probably play it with the clerk totally deadpanning their reaction. I don’t know if I’m articulating it correctly, but I feel I allow manga to get away with certain types of humor I wouldn’t find funny in an equivalent Western comic. Although, I will concede something like Delicious in Dungeon could be just as funny if made in the West, but I feel the Western version would find different topics to broach with the humor or satire. (I’m sure spellcasting would be the much more a topic of strident satire in a Western version of Delicious in Dungeon.)

    Anyway, a great episode that got me to buy some manga! Looking forward to having the time to read it…

  6. Mormegil says:

    I listen to most of the episodes without having read the material first. Based on what everyone said this seemed like something i would enjoy. I’ve read the first two volumes and really enjoyed it.

    Hopefully they do some kind of box set in 2022 or so after the last volume releases.

  7. Mormegil says:

    You all got me. I’m not patient enough for the box set and have ordered 1-5.

    I’m surprised these are so easily available with paper shortage and everything

  8. Giovani says:

    Nice! Nichijou is also awesome. Anyone who reads it, please see if you agree with me: the child scientist is the most evil character I’ve ever seen in anything.

  1. December 21, 2021

    […] So yeah, after our CITY episode, David sent us this video from the Nichijou anime, about the fear/persecution around boy’s […]

  2. March 13, 2023

    […] you’ve got lots to look forward to! Meanwhile, Chris mentions David’s episode on City by Keichi Arawi, and then mentions Twitter maybe not being around, and it turns out that he wasn’t wrong, it was […]

  3. May 16, 2023

    […] Nichijou, by Keiichi Arawi (available from Kodansha). ​​  We also talked about Arawi’s more recent series City on another episode. […]

  4. May 23, 2023

    […] you’ve got lots to look forward to! Meanwhile, Chris mentions David’s episode on City by Keichi Arawi, and then mentions Twitter maybe not being around, and it turns out that he wasn’t wrong, it was […]

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