One of the two digits worth of things that keeps me tossing and turning at night (this is no joke, I might actually have a serious problem) is whether something is considered manga. As someone who will just as simply call a manga a comic, as would I when addressing the Italian equivalent fumetto or the Dutch equivalent stripverhalen. Unfortunately, the country of origin seems to mean the world to certain comic fans, getting into their heads that the region denotes the content. I believe that all titles in this medium can be boiled down to comics, but that the region that the material was originally intended needs to be upheld. Take a weird example, Hirohiko Araki’s 2009’s manga, Rohan at the Louvre and its connection to France’s Louvre art museum.
Hirohiko Araki is known worldwide for his super famous manga epic Baoh from the early eighties and the following OVA adaption that has made him a star. Actually that is a complete lie, what his name is regularly linked to be the decades spanning Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure (if you count its Seinen continuity follow up Steel Ball Run that is). Araki’s distinct art style is not only recognizable from Jojo’s alone, but as well from the magazine covers and art speculations like with Rohan at the Louvre. The story behind that, from what I found, was Araki contributed to Rohan at the Louvre as part of their “Le Louvre invite la bande dessinée” or “Cartoons- The Louvre Invites Comic-Strip Art” exhibit, but later had it published fully in Japan.
In an attempt to not stray too far from the Jojo’s menace, Rohan at the Louvre follows a character from Part Four of Jojo’s, Rohan Kishibe. Rohan addresses himself as a mangaka with a specific ability to read people’s personalities and history by mystically tearing off their skin and reading them like books. Those of you reading Jojo’s literate will recognize this as the series widely recognizable “Stands”. But in all honesty, this prior knowledge is not necessary. Rohan tells of a time when he was practicing his art, when he was seventeen and living with his grandmother at on old inn. He becomes infatuated with the only other guest of the inn named Nanase Fujikura, who eggs his talent on and tells him about the world’s evilest and blackest painting located in France’s Louvre. This relationship continues until Nanase leaves the house to mend the relationship with her boyfriend.
Many years pass and Rohan has become a famous mangaka, gaining enough notoriety to take up the mantel of his creator Araki and travel. He decides to visit the Louvre based on what he remembers from his discussion with Nanase, coming only with the knowledge that the painting in question was painted by a long dead artist named Nizaemon Yamamura. But Rohan’s got himself too deep when he trifles with the likes of this supposed evil painting, cursed legends and all.
The thing that makes Rohan distinct is that it is a manga depicted in full color. Outside the work of Torajiro Kishi with his manga Maka Maka and Dark Horse specific comic Devil, I cannot recall that many examples of mangaka shooting with full color releases. The color tone used heavily keeps a certain theme by depicting entire arcs in one specific color; for instance the inn flashbacks are colored light brown where the Louvre interiors are dark magenta. Araki’s distinctive androgynous character designs with their body-breaking posturing are ever present.
Pros: Hirohiko Araki’s artwork has never looked so clean and clear. It has a get-in-get-out story that knows its format has a limited page length and does not try to do too much with it. Just the fact that something like this, which is more of an art book than anything else, could get released over here is interesting enough.
Cons: Plot-wise, ends up running full force to deliver a narrative available to a museum contribution. Simply put, it is a side story about a character that I bet that the Jojo’s hardcore would jump out of their chair for, but those like myself who only have knowledge of Part 3 and a little of Part 6 tend to not have any strings attached to this visual exercise.
Rohan at the Louvre was put out by NBM Publishing, a company I regret to admit I had not heard of before hand and could only recognize a few of their trade only titles. I tend to not make comments about the physical release of the media I cover because certain types are just in general going to see better looking releases depending on publisher or subject of the material in question. For instance, going off what I have been saying about Rohan at the Louvre being more of an art book, this blown up and thick hardcover release makes it a different beast then say volume twenty-eight of Berserk. For those out there that are either big art fans or huge Araki fans, or both, I suggest checking out this aforementioned visual exercise; for everyone else, this works more as a gift for those friends of yours that fit into the first two categories.