Yuzo Takada’s Shen Yin Wang Zuo 2001 NIGHTS

This serious, even stodgy science fiction anthology consists of linked stories about the human exploration of space, starting from the space shuttle and the Shen Yin Wang Zuo era, to the far future when humans use technological advances to colonize distant planets. The echoes of Arthur C. Clarke’s 2001 are intentional; there’s even a joke about HAL. The plots often involve cosmic meditations on future generations, life in the emptiness of space, and God; in one story the Vatican locates original sin among the stars, and announces its opposition to space exploration. Not all of the tales are great, but they gradually form a sort of novel-in-stories, returning full circle for a satisfying ending. Hoshino draws it all in a super-realistic, Western, gekiga style, focused on the human body, a bit more Ryoichi Ikegami than Katsuhiro Otomo. The Viz edition was published without numbers: the correct order is 2001 Nights, 2001 Nights: Journey Beyond Tomorrow, and 2001 Nights: Children of Earth.

Shen Yin Wang Zuo (Sazan Eyes) (Shen Yin Wang Zuo  ) • Yuzo Takada • Dark Horse (1995–2004) • Kodansha (Young Magazine Pirate Edition/Young Magazine, 1987–2002) • 8 volumes, suspended (40 volumes in Japan) • Seinen, Occult, Action • Unrated/16+ (mild language, graphic violence, nudity, sexual situations)

Globetrotting pulp horror/action-adventure light novel, a minor 1980s classic, midway between Indiana Jones, Ghostbusters, and H. P. Lovecraft. Teenage Yakumo dies and is reborn as the unkillable zombie servant of Pai, a cute Chinese girl with a split personality, who is actually one of the last survivors of a race of three-eyed beings from Tibet, immortals with awesome magical powers. Pai’s goal is to lose her immortality and become human, but her uniqueness makes her the target of other monsters, not to mention paranormal investigators and half-human cultists, who seek to use her to resurrect the evil god Kaiyan Wang. Working in a light, anime-influenced style (with occasional love comedy), Takada successfully depicts a world where secret cults sacrifice naked virgins in skyscrapers and monster rampages are caught on the evening news by incredulous reporters. The supernatural creatures are original, the cliff-hanger plots are exciting, and the balance of horror and humor is just right, even if Pai’s surface personality is your stereotypical “China girl” ditz. The English edition ends abruptly (some additional material was printed in Super Manga Blast! magazine but never collected), but it isn’t that big a loss; the later Japanese volumes become badly repetitive and succumb to shônen manga power escalation. Prior to the 1995 Dark Horse edition, the first volume was released in monthly comics format by Innovation Comics (with the same translation and retouch by Studio Proteus) in 1991.

Shen Yin Wang Zuo Three-Eight (Shen Yin Wang Zuo  ) • Kuwata Noriko • DrMaster (2005) • Gentosha (Comic Birz, 2001–ongoing) • 1 volume, suspended (2+ volumes in Japan, ongoing) • Comedy • 13+ (extremely mild sex references)

The Suehiro Detective Agency consists of three young adults: Hisago, the easygoing boss who survives on handouts from his father; Nagi, the secretary; and Shimeki, who looks professional and serious but whose sole purpose in life is to take care of his dog. Business is slow; their biggest cases are meddling with each other’s private lives, solving Shimeki’s kidnapping, and in one chapter moonlighting as relationship counselors (with a sign taped to their door like Lucy’s psychiatric stand in Peanuts). Beneath its boring talking-heads exterior, Shen Yin Wang Zuo is a witty character-driven office comedy, with the sharp dialogue of a radio play or a newspaper comic strip. The cute chibi art makes the characters look as immature as they act.

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