Monday, April 5, 2010

Why I hate the manga kids.

April 5, 2007

At my Borders store, I am in charge of keeping order in the Genre section, which consists of mystery, horror, science fiction, Western, romance, graphic novels, and manga. Every morning, I arrive at work to begin shelving the inventory we received the day before. Without exception, manga is a complete mess. This is because the store is plagued by what my coworkers and I refer to as:
man · ga kids (mahng-guh kids)

-noun (pl.)

1. Japanese-pop-culture geeks, age 7 to 40. [See also: otaku.]

2. Socially inept individuals who infest the narrow aisles containing manga.

3. Obnoxious emo kids whose headphones make them oblivious to everyone around them as they park themselves in the space where I'm trying to goddamn work.

These unsavory specimens generally appear between 10 and 11 a.m., although the less sleep-reliant among them enter the café between 7 and 9 and wait for the store to open. They then take up residence on the floor between the racks, curling up with their quarry and absorbing it for free. Once they've had their fix, they proceed to stuff the spent manga on top of whichever shelf happens to be closest. This is where I find it in the morning, and that's why I always shelve manga first.

My friends at work and I love to rip on the manga kids. It's one of the few things guaranteed to brighten up an otherwise shitty day. They don't deserve to be treated with respect; they consume product without buying, ignore everyone around them, and view the staff as their own personal cleanup service. I was unwise enough today to begin unloading a new cart in the afternoon, when a twenty-something kid with big glasses filled the entire second row with his bulbous frame. Despite my numerous attempts to shelve around him, he steadfastly refused to budge. This is not atypical—most of his ilk won't move an inch unless forced to. In this way, manga kids are a lot like my cat.

Manga itself is a strange commodity. It is designed to resemble the standard mass-market paperback novel, roughly 7 inches x 5 inches around and usually 200 pages or so. This lends it a slight air of sophistication over its emotionally stunted cousin, the comic book. The artwork of manga can range from the masterful to the banal, depending on the frequency with which a given series is released, but the storylines are almost invariably bizarre. Whereas American graphic novels of the last twenty years have attempted to gain mainstream credibility by mining the same emotionally complex terrain as their text-only brethren, manga seems to have taken the opposite course. At least two titles—Fruits Basket and Man's Best Friend—concern werepeople who change form during moments of physical intimacy. In the latter instance, said wereperson is a stray dog capable of transforming into a strapping young twink when aroused. Absolute Boyfriend details the romantic misadventures of a girl named Riiko and her animatronic lover, Night, who find themselves continuously quagmired in love triangles with other women who want Night to service them as well. It's no wonder so many titles are shrink-wrapped, nor that I usually find shrinkwrap all over the place in the mornings. At least half of the titles feature a parental advisory label, but I wonder about the supposed maturity of these titles' target audiences.

The most annoying aspect of manga is its current stranglehold on American youth culture. This is the reason our manga aisles are congested in the first place: series such as Naruto and Yu-Gi-Oh! are hot shit among the middle-schoolers who hang out at our store in the afternoon. My most memorable encounter with a budding otaku occurred near the end of the holiday season, when a harried young mother approached me with her children in tow and asked me if I knew anything about manga. "My son is always talking about it, but I don't know what it is," she pleaded. I informed her that manga was popular Japanese fiction, and compared it to a novel-sized comic book. At this point, her son, who looked alarmingly similar to me at that age (buzzcut, too-big glasses, grimace), furrowed his brow and sniffed, "They're graphic novels." Thankfully, I was able to suppress the urge to punch him in the face.

Despite the deepest wishes of the staff, our manga kids will not go away. The only option is to learn to deal with them. My friend Christine has posited that we could probably transport them from the section without any resistance; when I suggested that we simply pick them up and move them elsewhere, she said, "They probably wouldn't notice!"

I may just try that tomorrow.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Aiming for the Head of the Zombie Jesus

by Cyrus T. Peabody

JERUSALEM (Reuters) - The body of Jesus the Nazarene, a.k.a. Jesus Christ, was reported missing from its tomb by a guard on duty, Roman authorities report.

“I swear he was dead when we walled him up,” claims the centurion, who asked not to be named. “We cast lots for his clothes. I got his sandals.

“I don’t want to have to give them back,” he added.

Known to his friends as ‘Master’, Christ burst onto the local Messiah scene three years ago with a series of sermons and alleged miracles. Born under mysterious circumstances in Bethlehem in the year 0, Christ first aroused attention during King Herod’s infamous Christmas Baby Massacre, narrowly escaping with his parents to Egypt. He later came to prominence as a child preacher in the Temple of Jerusalem, before disappearing from the radar during puberty and only returning some eighteen years later.

It was here that Christ first won the admiration of the Jewish proletariat and drew the ire of the Pharisees.

“He’s all things to all people,” claims Frank Antonius, who credits Christ with the alleviation of his asthma. “[It] wouldn’t surprise me if he faked his own death. Jim Morrison did.”

Christ first gained a following during his stint as a carpenter, finding appeal among beggars and fishmongers alike with his insightful parables and flamboyant displays of power. Varying sources cite instances of aquatic acrobatics and superhuman food distribution, along with accounts of macular regeneration and the resurrection of the dead.

“Big deal,” sniffs local merchant Ezra Cohen. “My friend Apollonius of Tyana can do that, too.”

Christ’s egalitarian message and subversive ideology resulted in friction with the local authorities. Last Saturday, he was charged with blasphemy after encouraging his followers to harvest grain in spite of the Shabbat. A warrant was summarily issued for his arrest, but almost a full week passed before he was apprehended.

Israeli forces caught up with Christ early Friday in the Garden of Gethsemane, where he was in hiding with his disciples. According to one witness, Christ was singled out by his former apostle Judas Iscariot. (Iscariot could not be reached for comment.)

Following a trial before the Sanhedrin, Christ was presented to a local mob alongside notorious pig thief Barabbas. As per Passover custom, Roman Procurator Pontius Pilate offered to exonerate one of the two men. When the crowd selected Barabbas, Pilate reportedly ceded control of the prisoners and then began compulsively washing his hands.

The rest of the afternoon was devoted to Christ’s scourging and crucifixion, providing an unparalleled spectacle for the crowds who assembled to watch. According to several eyewitnesses, the death of Christ was accompanied by an earthquake of such severity that the great veil in the First Temple was split in half. Temple clergy are holding a bake sale to raise money for repairs.

The disappearance of Christ’s body has given rise to rumors of his resurrection, with several unnamed sources claiming to have encountered him on the road to Galilee. Such a feat seems not to surprise his adherents, who maintain their total devotion.

“I owe him my life,” says Lazarus of Bethany. “Jesus is my homeboy.”

Christ is survived by his mother, Mary, his father, Joseph, and several siblings, who may or may not exist.