Halifax cartoonist Mike Holmes proves that he can draw in anybody's style in his series of self-portraits called Mikenesses. Check them out on Flickr. Or buy the book! There's Peter Max, Jack Kirby, Kate Beaton, Al Hirschfeld, Bryan Lee O'Malley, the works!
I must be the last one to the party to this, so bear with me, but the idea of rendering manga characters in a style close to realistic portraiture caused a small detonation on the top of my head. It's like reverse engineering an actual person. Comics characters are situated on a sliding bar with symbolism at one extreme and realism at the other. Manga artists are adept at shifting from place to place on this bar for comic effect or to get at a state of mind. Often you see a switch from the character's default design to chiba style. If a manga is very successful it might end up as a live action film or tv series, in which case the character design slides right over to the realistic extreme, in the form of the actor's looks. But this position, which I'm sure has a proper name but I'll call 'portrait of a real person' seems fresh and full of possibilities.
Gankyō Kūrubiyūtei is one of the five rakugoka of Joshiraku, drawn by Yasu. This portrait is by syow-maru.
See here for an article on the Joshiraku anime character designs.
Unarigoe is a manga drawn by Douglas McLeod about a trio of freshman roommates at a fictional university in Hokkaido called Abashiri Daigaku. The story takes place in the year preceding the Abashiri-Westmorland Exchange Semester on Maritime English story in the Evangeline Brandt comics. The campus of Abashiri Daigaku is loosely based on the actual Abashiri Prison Museum.
The main characters are:
Moriko Mori, from Osaka, who has a distinctive head of white hair as the result of being frightened by a bear when she was a small child. She is by turns timid and assertive, and has unresolved bear issues.
Akiko Inoue, Moriko's laidback but surprisingly well-informed roommate, who knew Moriko as a gradeschooler in Fukuoka. She wears a cardigan and is usually shown with her hair falling over her face.
Makiko Ishita, their other, more prickly, roommate. She has glasses and braids, but otherwise resembles Akiko and may indeed be her half-sister. Aggressive punster.
Lady Mokuzai, a Heian ghost who inhabits the woodwork in the student residence.
The Dean of Humanities, an Italian woman who speaks no Japanese. She is always shown in a sun hat and a summer dress.
Moriko's Mom, who sends a food parcel every day.
Grandma, caretaker of the Clubs and Circles Building, and coach of the women's soccer team.
Various yakuza and henchmen. Various students.
The word unarigoe means growl. It is properly written うなり声, but the title of the manga presents it entirely in hiragana (うなりごえ) and in romaji.
To read Unarigoe in the right order, follow these links:
David Low was the top British political cartoonist of the 20th century. Even if you think you don't know any of his work, you'd recognize his cartoon of Hitler and Stalin making nice after the signing of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact in 1939. My favourite Low cartoons are the ones he did in the late Twenties and early Thirties starring the figure of Peace. She's usually drawn as a young woman, healthy, modern and idealistic, sometimes shown gathering signatures on a clipboard, and often wearing a look of dawning awareness of the awful magnitude of her task. Here she is cycling an ice cream cart past an arms factory as the trucks of heavy industry roll out. You can explore a huge archive of Low's political cartoons here.
Thermae Romae, a manga about a Roman architect who time travels between the reign of the Emperor Hadrian and the bathrooms of modern Japan, came out in an English translation in November, but in Japan it has already been made into an anime and a feature-length film. Manga review. Film site. Through a hilarious series of misunderstandings Douglas asked Heather for the French edition for Christmas, but that's cool too.
While reading Ivan Morris's translation of the Heian diary Sarashina Nikki, which he names As I Crossed a Bridge of Dreams, I did a Google search for images associated with the book and stumbled on this blog by Junko Shibata, an illustrator who makes comics based on the classical texts Japanese students read in high school. The panels above concern a man named Takeshiba and the Emperor's favourite daughter. Here's the whole story:
Long ago there was a man of this province with the family name of Takeshiba. The Governor presented him to the Imperial Palace as a guard of watchfires in the fire huts. One day when he was sweeping in the Imperial gardens he chanted to himself, "Why, oh, why have I come to this? At home in my province I have many a jar of wine, and over the jars hang the gourd ladles. They turn to the north when the south wind blows, they turn to the south when the north wind blows, they turn to the east when the west wind blows, they turn to the west when the east wind blows. But now I can see none of it."
The Emperor's favourite daughter, standing by the outer blinds of her Palace leaned against a pillar and gazed at the man. It moved her that he should be singing there by himself, and she was curious about those gourd ladles and how they turned above the jars. Pushing up the blinds, she called, "Come here, my man!"
The guard bowed respectfully and hurried to the edge of the veranda.
"Let me hear that song of yours again!" she said, and he repeated it for her. "Take me there and let me see for myself!" she told him. "This is no idle request."
The man was awestruck but, realizing that the Princess had good reason for her words, he lifted her on his back and set off for Musashi. Since people were bound to give chase, he stopped as they were crossing the Bridge of Seta and set the Princess down. He destroyed a section of the bridge and leapt across the gap. Having seated the Princess on his back again, he walked for seven days and nights until he reached Musashi.
When they were told about their daughter's disappearance, the Emperor and Empress were distraught and looked for her everywhere. Eventually they were informed that a guard had been seen rushing from the Palace with a creature of great fragrance clinging to his neck. A search was ordered and, presuming that he had returned to his province, they sent Imperial messangers in urgent pursuit. Having reached the Bridge of Seta, the messangers found that it had been damaged and were unable to continue the chase.
It took them three months before they finally tracked down the man in Musashi Province. The Princess summoned the Imperial messengers and said, "What I did must have been fated. I was curious about this man's house and told him to bring me here, and so he brought me. And I have found this an excellent place to live in. If the man is punished for this deed, what will become of me? It is no doubt a karma from some previous existence that has made me leave my traces in this province. Go back to the Capital and report this to the Emperor!"
Unable to argue with the Princess, the messengers returned and told the Emperor what they had heard. "There is nothing further to be said," declared His Majesty. "Even if we punish the man, we can no longer bring our daughter back to the Capital. Of course we can never give him the province of Musashi or entrust him with any official business. But I can unconditionally grant the province to the Princess herself."
So the Emperor ordered that a residence be built for them in Musashi in the style of the Imperial Palace, and, when the Princess died, this house became the temple called Takeshiba. Her children were given the family name of Musashi. After that only women were appointed to guard the fire huts.
Ivan Morris (tr.), As I Crossed a Bridge of Dreams, pp. 36-38.