... but I stopped. Now I'm a dad, and may blog again...

Friday, March 04, 2011

223: ガロ (GARO): Monthly Eccentric Comics

Garo_6_1996ガロ GARO: Monthly Eccentric Comics are one of the oddities I encountered on my trip to Japan.  My now fabled trip, which has achieved mythical status in my own mind; a dream-phase of my life that exists only as a semi-real state of sake-drunk, subway-overload, fish-based B.O., and communicating in basic grunts of hai, birru desu-ka, and sumimasen.  I returned with an octopus tattoo (from Hirotsuna at Desperado Tattoo, Osaka), a lust for izakaya, great memories of raw horse and raw octopus, a small pile of Garo comics, and an obsessive all-consuming need to go back.  Osaka calls to me every day; Woooooooo...  My souvenirs are postcards, photos, notebooks, and possibly a parasitic worm or two from the raw food.

When I wasn’t working I was wandering from place to place gawping at the big buildings like a comedy country bumpkin.  I marvelled at the confusing writing and speech which had me relegated from a fairly high level of literacy, right down to the bowels of functional illiteracy.  I would catch the subway (unbelievably clean and punctual) to places I hadn’t been before and potter about looking for food, temples, shrines, shops, parks, and more food.  Then I found shitennoji, a Buddhist temple (ji being the Japanese word for temple), a quiet oasis of pagodas, shrines, gravestones, terrapins, bells, baby statues in woollen hats, and a monthly flea market.

It’s the sort of place where a confused foreigner can wander aimlessly, just sort of looking at things and not really knowing what anything is.  Colossal statues of big-nosed painted demons cavort besides the vending machine dispensing cans of hot coffee.  Stalls sell printed archaic maps still bearing ‘here be monsters’ uncertainty about the unexplored and inaccurately named Pacific.  One stall sells only home-bound notebooks, all severely damaged by damp and bookworm.  I bought two which I now have preserved in plastic boxes surrounded by packets of silica gel.  One stall had stacks and stacks of old Garo, and another oddball comic anthology series called Comic Cue.  I bought five Garo and one Comic Cue ("Special Issue of Cover Version").  I would have bought many more, but was conscious of the need to get them sent home and the potential of that to be costly.

Garo_10_1990 Garo_12_1990 Garo_back_12_1990 Garo_11_1990

All of the illustrated stories appear to make very little sense.  Admittedly I cannot read them, but I get the feeling that even if I could they would still be so obscure as to tie my tiny mind in knots.  Also there are undoubtedly cultural, historical and traditional references that I am wholly unequipped to understand.  “If a lion could speak, we could not understand him,” Wittgenstein.  And indeed if a lion could put together anthologies of underground lion comics, we could not make sense of them, for their points of reference, turns of phrase and metaphorical language would be so far removed from our own.  Still they are aesthetic goldmines full of incredible images of cats wearing nappies, people slurping noodles, operations, naked people with no genitals, flying drummer monsters, sad-looking coelacanths, wise old monkeys and one-eyed rabbits.  Now let's relax with some calming old postcards of shittenoji.  Konbanwa. 


shitennoji_postcard_002 shitennoji_postcard_001


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