Sunday, March 1, 2009

Faust, volume 1

First, it should be noted that our very own Andrew Cunningham translated a good chunk of this book. Feel free to interpret that as indicative of a deep-seated editorial bias. Hopefully he can provide some insight into the behind-the-scenes production process.
With a bright, vibrant cover, Faust collects a number of very divergent short stories (and excerpts from longer works) into one volume. Names like CLAMP and Takeshi Obata draw some attention and recognition while the reader is introduced to wonderful gems from Nisioisin and Otsuichi. In addition to short stories, it also includes a handful of brief manga stories. It's mission statement is to collect "the best in cutting-edge Japanese fiction" and, for the most part, it succeeds.

In many ways, Faust is a collection of "anime short stories," carrying both the good and bad connotations one would expect. "Drill Hole in My Brain" by Otaro Maijo explodes with manic energy, its incredible sexual symbolism only barely contained by a surreal Moebius strip of a story. "Outlandos d'Amour" by Kouhei Kadano (Boogiepop) is all that one would expect of the author, delivering a story of weird creatures and magical powers hidden in the shadows of the world, with hints of some larger conspiracy looming over everything.

For all the good stories, however, the are others that fall a bit flat or, in the translation from a visual anime medium to prose on the page, reveal in stark relief the tired cliches near-endemic to the hobby. The excerpt from the xxxHOLIC: ANOTHERHOLIC novel is somewhat interesting as a counterpoint to the anime and manga, but carries too many of the same affectations to really be compelling. Some of the other stories (like "The Garden of Sinners") read like a typical, generic anime concept.

In addition to the short stories, there are also a few rather dry essays and a handful of manga, most of which are printed both in color and grey-scale. All the included manga are brief and self-contained, almost impressionistic. It is an interesting glimpse at kinds of manga that are rarely brought over to the US.

Ultimately, Faust would be worth the price of admission for "Drill Hole in My Brain" alone, but the collection as a whole provides a sampling of Japanese pop and genre fiction that is more than the sum of its parts. While each story might not be amazing, they constitute a slice of the fiction and "light novels" that anime fans hear about in relation to some of their favorite anime but rarely get to actually see for themselves. For that reason alone, it is highly recommended to everyone.
based on one volume : Wikipedia : Amazon


  1. Are you trying to make me blow a fucking gasket!? Boogiepop Phantom is the anime, and about as unrelated to Kadano's work as it is possible to be. The real series is just Boogiepop.
    I can see I'm going to have to work up that essay I've had brewing on why Boogiepop Phantom is a fucking travesty, if only to explain why I find is so fucking infuriating when people can't fucking tell the difference.

  2. But in any event, "Boogiepop Phantom" is how most people will recognize the media property as a whole.

  3. Yeah, like how most people recognize "anime" as "tentacle porn."

  4. So, Andrew, which stories did you translate? Out of curiosity.

  5. The xxxholic novel, Drill Hole in the Brain, Outlandos d'amour, and F-Sensei's Pocket.
    The good ones, basically.

  6. Holy hell, that's a lot of labels.

    Nice reminder to pick this one up, though. Been meaning to buy this for months now, but have never got around to it.

  7. Well, it's a collection of a bunch of stuff, so it touches on lots of different topics and creators.

    And it's definitely worth remembering to pick up - that's why I finally got around to writing this, even if it's not necessarily new.