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by shathley Q

3 Jun 2009

The opening page of Katsuhiro Otomo’s Domu presents a tabula rasa. But rather than the blank slate as opportunity, this tabula rasa is a prison for human creativity and an indictment against the society that produced it.

A group of children huddle together, not so much to investigate a boyhood curiosity, but more to push out an unpitying emptiness. In the background another boy walks by almost anonymously. His personalized backpack and wing-decaled baseball cap light up in a brief, but invariably inconsequential spark of creativity. Forced into a birds-eye view, the reader’s emotional distance from the scene is exacerbated. Unable to connect the visual fragments of the panel in a cohesive narrative, readers are simply onlookers.

Otomo taps primordial feelings of isolation and alienation in this powerful panel. Moreover, he incorporates the reader themselves in this drama. What Otomo presents the reader, is a comics that undermines the usual processes by which narratives are constructed from various visual and textual fragments. Just as the environment itself defeats the characters depicted, so too are readers defeated. The visual elements are too diffuse, and the textual elements are completely absent. The level of detail in the linework of the boys, the cross-hatching on their clothes and the ben-day dots coloring their shadows, serve to further isolate the boys through use of the masking effect (where greater detail equates to increased realism and therefore reduced emotional investment).

Domu tells the story of a battle between powerful two psychics, both residents of super-massive apartment complex in Tokyo. Cynical and jaded, Old Man Uchida uses his psychic powers for his own twisted entertainment. For him the thousands of residents in the complex become mere puppets, performing acts of vandalism and self-injury until they are psychically forced into suicide when Uchida grows bored with them. However, when young Etsuko and her mother move into the complex, a psychic battle ensues. Etsuko takes it as her duty to stem the loss of life and ultimately bring Uchida to justice.

Beyond the extrasensory battle that provides the centerpiece to the graphic novel, psychic repression of the human spirit remains the central conflict of the story. With Domu, Otomo delivers a powerful comment on how environments shape human psychology. Rather than simply demonize the monstrous Uchida, Otomo illustrates how even the villain’s murderous psychopathology is influenced by the stifling, soul-destroying environment he finds himself in.

With panels like this one, and many similarly-themed, Otomo illustrates an environment equal in monstrosity to Old Man Uchida himself. In 1983, Otomo was awarded Science Fiction Grand Prix (Japan) for Domu. This marks the first time a comicbook has won an award usually reserved for general fiction.

by Rachel Kipp

3 Jun 2009

Jon and Kate Plus Eight used to be the kind of show you could watch without really watching.

After mastering the basics—Pennsylvania parents Jon and Kate Gosselin had twins and then, hoping for just one more, ended up with sextuplets—the rest of the show passed in a blur of cuteness and crocodile tears. Toss in a few infidelity rumors, however, and suddenly you’ve got must-see TV.

As hard as it was to watch last week’s season premiere, it was just as hard to look away. At their best, Jon and Kate never seemed to be the most loving couple in the world but now they’re absolutely frigid. They abandoned tag-team confessionals for solo appearances on the Couch of Exposition. In between awkward silences, Jon and Kate worked their way through at least a few of the twelve stages of grief over their shattered relationship.

by Matt Mazur

3 Jun 2009

This sequel looks to be every bit as gross and vapid as the first Twilight film, with wooden performances and lots of special effects abounding. Isn’t Dakota Fanning supposed to be in this?

by Sarah Zupko

3 Jun 2009

We think really highly of Passion Pit here at PopMatters, having just rated the band’s new album Manners an 8. Miike Snow, who has his own new record out which we’re reviewing soon, has conjured up a really funky remix of “The Reeling” off Manners.

Passion Pit
The Reeling (Miike Snow Remix) [MP3]
     

by Kevin Pearson

3 Jun 2009

A Hawk and a Hacksaw are the kind of band I wouldn’t mind playing my wedding or my wake. They alternate between upbeat, oom-pah led numbers, and mournful dirges with the switch of an accordion key. That they do so in such an idiosyncratic way makes whatever musical track they take always sound like them. Of course, this might be due to the fact that no other band in the indie realm—except Beirut of course—utilizes the same variety of musical sources. But while the Balkans and that area’s folk music is a jumping off point for A Hawk and a Hacksaw, Moroccan bazaars, Mariachi bands, and other Eastern influences also seep through into their sound.

Initially a one-man band consisting of former Neutral Milk Hotel drummer, Jeremy Barnes, A Hawk and a Hacksaw doubled in size several years ago with the addition of violinist, Heather Trost, as a permanent member. Over several albums and EPs, the duo’s sound—Trost’s violin and Barnes’ accordion—has been fleshed out by a revolving array of auxiliary musicians, most notably renowned gypsy brass band Fanfare Ciocarlia and the Hun Hangár Ensemble. While neither of these groups back Barnes and Trost on this current European tour, the duo are instead augmented by three additional musicians playing tuba, bouzouki, and trumpet.

At first, it’s fascinating. Each musician is thoroughly engaging. It’s not your typical instrumental set up either. All of tonight’s percussion comes via Barnes’ foot, which stomps out a minimalist beat upon the skin of a solitary kick drum that is also attached to a couple of tambourines. That he does this whilst simultaneously playing the accordion is cool. The fact that he’s always on beat and on key is impressive. Trost’s violin playing is rousing in that it seemingly spirals out of control like a wild steed only to be lassoed at the last moment. “Nimble” is an understatement when describing the bouzouki player, whose fingers dance across the fret board faster than a stenographer covering a front-page court case. The only musician whose playing seems un-chaotic and methodical is the tuba player. But while this might not be as exciting to watch, his deep notes, in lieu of a bass or proper rhythm, ties everything together, allowing Barnes and Co. to cavort in their gypsy instrumentation.

If there’s any complaint to be made it’s that, aside from an encore that found the band playing unplugged amongst the audience, crowd interaction was kept to a minimum. Instead of being encouraged to move and to dance, it seemed, at times, as though we were watching a museum piece. There was a gap between performer and audience that was never gulfed. I am sure that this has a lot to do with the band’s need to concentrate on their dexterous playing, but such joyous music, especially music of an instrumental nature, needs interaction and both band and audience failed to adhere to this. Sure, there were a few handclaps and some nodding of heads, but unfortunately the overall the atmosphere was one of reverence over reaction.

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