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May 2021 Books Read Standouts: MIND MGMT Omnibus, Vol. 1 / Animeta!, Vol. 1

MIND MGMT Omnibus, Vol. 1: The Manager And The Futurist

    “Mix ingredients. Close bottle with a cork and fix cloth rags around the mouth. Soak rag in kerosene immediately before use. Light and enjoy!”

    If I was dialing up the latest post from a blog I enjoyed–“Operator! Get me that jackass!”, I’d say–and saw that the author had reviewed MIND MGMT, my first thought would be “How the hell do you review that bonkers masterpiece? You’d have to be a fool to try! A fool damn’d!” And then I’d look in the mirror and see that I had spoken the truth; ridi, pagliacco, etc.

    Meru, a one-hit-wonder true-crime novelist, thinks she’s found her next big project that’ll pull her career out of its slump: an aeroplane, Flight 815 (by coincidence ((maybe)), which suddenly found itself at 42,000 feet and filled with people–passengers, crew and pilots–who had no goddamn idea who they were. Meru begs an advance from her agent to investigate and is quickly drawn into a web of what-the-fuck involving psychic spies, a secret globe-spanning metaphysical espionage network at war with itself (the titular MGMT), and a man named Henry Lyme who may be at the center of it all, and who seems to know an awful lot about Meru for someone she’s never met.

    MIND MGMT cleverly combines several things I love (cyclical storytelling, melancholy, secret paranormal organizations with secret compounds in the jungle, pervasive existential dread, and gorgeous watercolor pages) and several things for which I do not generally care (spies and spycraft-adjacent skulduggery, amnesia, vaguely-defined ‘psychics’, and not being able to tell which friggin’ side of a friggin’ conflict anybody is friggin’ on), and the result is…the result is. I’m honestly not sure if I like it or not, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s bad, and I’m sure as hell still thinking about it four months later, so it must’ve done something right but I’ll be damned if I could tell you exactly what. And honestly that’s a good thing: I’m a big proponent of shameless junkfood-reading, of gobbling down your favorite warm-hearted if unchallenging comic or trashy hot-werewolf-love-triangle romances or wizard-private-eye novels that get more indefensibly misogynist as the years go by or fuckin’ whatever, but you should also tackle, heavy, heady, complex works that put you through the paces and make you ask the hard questions, and they shouldn’t all be things you anticipate (or end up) enjoying. Just as it’s important not to speak only to people with whom we agree (except Q-Anons, Covid deniers, Nazis and similar, obviously) we must engage with media that we may find disagreeable, for there is something to be learned from any endeavor, even if it isn’t what we were intended to.

    That said, MIND MGMT isn’t unpleasant or objectionable or offensive; it’s complex and complicated, the good and bad kinds of sad, and beautiful and confusing like a wife, or the sea. When I say I’m not sure if I like it or not, I mean I can’t decide how it made my heart feel, but honestly that’s pretty on-point for the story it tells. In this book, as in life, answers do not come easily, if at all. We are not guaranteed explanations, success, or a happy ending. But when all else fails, we can know this much to be true, always: 

Trust your training, disbelieve your eyes, and burn after reading.

Score: 9/10 Cryptic Excerpts From The MIND MGMT Field Manual Running Along The Edge Of Every Page 


Animeta!, Vol. 1

    This one’s easier! And sweeter and funnier and lighter; not junk-food level, as described above, but certainly straightforward and intentionally educational.

    Know what Miyuki loves more than anything? Anime, specifically one magical-girl series that blew her goddamned mind when she saw it for the first time and changed her life. Know what Miyuki wants to do more than anything? Work for the studio that produced it and make more anime to show other people like her what stories and art have the power to do for people. Know what Miyuki can’t do even a little bit? Draw, like seriously, at all. KNOW WHAT THAT ISN’T GONNA DO: STOP HER FROM ACHIEVING HER DREAM.

    Animeta! wears a disguise: on the surface it’s a delightful slice-of-life manga aimed at young adults, and it 100% is that in form, but not in function. Much like Delicious In Dungeon is secretly a cooking manga dressed in the plate and wizardly robes of a sword-and-sorcery dungeon crawl (more on that in a later post), this is actually a really in-depth and fascinating look into the mechanics of producing anime, like down to instructionals on how storyboarding and the physical correction of roughs and inbetweening work, and as with any deep dive into an industry that has evolved in a very specific way it is both incredibly interesting and makes you wonder how literally anything ever gets actually made because holy shit, there is a lot to this. One of my oldest and dearest friends, Shannon Hay (@ShannonSketches), is a professional storyboarder (late of Muppet Babies; they boarded the scene that became the falling-over-potato meme) and one of course does one’s best to understand the jobs of one’s friends, but Animeta! provides the kind of insight that really emphasizes how little you can actually explain about certain industries to people who aren’t in those industries. But as core as those explanations are, they’re wrapped in an extremely charming story about a young woman who just decides that god dammit she’s gonna make a thing and be a success and nothing is going to stop her, except may an actually humanly unlivable wage, but she’ll figure something out! 

    Like anything this specific, detailed and dedicated, it can’t go on forever; it’s not one of those series that can go on for dozens of volumes, which you only realize after you’ve already gotten hooked and now you’re stuck paying $6.99 for the next one every week for the next seventeen fucking weeks, thank you so much The Devil Is A Part-Timer!, to say nothing of One Piece. It’s only six volumes, and they actually happen to be on mega-sale right now on Comixology for I think like $4.99 each, and I recommend them both as a story to enjoy and as a way to learn about how something we love and that can be important to us is actually made, and possibly more importantly, who makes it, and that’s always worth our time and effort.

Score: 8/10 Just Seriously Unbelievably Long Transformation Sequences, What The Hell, Even

it’s always been the same, same old story

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