AX, Vol. 1
edited by Sean Michael Wilson
There are certain “rules” to making manga, just as there can be generic details in categories like shonen and shojo. People often have an image of what “manga” is, but their image is usually influenced by only the most successful, commercial titles.
And so we get AX, which is an alternative manga collection. In the form of short stories with numerous different mangaka contributing, this shows us how diverse manga can be.
While the book prides itself on its diversity, there is one thing that remains in common throughout the book. All of the stories are, in one way or another, strange to some degree. How strange they are and what makes them strange is the varying factor. They’re avant-garde and experimental. Sometimes they feel very random, and as if they cut off before a point seems to be made, making one wonder if the story is missing something or if that’s the point entirely. Other stories are very fascinating with “A-ha! That’s clever!” endings. And then there’s everything in between.
What are the stories about? All kinds of different things. There’s a man about to commit suicide who becomes frightened at the idea of death when he runs into a hitman. There’s an older man who takes up boxing because he feels he has nothing to lose. There’s a woman who, without explanation, gives birth to puppies instead of human children. It’s all over the place.
Some of the stories in AX didn’t work for me, but others I found compelling, funny, or just interesting. It’s certainly a unique collection. Even if there were some stories that did nothing for me, I’m still glad I read AX, not only because of the stories I liked, but because of the scope the collection gives on manga’s diversity.
The art also runs the gamut. Some stories are amazingly beautiful in their artwork while others can be very sparse and sketchy. Only a few stories have a typical manga art look. Some of the art styles look like nothing I’ve ever seen before.
AX is aimed for adult audiences because of some sexual imagery, and I think it would be most welcome in the hands of “manga students,” so to speak, or people who really want to know everything they can about manga. I think fans of alternative arts and comics would also be ideal.