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Leek & Sushi’s Manga Show 150 Years of Friendship

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Worldwide the manga industry seems to be in some form of decline – this is due to the recession worldwide. Some of the biggest publishers in the market such as Tokyopop are scaling back their number of releases per month and this trend doesn’t seem to be shrinking in the professional market. Fortunately the UK has a thriving manga underbelly where professional and semi-professional artists are getting together and releasing their work to the Indie scene.

ITCH publishing are one of those independent publishers who have enough pulling power that they are able to collate most of the runner ups of the Manga Jiman competition that was held by the Japanese Embassy in the UK to celebrate the diplomatic ties between our two countries. Due to the nature of the artists who entered this competition, ITCH was able to collate their work and create an anthology out of it.

Many anthologies manage to destroy the intention of the original author and artisit’s work due the very nature of an anthology. With Leek & Sushi’s Manga Show 150 Years of Friendship the nature of all of the work is the same, it’s centred around 150, as that’s how many years the Anglo-Japanese relations have existed. However, just as with all artists, the manga strips that have been collated together are as different the very cultures between the UK and Japan.

Due to the skill of Willie and the team, the transition between sketches have been made very smooth by the insertion of Leek & Sushi, who are easily the highlights of the anthology. The pair interjects a unique brand of humour between sketches and manages to open up the anthology in an interesting and different fashion without appearing boring – a huge feat in itself given the topic.

Between each strip Leek and Sushi introduces what’s coming up in the next strip and will often have a conversation with a caricature of the author. Although that’s not always the case as occasionally they’ll do nothing but talk over the character and sometimes Death will appear and, well, naturally Leek and Sushi are a little concerned.

Leek and Sushi are simply drawn characters that each have a lot of personality and are able to convey messages by joking around with one another. At all times it feels like the reader is in the centre of an “in-joke” but knows what the “in” bit is, which is a rare accomplishment in any visual form. As they are very basically drawn, they take nothing away from the other artist’s strips in the anthology.

The stories themselves are too numerous to name but manage to range from being incredibly serious to as light-hearted in nature as Leek and Sushi. Although one poignant moment in the manga is towards the end where the artist is showing how grief can be coped with, and how little mementos can make a huge difference in how one can grieve.

The quality of illustration and style vary greatly from author to author, from the fairly grungey style of Samuel Barker to the super detailed Karen Yumi Lusted and back to the more cartoony style of Sammy Barras and Laura McNulty. This means that there’s something for everyone. Almost all of the characters feel very real and given the fact that the storylines all have to feature around the 150 theme, the character are easy to connect with.

However, the highlight of the entire anthology have to be Sushi and Leek; who have a distinct and simple drawing style and a humour that is entirely their own. They manage to make a great set of stories something that bit better with their edge and wit.

Final Score

8

Leek & Sushi’s 150 Years of Friendship is a huge accomplishment out of a small and independent manga studio in the UK and is a necessary buy for all manga fans. With 250 pages of individual and unique manga goodness it’s a worthy investment.