Pulp, which has just reached its fifth installment, is one of Viz Comics's latest offerings to the world of domestically released and translated manga titles. Sporting the caption "Manga for Grownups" and featuring somewhat risqué cover art, I was curious to see how the comic would live up to its marketing hype. Would it be the typical translation of Japanese adults-only manga (H or ecchi manga), or would it be a more subtle work, where elements such as plot and characterization are emphasized instead of intentionally ignored? Domestically released adults-only manga has long been the domain of Studio Proteus' MangErotica division, Studio Proteus itself being the manga-related division of Dark Horse Comics. (Studio Proteus has translated such titles as Oh My Goddess!, Gunsmith Cats, Nausicaä, and What's Michael?) I was curious if Viz was suddenly going to go in that direction and therefore challenge Studio Proteus. When I read the first issue, as provided by Lillian Olsen (who translated part of the manga for Viz), I was pleasantly surprised.
Not only were the stories tasteful and well-drawn, they were engaging. The well-printed magazine is comprised of 5 different manga features plus several articles discussing various aspects of Japanese alternative pop culture. I was most impressed by the variety of stories Pulp contained, each story having its own distinctive style and substance. Dance Till Tomorrow is a comedic story about a young college student who happens upon a large inheritance and then has to deal with a strange girl who makes advances toward him soon after. Strain, with gorgeous art by Ryoichi Ikegami and story by Buronson of Sanctuary and Fist of the North Star fame, is about a mob assassin named Mayo who kills anybody for five dollars and runs into trouble when he refuses to kill a teenage girl and her dying mother. Banana Fish is another mob story, but with a shoujo (girls' comics) bent. Black and White, which is my personal favorite, is a gritty tale about two young street kids/punks who live on their own in a tough town where violence is the rule. Heartbroken Angels is a collection of 4-panel comic strips, most of which feature very black and twisted humor, often bordering on the perverse, but generally funny. Pulp's articles discuss Japanese movies, music, and manga artists.
For something called "Manga for Grownups," Pulp is fairly tame in terms of adults-only content, with only occasional sexual content, depending on the particular issue. The reason why the manga is "for grownups" mainly has to do with its strong adult themes, which is certainly a compliment, as most manga "for adults" tends to be quite juvenile in terms of story (which has its own merit at times). The stories vary enough in art styles that Pulp has something for everyone. With each issue containing over 120 pages for about 6 dollars, Pulp is a great deal. If you are looking for a less-than-conventional manga experience (and if you want to use your CJAS discount at Comics for Collectors), you can't go wrong with Pulp.
[12/2/04 Update: For further articles by Lawrence Eng, see his anime page.]