Review of Seija ga machi ni yattekuru (1979)
Ōtomo Katsuhiro (writer-artist).
Read in 2021.
Read in Japanese in the Sayonara Nippon (1981) collection.
A department head at City Record(s) recaptures his youth by hosting a New Orleans jazz band he used to know back in the “group sounds” era. He gets one of his underlings to meet the four huge, now-elderly gentlemen at the airport, which leads to a night of debauchery. Meanwhile, the underling has a deadbeat friend in a band that’s trying to put together a record, and there’s a girl who quits school when she gets a contract with the label.
The title of the story means “the saints come to town”, almost certainly alluding to “When the Saints Go Marching In”. As in “East of the Sun, West of the Moon”, there is a lot of music in this comic but it doesn’t actually feature in the medium. Scenes of playing and singing have practically no visual effects, no kana sound effects, and no lyrics. Ōtomo did not attempt to depict music, which is probably a good choice.
It’s a pleasant romp, with neat characters, comedy and nostalgia, all with Ōtomo’s crisp artwork. It originally ran in Manga Action (i.e. Action Comics) magazine, but the only action is the band of deadbeats trying to run across Tokyo to make it to a recording session, because they don’t have any money. I prefer Ōtomo’s work in science fiction, but I particularly appreciate that the teenage idol, like the Japanese neighbour in Sayonara Nippon (1977), is a little dumpy-looking by the standards of popular manga, and deliberately so. They are believable people before they are sexual objects, so they are not stylized for a supernormal stimulus, as girls were—and would long remain—in more mainstream Japanese comics.