[- Manga mania

// -"‘ / )

called Kondansha LTD, who thought it their duty to exploit an erstwhile untapped market— high-school, college kids brought up on imported US movies such as Bonnie And Clyde, Five Easy Pieces and Easy Rider. So was born Young Magazine, a vehicle tor the vast array oi youthful, spotty

comic-strip writers linding it ditticult to :

gettheir work published. Into this arena stepped Katsuhiro Otomo, whose tlrst major work, Domu, became a best seller and went on to win him Japan’s science-tiction Grand Prix tor story ot the year, a title which previously had only ever been won by novels. His next work was the now legendary Akira, a live volume, 1800-page graphic novel epic, set in the year 2019 against the backdrop of a post-apocalyptic nightmare world in lieu Tokyo.

From Young Magazine came the oltshoot Manga, whose empire went

\\ _’ : / J A

Once upon a time in Japan (early 70s to be more precise) there was a company

i trom strength to strength and gained a

l massive tollowing, expanding lrom

comics into TV and Film (known as

g Anime, pronounced An-ee-may). It

3 remained an essentially Japanese phenomenon until Akira, the Anime teature tilm, exploded onto our screens and iustitiably became an instant cult-classic.

In the wake oi Akira’s success the floodgates have now well and truly opened, giving Manga a whole new market-place to exploit, and since the a spring they’ve been doing just that. So lar, the splurge ol Manga releases ; have admittedly been less than representative. The cutesie wide-eyed . comic~style animation is still there, but the story lines have lallen by the wayside. There’s the adolescent techno-tetishism ot Tank-Police,

j disturbingly detailed mythic gore oi Fist 0t The North Star and the laughable exploits of alien hermaphrodites searching for their

1 long lost princess in A-KO. Their

' biggest and most controversial release i so tar has been Urotsukidoji; Legend 0t The Overtiend, a rather disturbed slice at porn splatter including in the plot(?) demon rapists, sex Nazis and a death ray powered by orgasms. A step in the right direction? (Joe Lampard).

Urotsukidoii: Legend Of The Overtiend I (18) is released by Manga Video, price ; £12.99.

From bad to wu rst

‘Is there such a thing as Britain, or is it

just an invention of a bunch ot bastards i called the English who happen to make I

all the rules?’ Yeah, sock it to ’em Pete. That’s Pete McCarthy, of Channel 4‘s Travelog lame, but you won’t hear him spouting such punditry live trom Costa del Scorching: it’s a central question in I'm All Right Jacques, his follow-up to The Hangover Show on

BBC1, neatly timed to coincide with the

Edinburgh Summit.

‘The show is ostensibly about whetherthe British can ever be European,‘ he says. ‘My opinion is that whereas other European countries have a vision oi the tuture, we have a vision at the past. A lot at the people who control thought and opinion in this country still live in the days of Dunkirk, the Battle ot Britain and Vera Lynn, when we were the top dog.’

Displaying the spirit that won him runner-up in the Edinburgh Festival Perrier award (‘in the year Sean Hughes won it,’ he boasts), McCarthy explains that he uses the Great British sausage as his central metaphor,

comparing it with the various European '

sausages to examine British shoddiness and xenophobia. ‘We can

never become truly part at Europe until

we acknowledge that British load is an allront to human dignity.’

The show stems trom McCarthy's many trips abroad (in which he includes his visits to Scotland), which he says ‘really puts your country into perspective.’ He is very critical ol the

v "0 I . ::¢;_ Will you look at the quality at that sausage?

English abroad, harking back to the young tootbail tan stereotype, mouthing ott war-time metaphors about trenches and going over the top. However, criticising his own country L does not mean he hates it. ‘lt is a healthy thing to be sell-critical,‘ he says. ‘I choose to live in England, but when you go abroad a lot, you see things that you don’t like and that you’d like to change. We’ve still got this i attitude that says “Yes, but it’s the greatest country in the world, isn’t it?” That’s the thing that must needs ? changing and it’s an attitude that is held mostly by people who have never been abroad.’ (Thom Dibdin)

| l’m All Right Jacques is on com on Wednesday 9 December at 10.20pm

BBC bigwig Will Wyatt cropped up on Right To Reply last weekend to face one of those dogged Laura Ashley-wearing veggie Hampstead types who agonise about the future of the Corporation. I’ll spare you the details of the ‘debate’, but in passing, when challenged to name some quality programmes the BBC had made in 1992, he did suggest Absolutely Fabulous (BBC2) as an example of an instant classic. Jennifer Saunders’s sitcom does seem to have been greeted as a kind of comedy Messiah, appearing just before Christmas to save us all from the likes of 2P0int4 Children and A110 A110. And it’s got plenty going for it. Primarily an awareness that

,the best comedies are

character-driven. Three episodes in

‘I was unlucky enough to catch her in Performance: Roots where she screeched for around twenty minutes non-stop in a ludicrous Norlolk accent. Give it a rest love.’

we‘ve established that Saunders‘s character Edina is a burned out ex~hippy with a thirst for the highlife matched only by Joanna Lumiey’s Patsy (‘The last time a mosquito bit me. it had to book into the Betty Ford clinic.‘) Daughter Saffron

(Julia Sawalha) is a junior

f reactionary, doing her homework

, and trying to keep her mother on the straight and narrow.

What is surprising about

Absolutely Fabulous is how faithful it ; is to sitcom traditions. Despite

Saunders‘s occasional tendency to dash around screeching gobbledygook. and the plentiful gags

about drugs, sex and alcoholism, this is at heart a slavishly traditional sitcom, with plenty ofthose kitchen

scenes. generational conflict, and

even June Whitfield as Mum. Where

it scores is by being mischievous with

the forms. Edina encourages her

daughter to ‘throw wild parties and snog boys’ while June warbles ‘Purple Haze‘ in the background. The only blot on the horizon is Jane Horrocks as the gormless PA, Bubble. Horrocks is one of those actresses beloved of other actresses

; and theatre directors, the sort that

picks up awards for Chekhov

adaptations, but comes across as a

complete pain in the arse on the

g small screen (and the big screen

come to that, as anyone who’s seen

Life Is Sweet will testify). Her range

drifts from melodrama to extreme

creations ever. Annie won’t be

because Diane Bull just isn’t in

3 David Jason’s league. Jason’s genius was in drifting straight into tragedy

out of broad slapstick. Bull by

hamminess. I was unlucky enough to catch her in Performance: Roots where she screeched for around twenty minutes non-stop in a ludicrous Norfolk accent. Give it a rest love.

Some people have attached significance to the fact that all the main characters in Absolutely Fabulous are women. although this is not the radical feminist advance it might seem. Women may be sadly under-represented in the live stand-up comedy field. but in sitcom they've always been there. getting the best lines and the last word, from The Rag Trade through The Liver Birds to Birds Of A Feather in Britain, and from The Lucy Show through Mary Tyler-Moore to Roseanne and The Golden Girls in the States. Even the longest-running sitcom of them all, Coronation Street, has always been heavily biased towards the female characters.

Surprisingly enough, considering the CVs of the writers involved, Absolutely Fabulous is substantially funnier than the other new all-distaff sitcom Sitting Pretty (BBCI ), written by John Sullivan, who gave us the sublime Only Fools And Horses and Citizen Smith. The central character here, Annie (Diane Bull) is also a 60s casualty, forced to return to her working-class roots after a financial setback.

Sullivan has already shown us his skill in depicting the vulnerability of the prole dreamer, all bad taste and slightly inaccurate jargon, and Del Trotter was one of the finest comic

‘Saunders’s character Edina is a burned out ex-hippy with a thirst torthe highlite matched only by Joanna Lumiey’s Patsy (“The last time a mosquito bit me, it had to book into the Betty Ford clinic.”)’

joining him in the pantheon, partly because, from the outset she‘s already scaled the heights of fame and fortune, making her less sympathetic and less real, and partly

comparison is a pantomime dame, over-playing every gesture. Her ‘phenomenal‘ will never be the ; household phrase Del’s ‘cushty‘ or

I Lappin).

. ‘lovely jubbly‘ have become. (TomJ

TheList4- 17 December 199203