My plans to write posts less frequently are thwarted (I've always wanted to use that word) by being spoilt for choice. Greenworld should be good for two posts, Avatar is nice, particularly the odd choices the designers made when it came to locomotion, some bandes dessinées deserve attention, etc.
I decided to continue with the Japanese theme a bit. I guess that readers who really like speculative biology will have come into contact with 'The Future is Wild' (TFIW); after all, there was a television series, there are books, there is theme park in France and there are websites. In fact, a commenter on the blog once expressed irritation with an overdose of 'The Future is Wild'. I sympathise with that, as I have felt the same from time to time. After a certain point you know the images and the animals, and repeated exposure to the same images or clips no longer excites the viewer. Apparently a new TV series is in the making as well as a cinema version, so there should be lots of new images.
This post is about the 'old' TFIW animals. In Japan they have turned it into a manga, or comic book, published by Futabasha. In several European countries, France foremost, comic books are regarded as an art form: the neuvième art (ninth art). Like films, their styles differ appreciably between countries, which adds to their enjoyment: 'bandes dessinées', 'comics' and manga are not the same at all. My knowledge of mangas is rather poor; it seems that almost anything can be turned into a manga, and TFIW was no exception.
This is its front cover. As you can see it mentions Dougal Dixon, John Adams and Takaaki Ogawa, who I gather is the artist, i.e., the mangaka. I picked up a copy through Ebay, but if you want to you can easily order it through Amazon in Japan, which has English pages. You may well wonder how you turn a documentary about animals into a manga. Easy: just add a story. That is what this book does. In fact, quite a few wildlife documentaries do exactly the same. There are about 250 pages, containing 8 stories as well as a glossary, and introduction and some other bits and ends. There is some anthropomorphism, in which animals' emotions are shown on their faces in a way recognisable to humans (by the way, the image language the Japanese use seems to differ a bit from European usage, but not so much that the message is lost -I think!-). But adding anthropomorphism is again not too dissimilar from what happens in some nature documentaries (the best do not). The various TFIW stories have different themes. I have picked out images from two stories.
One story deals with an individual adult toraton (I will assume you know your TFIW, and if not, the internet will provide). A young toraton disturbs a swampus, which bites it on the neck, and the startled youngster swings its head out of the way and accidentally pokes out one of the adult's eyes. That is the setting for the following page.
Mind you, manga are typically printed on somewhat grayish paper and aren't that big, meaning that the contrast of these scans is much better than what you see on the printed page. The images are quite large, so you can have a good look (but downloading might take time!). You can work out the story for yourselves: the young animal dies, and the adult has lost an eye (it later dies as well). Did I mention that you should learn to read right frames before left frames, in the reverse order you are used to? I might be wrong about the story line, not being able to read the text in Japanese. If I am, I hope that any Japanese readers will correct me. The reason to choose this picture was not primarily the sad story of one toraton's death; instead, there is an interesting scene in the foreground of the last frame. Here is a detail:
Stomatopods, my favourite! Mantis shrimps, and on land too! Were they in the TFIW documentary? I think not, otherwise I would probably have remembered. After all, they were the inspiration for Furahan hexapod predators, exhibiting centaurism. These mantis shrimps seem to be devouring a frog together, and as far as I know current mantis shrimps are firecely territorial. So these are social terrestrial mantis shrimps; impressive. I wonder what would hapen if squid and mantis shrimp somehow would make it onto dry land. Personally, I doubt terrestrial squid would have stood much of a chance: the squid have to develop a feasible mode of walking, and the mantis shrimp have that already. I wonder whether the mangaka added the stomatopods for his own amusement?
The remaining images are of the squibbon / megasquid story. I discussed the megasquid before, and decided that I did not think walking on tentacles was at all likely, and certainly not for something as large as a megasquid. For squibbons the story might be a bit different, but still they seem unlikely. But never mind that now.
Thirteen pages later there is this lone squibbon. being social animals, a lone squibbon is probably a sad squibbon.
The next page seems to show a happy ending: other squibbons offer bioluminescent thingies (fungi?).
Looking at TFIW in this way may take some getting used to, but I rather like it. Computer generated images still tend to look a bit stiff or awkward, and as long as they do so, I prefer drawings or paintings. Paintings are often much livelier and they also appeal to the imagination more than CGI renderings. This manga is lively, and, provided you increase the contrast, the graphic qualities of some pages and panels is good. I found that it does not matter that much that I cannot understand Japanese. I am obviously missing some information, but I certainly cannot complain about a lack of a sense of wonder: there is quite a bit of that.