Best Adaptation of Another Work, 2011: Nobuaki Tadano’s 7 Billion Needles

January 31st, 2012 Posted by david brothers

The first thing adaptations of any sort need to do is justify their existence. What does Stanley Kubrick’s 2001 do that Arthur C Clarke’s novel doesn’t? That justification is crucial, because otherwise, why not just read the book? Adaptations that are just direct, or near-direct, copies, like Robert Rodriguez’s Sin City or Zach Snyder’s Watchmen may provide a briefly visceral thrill at seeing what was previously limited to your imagination turned into real life and then displayed on a giant screen, but they don’t have anything over the original works beyond being films. Adaptations need to reveal some previously hidden truth or adjust the story for a new context in order to be truly worthwhile. A 1:1 adaptation simply isn’t enough. Nobuaki Tadano’s 7 Billion Needles, the latter half of which was published this year, is an adaptation that justifies its own existence.

It’s based on Needle, a science-fiction novel from 1950 by Hal Clement. In Needle, an alien life form comes to Earth and takes up residence inside a human boy. The alien is on Earth in hot pursuit of another alien, a hostile one this time, and enlists the boy to help in that battle. The hostile alien has hidden inside another human, and they must solve the puzzle before it’s too late.

7 Billion Needles keeps the broad strokes of the story. There is a kind alien and a hostile one. The boy has been replaced by Hikaru Takabe, a teenaged girl, and the conflict plays out in a vastly different manner. Rather than dealing with paranoia, it’s more about growth, both emotional and physical. Hikaru is exceedingly reserved after a personal tragedy, and has trouble making friends. She’s quiet with her family, too, even though they have taken her in. Thanks to the influence of the alien, she learns how to open up and just how important relationships actually are. You could even say that she learns just how important the relationships she already has are to her, though she may be actively avoiding or simply not cognizant of that fact. It takes time. There’s no magic button that opens up her emotions, but she eventually grows into a fuller human being.

Evolution plays a major role in the series, too. The question of what direction life on Earth should take, how dominant species can upset an ecosystem, and how species contamination works, are important parts of the latter half of the series. While it may not be scientifically sound, it does make for a very interesting wrap-up to a series that’s simultaneously personal and apocalyptic.

7 Billion Needles is a great example of pulling inspiration from an existing work and then doing it justice. Direct adaptations might as well be photocopies. Finding something new to say with an old story is much more interesting.

Post to Twitter Post to Facebook Post to Reddit Post to StumbleUpon


Best of 2010: Two Surprises

January 5th, 2011 Posted by david brothers

Acme Novelty Library 20, Afrodisiac, American Vampire, It Was the War of the Trenches, King City, Parker: The Outfit, Pluto, Thunderbolts, Twin Spica, Vagabond 9

chris ware – acme novelty library #20

official page

I’ve never been able to get into Chris Ware. I’ve liked the odd bit of context-less art. I think there was a New Yorker cover that I liked and maybe some spot illustrations elsewhere. I could recognize the skill, it just never hooked me. I even bought Jimmy Corrigan at one point, and it’s sitting in my closet unfinished. I tried it, didn’t like it, dropped it.

Acme 20, though. I haven’t read any of the prior volumes, and to be honest, I barely even know what the series is about. I’d heard some advance buzz from some reliable friends, though, and that led to me throwing it on my Amazon list, which is where I put everything I’m thinking of getting. My good buddy Lauren Davis picked it up for my birthday as a surprise (she is the first person to a) reveal that she knows I have a wish list and b) actually buy something off it).

I read it on a long train ride and was blown away. I knew nothing about it going in, other than it was about a dude and each page was a single day in one year of his life. Acme 20 goes from pre-verbal to death for this guy Lint, and it’s just an amazing work of comics art.

Rather than doing the cheap thing and presenting a highlight reel of Lint’s life, where we see him win at hide and seek, be prom king, marry a hot model, or whatever, Ware instead focuses on a range of events and emotions. We see sadness, happiness, and later on, we find out that some things we’ve seen are far from the whole picture.

Ware uses the page-a-day to his benefit, hiding facts and truths between the pages and between the years. Reality slips and slides as time goes on, with jarring shifts in Lint’s status happening completely off-screen and sometimes never even being explained at all. You have to take things as they come, a lot like you do in real life.

In the end, Ware didn’t make a story about lies or sadness or guilt or happiness or whatever. He just told the story of one guy’s life, for better or for worse. And it was fantastic.

kou yaginuma – twin spica

preview, official page

When I was a kid, I was really, really into certain things. I liked arachnids, especially scorpions (in theory). I liked turtles, and even had an ornery pet painted turtle. I liked drawing. I also really, really liked space. I never had a telescope, but I tore through library books about astronomy. Reading about stars, thinking about walking on the moon, and checking out comparison charts of planets… I ate all of that up. It was cool, and really hard to truly understand. It was so different, right? But you grow up and you grow out of things. I can’t remember the last time I sat down and drew something, you know? Things fade out.

I hadn’t thought about that in years, but Twin Spica brought it all back. I didn’t expect to like it. The art looked way too cute, the lead was this tiny little girl, and it didn’t look like the kind of book where people smoked cigarettes in dark bars and got shot in alleys. I’d seen it around, judged it by its cover, and was like, “Well, maybe if I get bored.”

I got bored one day and read it. Reaction: stunned surprise. Yaginuma made me remember a little bit of what it was a like to be a kid and be endlessly fascinated by the unknown. The endless memorization just because, the spacey daydreams, and just trying to wrap your too-small hands around as huge of an idea as “outer space” come across with a clarity I didn’t expect.

There’s a real love for the subject matter in Twin Spica, but rather than being cloying, overly subservient, and impenetrable, it’s delivered in a way that the love is transferred to the reader. You can tell exactly how much Asumi, the main character, enjoys space. It’s a little bittersweet, too, due to the presence of Mr. Lion. He’s the representation of the dangers of space travel and past tragedy, but even then, he’s there to support Asumi and nurture her interest in space. In the end, her sacrifices and setbacks stand right next to her triumphs and all of it just reinforces her resolve.

As far as showing you what it’s like to be a kid and just entranced with something, just positively drowning and not even caring because it’s endlessly fascinating and infinitely wonderful, Twin Spica nails it.

Post to Twitter Post to Facebook Post to Reddit Post to StumbleUpon


The Cipher 08/11/10

August 11th, 2010 Posted by david brothers

-Hey, I wrote some stuff. Maybe you missed it. I reviewed the Scott Pilgrim game, heaped some pro-black/pro-fessional praise on Marc Bernardin, Adam Freeman, and Afua Richardson’s Genius, and wrote a surprisingly well-received piece on manga piracy.

-I didn’t do it, but this comic about a bee by Raina Telgemeier is fantastic.

-I’m still reading Shade (I’m up to volume 3, which I’m starting this weekend), but I also picked up Chi’s Sweet Home and Peepo Choo from Vertical, Inc. Jormungand 4 gets in today, I think, and it’ll probably remain my favorite funny action comic book about child soldiers.

Unforgiven on Blu-ray for eight bucks? That was Purchase On Sight. Wow.

-The countdown isn’t over. There’s one left. 1 Reader, maybe, or 1 Love.

Oh, what, comics come out today? Okay I guess we can talk about that.

David Easterman: Who cares about comical books? (but if that Green Lantern book Gav is buying is The Shield in Space, I might have to start picking that up).
Esther Cobblepot: Definitely: Batgirl 13 Maybe: Birds of Prey 4, Zatanna 4, Doc Savage 5
Jacob Gavin, Jr.: Buzzard 3, Booster Gold 35, Green Lantern Emerald Warriors 1, Justice League Generation Lost 7, Welcome To Tranquility One Foot In The Grave 2, Dark Wolverine 89, Invincible Iron Man 29, Steve Rogers Super-Soldier 2, Ultimate Comics Avengers 3 1

Post to Twitter Post to Facebook Post to Reddit Post to StumbleUpon