22 CommentsManga Driver / By Scamp /

Manga Driver: Short Cuts

Short Cuts  CoverFront

Volume Count: 2 (finished)

Every country seems to have their version of the materialistic, gossipy teenage girl stereotype. The details differ in minor ways, but many similar trends arise. Talking endlessly about mindless gossip, bitchy and shallow minded, fashion obsessed and concerned about their appearance. Where Japan differs is that, due to their fetishisation of youth, the teenage girl stereotype is seen as the ideal creature.

Short Cuts is a reaction to this idolisation of the teenage girl. More specifically, the Kogal, a specific brand of teenage girl with their baggy socks, short skirts, Shibuya-based lifestyle. If the Kogal had existed several centuries ago, there would be giant statues of them and their baggy socks. A monk’s sutra chat would be him saying “yeah but no but yeah I saw him checking me out but he’s like so gross and like I only like men who have load of money so I can like make them buy me new clothes”.

Yes, that is a joke from Short Cuts.

(Also NSFW warning: There are boobs in this post)

Short Cuts is one of the very few anime or manga I’ve seen that could legitimately be called a straight up satire. It’s very similar to Sayonara Zetsubo Sensei in that regard, except with a narrower focus which I think works in its favour. The jokes about Japan’s fetishisation of Kogal are sharp and cutting like any good social satire should be. It’s jokes are hardly high-brow either, with plenty of jokes revolving around prostitution, blowjobs and what have you. But this style of humour fits given the subject matter is about this bizarre lust the nation has developed around teenage girls. Plus in using this subject area and general tone, they can expand to make some surprisingly clever and cutting gags about wider Japanese society too.

Let’s do the whole ‘dissecting a joke is like dissecting a frog: Nobody cares and the frog dies’ thing and explain one of the funnier jokes in the series.

Short Cuts 088I did warn you there would be boobs.

One of the main reasons suggested for Japan’s declining birthrate is men are too scared to talk to women anymore, and visa versa to a lesser extent. This is why host bars, where you pay attractive women to simply sit around and talk to you, are popular. So the problem is people don’t want social interaction anymore, right? Well as this comic astutely points out using its clever binary choice, people always choose the option they can talk to and not the one they can procreate with. Therefore we have scientifically proven that Japan’s declining birthrate is because people want to socialise rather than reproduce and all the previous scientific studies should be thrown out the window.

I fucking love this type of humour and could go on ruining jokes by explaining them all day, but I won’t. Instead let’s go over the areas the manga doesn’t do so well in. The author admits he has no idea how to do panel layout and doesn’t even try. All layouts are simply square boxes as shown above. It still works though as an extended 4-koma gag style. Because its pure satire, there isn’t any running story whatsoever. OK there’s a few re-occuring characters like Panty Flash the trainee detective whose contributions to the police team are only recognised once she flashes her underwear, a cutting satirical take on how young women are only valued for their sexual characteristics…ok sorry I swore I’d stop explaining jokes. When a joke doesn’t work, it has no story to fall back on so it just feels drab.

Short Cuts 095

Jokes can fail for a few reasons. Because it’s so culturally rooted in Japanese culture and society, I’m sure there were plenty of jokes that flew clean over my head. Also because my knowledge of Japan is mostly through anime and manga, my perception is massively skewed so maybe I’m grasping the totally wrong end of the satirical stick. The biggest problem of all though is that it simply runs out of steam. It’s only 2 volumes long, but frankly it should have stopped after the first one. The second is noticeably weaker with way fewer satirical gags and a much greater focus on puns and fourth wall breaking. I’m not a particularly big fan of puns anyway, but when they’re crossing a language barrier they’re basically doomed to fail, no matter how hard the poor translator tries.

The fourth wall breaking jokes fare better. I particularly liked the one where a pretty Kogal starts reminiscing about what great attention to detail the drawings in her school textbook were and how dedicated and wonderful and sexy the man who drew them must be because the author of Short Cuts used to do illustrations for school textbooks on the side. But the satire side takes the worst hit of all. There’s still the occasional gem, like the salarywoman who makes a living selling used schoolgirl socks to salarymen after capital punishment was brought in for touching underage girls. However when your jokes devolve into a children’s TV presenter getting bum-fucked by his stuffed animal sidekick, you know you’re running out of good jokes.

Falling quality aside, Short Cuts is still one of the purest examples I’ve seen of anime/manga doing satire and doing it well. If you think most anime jokes are just people yelling loudly and doing that tired manzai routine, and providing you’re not turned off by incredibly crude humour, I highly recommend checking Short Cuts out.

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  1. Posted May 10, 2013 at 10:37 am | Permalink

    I am a fan of Usamaru Furuya, so of course I love Short Cuts. I agree that not everything always works out, but what worked, worked exceptionally well. And also it is always nice to recognize single panels or pages that float around imageboards as funny images.
    I hate these recommendations disregarding the review, but it is the place to state it: the most perfect work of Furuya is The Music Of Marie, unfortunately it took a long time for scanlators to end it, dunno why.
    Also it feels funny that you started writing about things I like, because it means I would probably like the ones you wrote about before that I didn’t read yet. Welp, time to read Parasyte.

    • Scamp
      Posted May 10, 2013 at 11:03 am | Permalink

      I had actually seen the mermaid vs reverse mermaid panel before. They work really easy as single image shares because most of the jokes just last that single page.

      Also I just learned this author also wrote Litchi Hikari Club, which is…err, certainly something

  2. Pusswookie
    Posted May 10, 2013 at 4:23 pm | Permalink

    Wtf is a Kogal and how in the hell is that even an identity? If you’re following petty stereotypes so perfectly that people stop viewing you as a human being and instead refer to you as something that sounds like it came from Star Trek, then maybe it’s time to stop being that thing.

    Would still bang though; after all, Reproduction over Conversation, amirite guys?!
    ….I’m a massive hypocrite.

    • Scamp
      Posted May 11, 2013 at 8:35 am | Permalink

      Welcome to every subculture ever

      • Pusswookie
        Posted May 11, 2013 at 9:57 pm | Permalink

        The thing is, it’s not like that’s actually every subculture ever. There are plenty of harmless ones, for instance; Dekotoras, a group of truckers who trick out their [functioning] trucks in neon lights [amongst other things], or the Xena Fandom who…well, dress up as Xena, Warrior Princess.
        At any rate, it’s the ones that idolize stupidity and superficiality that get to me. In my opinion, Kogals [and their wretched kin, unfortunately found in other variances throughout the world] aren’t so much a subculture as they are an evolutionary/societal blemish. I think that it’s sad whenever girls my age, of any culture, can only identify themselves as a glorified cocktease.

        By the way, I’ve been reading manga myself [as a subsequent result of all the recommendations directed at you], and I’d highly recommend that you move up Biscuit Hammer. I’m not an introverted misanthrope, and neither are you to the best of my knowledge, but I still found some level of empathy with the main character [who is hilarious in his unabashed honesty] and his interactions with the rest of the cast, of whom, impressively, all get some manner of character development or another.
        I also think that you’d like how they use the Biscuit hammer [a giant hammer, perpetually looming over earth] in order to illustrate the tension of emotionally heavy moments.

  3. decadyn
    Posted May 10, 2013 at 5:46 pm | Permalink

    Glad you enjoyed Short Cuts; Usamaru Furuya always has very interesting manga concepts but he’s particularly good at doing coming of age stories mixed with a bit of surrealism. Genkaku Picasso, Happiness, and Chronicle of the Clueless Age all are similar in themes and enjoyable. But if you wants balls to the walls experimental craziness, read his full color one volume manga, Plastic Girl, which is about as avante garde as you can get.

    If you want to tackle another ‘famous’ manga artist that does magical realism, try Nijigahara Holograph by Asano Inio. I can’t say I enjoyed reading it but it was one of most ambitious and bizarre mangas I’ve read. People tend to love it or hate it because its non-linear storytelling, choke full of symbolism, and probably requires re-reading to make sense of it. I personally thought it was less polished than his later work, Goodnight Punpun, which I’m sure everyone has already nagged you to read.

    • Scamp
      Posted May 11, 2013 at 8:36 am | Permalink

      Me and Asano Inio don’t see eye to eye. I read Solanin and had major problems feeling any connection to any of the characters, which I think points to a fundamental different way of thinking between the two of us.

  4. Posted May 10, 2013 at 7:39 pm | Permalink

    Short Cuts is definitely one of my all time favorite mangas (and also one of my first mangas) so I was thrilled to see this post in my blogfeed! I always felt a lot of the jokes that fell flat were simply things I just didn’t understand because I have never experienced living in Japan. Like the kid’s TV show gag you mentioned is, I believe, a reference to a kid’s show in Japan. I really enjoyed the pages and pages of, as you said, killing the joke by explaining the references at the end of the book.

    There were a few that I actually sort of “got” years later as I learned more about Japan and manga. The fishface comic, for example, the people he interviews are other mangaka. I discovered this one day when I found Heartbroken Angels in a discount bin!

    Sorry for the ramble :p I’m a big Furuya fan and am always excited when someone else talks about him! I definitely agree with the above commenter that he is particularly great at coming of age stories!

    • Scamp
      Posted May 11, 2013 at 8:38 am | Permalink

      I’m really surprised to hear that he has so many manga about coming of age stories, especially after reading Short Cuts which couldn’t be further from that. Still, if I liked one of his series, I guess it’s worth trying out the rest.

  5. luffyluffy
    Posted May 10, 2013 at 9:08 pm | Permalink

    I don’t want to be ~that guy~ who totally ignores the post at hand (specially because I already rec’d this to you) but please give From Eroica with Love a try ;w; it’s my favorite and you love every single character (even James and the Alphabets) and the plot never tires itself out because there IS no plot and there’s a small level of boke/tsukkomi humor but the character dynamic is so fun and fresh (despite the time period) that rather than getting bogged down by the B/T it helps the characters grow. I’ll admit the characters can get a little one-dimensional w/ their gags but the manga is very fast paced (i read 7 volumes in one weekend!) and if you don’t like the arc you can always skip it. I’d say at least read up to Emperor Waltz. ofc you don’t have too but you were asking for recs ages ago on tweeter and that doesn’t exactly allow for long detailed discussions, you dig?

    ( a small side note, volume 1 of the manga is terrible but don’t skip it. )

    • Scamp
      Posted May 11, 2013 at 8:38 am | Permalink

      My Plan To Read list is already about 30 titles long so eeehhhhhh

      Although just looked it up and “What happens when a gay art thief and a conservative NATO officer cross paths?” so maybe I am down for it? 39 volumes though

      • luffyluffy
        Posted May 11, 2013 at 7:43 pm | Permalink

        Well, most of it is missing because the scanlation group dropped it and volumes 11 to 15 are also missing because they were released by CMX in America so no one wants to scan those volumes, so in reality there’s only like 15 translated volumes.

  6. Killer Queen
    Posted May 11, 2013 at 6:00 am | Permalink

    Usamaru Furuya is a damn great manga artist. @_@

    He also did an alternate manga adaptation of Sion Sono’s Suicide Circle (after the director tells the guy to do what Furuya wants with his source material instead of following the movie) that I personally thought explored the idea and the themes better and more straightforward than the movie.

    • Scamp
      Posted May 11, 2013 at 7:45 pm | Permalink

      Hadn’t heard of that movie before. Sounds…errr, disturbing. Might give it a shot?

  7. Chipp12
    Posted May 11, 2013 at 10:14 am | Permalink

    Anybody recommended you to read Usotsuki Mii-kun to Kowareta Maa-chan Totteoki no Uso/Kamisama no Iutoori/Anne Freaks/Kimi wa Midara na Boku no Joou/Goth already?

    • Scamp
      Posted May 11, 2013 at 7:45 pm | Permalink

      Maybe? I wouldn’t know, seeing as you used the Japanese titles for most of them

      • Chipp12
        Posted May 12, 2013 at 5:44 am | Permalink

        Let me correct myself:
        – Lying Mii-kun and Broken Maa-chan: Precious Lies
        – Like God Says (Fujimura Akeji)
        – Anne Freaks
        – You are my Indecent Queen
        – Goth
        Also Assassination Classroom.

  8. Erif
    Posted May 11, 2013 at 4:52 pm | Permalink

    Should I give you manga recommendations in this post, or in the Parasyte post?

    • Scamp
      Posted May 11, 2013 at 7:46 pm | Permalink

      Here, but only if you can offer some sort of response to the manga in question being reviewed first

  9. Posted May 11, 2013 at 11:29 pm | Permalink

    I remember reading this way way back.

    I remember those panels and jokes. Probably before I starter keeping track of the things I read and before I ditched most genres for the shoujo/josei romance.

    Might bee a good idea to give it another read but I remember liking this plus you can’t argue with good jokes.

  10. Ana
    Posted May 12, 2013 at 3:37 am | Permalink

    I reaaaally don’t agree that the ko-gal is held up to be some kind of “ideal”. They are sexualized, yes, and the object of desire, yes, but it’s not a positive stereotype in any way at all. This series of articles might be useful if you want to get some solid background on the gyaru image: http://neojaponisme.com/2012/02/28/the-history-of-the-gyaru-part-one/

  11. Matthew
    Posted May 14, 2013 at 3:33 am | Permalink

    I’m beginning to notice a pattern in your reviews, that most humor series go on too long and overstay their welcome. I guess if a humor series is going to last, it needs to be very broad so it never runs short of targets. (You yourself giving the example of Sayonara Zetsubo Sensei, where pretty much everything is fair game.)

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