Tuttle Publishing: All Things Asian | Focus on Filipino Manga

Tuttle Publishing: All Things Asian
Focus on Filipino Manga

When you think of books about Asia and Asian culture, the town of Rutland, Vermont, in the heart of New England, wouldn't necessarily come to mind. Yet, Tuttle Publishing, founded in 1832, has grown to become the world's largest publisher of English-language books on Asia. 

Tuttle Publishing - Filipino Manga

Tuttle created an outpost in Japan in 1948, at a time when anti-Asian sentiment was high in North America. Much has changed in the world since the post-WWII period, but as their website points out, "the need for meaningful dialogue and information about this diverse region has never been greater."

Charles E. Tuttle, who founded the modern day version of his family's company, enlisted in the army. In 1945, he was sent to Tokyo to work under General MacArthur's staff, specifically to help revive Japan's publishing industry after the devastation of the war.

He began his own business ventures after leaving the military in 1948, and marrying singer Reiko Chiba. The company publishes books on a wide variety of topics, including, of course, manga and graphic novels from a number of Asian countries.

Filipino Manga

I sampled three of the recently published manga from their collection from the Philippines.

The World of Andong Agimat: The Mystery of the Talisman

a graphic novel by Arnold Arre

Arre takes the American superhero ethos and transplants it to the streets of Manila. Agimat means "amulet" in Filipino, and that's where our hero draws his power. The agimat is a common feature in heroic tales, dating back to ancient Filipino myths and legends.

The story takes place in a world divided, where guardians of justice are busy helping the oppressed, and the servants of darkness spread a deadly plague. 

Andong Agimat is a former gang leader who, armed with his amulet, has become a vigilante. The story takes readers into Manila's supernatural underground and he takes on the violent cult looking to destroy the world.

The drawing style is one I'd describe as stylized realism, with a lovely sense of line detail. The story opens with a city scene in the rain, and he draws it falling on various surfaces and textures beautifully. The streets are gritty, and some of the characters appropriately gruesome and even frightening.

Our hero goes through the ringer, and there's even a kind of love interest in the mix.

The original Filipino version was published in 2006, and is now out of print. It's considered a classic of the genre. In 2011, Arre created a short animated film from the same universe, featuring Andong Agimat called The Streets Are His.


Muros: Within Magical Walls - The Case of the Cemetery Girl 

by Paulo Chikiamco & Borg Sinaban
This story combines urban fantasy with a classic detective story.  Carlos "Caloy" Loyzaga is a "Taga-Sagot", translated literally as "person who answers". He answers the call to find the runaway daughter of a mayor. 

Naturally, the story isn't as simple as it seems, and he searches for her in the walled city of Manila - home to humans along with creatures such as one-eyed Yomaws (hybrid human-canines), Asu-Gamis (half Aswang, a shapeshifting evil creature, half Inugami, or possessed by the spirit of a dog - both common characters in Filipino folklore) and slinky and deadly Silat immortals (Silat referring to a type of martial art).

The familiar trappings of modern urban life combine with the elements of magic and folklore in a twisted story of his search. It's an action packed tale to its conclusion.

The art has a nice sense of action and motion. It uses a kind of greyscale, with varied levels of detail to achieve depth, variety and focus. The human figures are somewhat stylized, with a realistic backdrop of architecture.

The Children of Bathala, A Mythology Class Reunion 

by Arnold Arre
The Mythology Class was released in 1999 to wide acclaim, and won the inaugural Philippine National Book Award in 2000 for it. It is considered a seminal work in the history of Filipino graphic novels, a compilation of four shorter stories into a comprehensive work about wizards, heroes and time travel.

This sequel to the original story picks it up two decades later. The friends - Kubin, Lane, Rey and Misha - have drifted apart, their unusual powers weakening. Misha and Rey are AWOL, and Nicole and her daughter (Kubin being the father) are deal with a dark spell. When new arrivals come from a magical world, what will they bring?

The scenes are beautifully rendered with a cinematic eye that frames the action for dramatic effect. Once again, Arre excels in rainy scenes of action, and scary characters and environments. 

An animated music video based on Arre's graphic novel "The Mythology Class" with music is "Milenyo" composed and performed by Peryodiko.