Hotel by Boicihi or Stepping Across a lake of awesome, on stones made out of Crazy.
I don’t like manga and I absolutely abhor anime. This isn’t a trolling statement. It’s just that they don’t work for me. I could list a hundred different reasons why I don’t like this medium of art, but that would take the entire article and then some.
For the time being, you’ll have to settle for “Everybody dresses like a bunch of retards” and “Most of the dialogue is dumber than a pile of horseshit”
Then again, perhaps one could argue I have just been unlucky in this area. Most of the manga and anime I have stumbled upon were the result of mindless internet search and friends who pestered me about a series until I watch it, then bust my balls if I straight up told them it was shit.
But sometimes (four of them, to be specific), I have stumbled upon a manga that I have really, really liked. A manga that is well made, properly narrated, chock-full of great ideas and excellent art, which makes me not want to cave a cat-girl’s skull in with a 2 by 4. Boichi’s Hotel is one of these precious few manga.
And in case you were wondering: No, Akira did not make the cut. It came close, but there was no cigar.
Before I move on to the manga itself, I should say a few things I have managed to glean about the artist, while reading through his work.
· The top of his skull is the only thing keeping his wonderful ideas from bursting through his body and into the atmosphere: If anything, Hotel is an enjoyable read that takes some extremely…Japanese ideas and themes and translates them into epic science fiction. Granted, not all of them appealed to me, but most of them did and that’s a win in my book.
· Boichi knows where the goods are:
· Boichi is insane: Not the “in desperate need of intensive psychiatric care” kind of insane, more like the “interrupting a deep, meaningful conversation so he can scream HORSECOCK at you from the top of his lungs then keep going, as if nothing happened” kind of insane. After reading Hotel
I have realized that he is-thankfully-unwell. And that’s a good thing.
Hotel is an anthology of short science fiction stories (and a couple of weird fantasy ones) that indirectly overlap each other. He was obviously trying to tie them together and create a consistent narrative, set against the coming apocalypse, but chose to ignore it for the sake of creating something much more unique and original.
What Hotel is, it’s a series of perfectly cyclical narratives that concern the end of the world. Each of them has to do with the ‘end’ of something, be it the destruction and rebirth of one person, a habit or a disease, all the way up to mankind, life, the universe and/or everything.
The first story is the anthology’s namesake, Hotel. And it starts by punching you in the teeth, just to make sure you’re paying attention.
“In short, we’re going to be boiled alive inside our own atmosphere. Alien visitors from far-off planets will feed off our nutritious, steam-cooked meat and sing praises to their strange gods. Any questions?”
I know that the end of the world is an over-used theme in manga and anime, but it is usually attributed to huge-penised demons slapping the Earth till it is but dust and/or involves magical jailbait somehow.
But in this story, the end of the world is a terrifying possibility, caused by mankind’s millennia of abusing its home planet. There are no magical girls or huge robots here that can punch the atmosphere into submission
I’m gonna teach that bitch to overheat the planet and kill us inside a toxic prison of our own design!-Actual quote from Mecha Pilot #271 (Super Ecological Warrior Go! Volume One)
And the damage is so extensive, that mankind’s annihilation is a given. A two-fold plan is proposed, in the face of this grim possibility: the construction of an Ark that will carry human DNA to a far-off planet with conditions identical to those of Earth’s and the creation of a tower (dubbed Hotel) in Antarctica, manned by a super-intelligent AI, where the DNA of Earth’s native species will be stored. Both machines are to clone their specimens upon completion of their task, thus giving mankind (and the Earth) a second chance at life.
Right off the bat, humanity is doomed. Sorry Earth Monkeys, you fucked up, you’re all gonna die, best cross your fingers and hope your clones will make it. This is an apocalyptic story done right. Extinction is imminent and unavoidable, but a faint glimmer of hope is given. Granted, it’s not much, but it’s something we can hold on to, a chance for us to survive.
The Ark and Hotel are built and the AI (called Louis) is set as its ‘manager’ and caretaker, the sole being that bears the responsibility of this task.
Who’s a cute little AI charged with an impossible task, the fate of billions resting upon your shoulders? You are!
Sure enough, the Apocalypse happens on schedule and mankind dies off, killed by their planet’s own atmosphere. Louis begins his great quest to protect life on the planet, facing increasingly impossible odds:
Be they powerful, searing winds
The gradual collapse of the satellite network orbiting the Earth
Or plain old catastrophic systems failure during his millennia of service:
Soddy, poorly made crap, breaking down after a couple measly millennia under exposure to catastrophic environmental conditions.
Louis breaks down in the end, his Hotel tearing down all around him. With the malfunction of his actuation system that would allow him to clone and breathe life back to the animal DNA he was set in place to protect, he realizes that his troubles have been for naught. His countless years of service were as dust, since the minute he was deprived of the ability to bring out his task to fruition.
I felt like tearing up at this point, feeling horribly cheated out of an ending, but coming to terms with it. It was horrible, but in a Vonneguttian sort of way, that left a bittersweet taste in my mouth. I would have moved on, but then turned the page and saw this:
Greetings, mechanical messiah of Earth! We have come to feast upon the steam-cooked remains of your Earth Monkey makers! Do you have any condiments?
Apparently, Chekov’s gun ripped through the pages right next to my ear, because as it turns out, the mysterious visitors are the original crew of the Ark, modified to perform the return trip back to their home planet, after the catastrophic failure that ruined their human DNA cache.
Life can now be restored to Earth, but mankind is gone for good. Its last traces erased, its mechanical descendants begin the process of restoration, their millennia-long mission accomplished, if only halfway.
Sure, Boichi tries to squeeze in an inkling of a happy ending in the last page, but let’s face it: he’s not fooling anyone.
I know it’s not much, but perhaps you could clone a couple thousand filthy Earth Monkeys out of this? So you can use them as slaves?
Despite its coping out at the last minute, this story was heart-warming and intriguing and I re-read it again and again, because it’s that damn good. But then Boichi makes a change of pace, with a shortie, called Lot.
Lot is a cruel short story, but not in an appetizing, fulfilling sort of way. It’s just two pages filled to the brim with horrible irony and an unsatisfying pay-off, a complete juxtaposition to Hotel.
Next, there’s Present.
It’s got the setup of Lolita, but it’s in the future, so it’s okay.
Present is a sad little love story about a man who sacrifices his livelihood and happiness for the sake of the woman he loves. It’s a sweet little sci-fi love flick with an unnecessary twist ending and plot holes you can drive a truck through, but enjoyable nonetheless.
Present is the last bastion of sanity in this volume. After this, turning the page is the equivalent of falling into the rabbit hole
into the realm of delightful insanity. The first such story is Headache, a two-page short about a girl facing chronic migraines, with her lady friends constantly pestering her with advice on how to deal with her headaches.
“I’M SCREAMING OBVIOUS SHIT AT THE TOP OF MY LUNGS, BECAUSE THAT’S THE BEST THING TO DO WHEN SOMEONE HAS A HEADACHE!”
It’s an innocent and funny little short with an unexpected ending, but I’d hardly call it sf. It does however help you ease into the kaleidoscope of crazy that is…
It was All for the Tuna is a story that is very much like that Futurama episode, where everyone goes crazy over that last can of sardines, because they’re tasty or something (protip: they aren’t).
This story is about a man who loves tuna way too fucking much. So much, that he devotes two entire lifetimes in restoring it. It’s silly as all hell and has a number of jokes that are way too Japanese for their own good, but the crowning moment is this:
After failing to find a single mote of tuna DNA in his decades of research, the protagonist attempts to create tuna in his laboratory, instead creating a shoggoth that escapes and dominates the oceans.
Honestly, this story can get a bit much at times and the ‘I love tuna!’ motivation is wafer-thin at best, but it is used to camouflage a far greater message:
See this shit? This is the essence of scientific research and the entirety of science fiction in just three panels.
The moral of the story is that mankind owes its scientific triumphs to a series of follies, a constant string of fortunate failures that sometimes provide wildly different results. Shiozaki, in his quest for tuna, ends up saving mankind, inventing a dirt-cheap energy source and contacting an alien civilization.
The ending is no less insane.
The next bit of insanity that walks up to kick you in the nuts is called Sushi squadron and it’s…um…
Moving on, there’s Stephanos. Honestly, this story shouldn’t have really been in this anthology in the first place. Why? Because it’s completely out of place and plagued by the shock-value special effects and the shoddiness that is the trademark of all semi-religious manga.
Stephanos feels rushed and incredibly shallow, especially if you compare them to All for the Tuna and Hotel. It seems more like something Boichi drew because he felt like he needed to come up with an apocalyptic gorror story more than anything else, emphasizing more on style than in content.
Thankfully, this train wreck is forgotten with the advent of…
This is a mad little two-page breath of fresh air that is the essence of every cyclical disaster in every science fiction story. It’s a funny little apocalypse, caused by a diminutive super-genius who can’t be arsed to toast his own toast like a regular person and instead causes the constant cyclical heat-death of the universe with the press of a button.
Last one is Goddess of the North Wind. It’s fantasy, doesn’t really have a plot and stars a jailbait with magnificent tits, which I will not show you, because that would make the page unsafe for work.
Instead, I will show you the simultaneous heat-death and decapitation of thousands of people in an instant.
Oh and there’s also a huge creature out of the Cthulhu mythos with a dozen arms that’s Adam, because fuck you, that’s why.
If this anthology was a meal, then it would be like trying sushi for the first time.
You are scared at first, at the prospect of eating something that is uncooked, but then you stuff it in your mouth after dipping it in some soy sauce and very carefully take a bite and to your surprise, discover that it’s good. Sure, the idea is crazy (uncooked food? come on…) but somehow it works perfectly and you realize it sticks with you forever.
So this is Boichi’s Hotel in a nutshell. It’s silly, it’s crazy and it’s unmistakably Japanese, but the artwork is beautiful and the narrative flows perfectly. Granted, this wackiness may be too much for some people to stomach, but I urge you to read the shit out of this book, is only for a couple of cheap laughs, sprinkled with a deeper meaning.
So this is Hotel. Is it silly? You bet your ass it is. Is it maddeningly Japanese in its sense of humour as well? Ohhh yes. But it does have the balls to tackle some pretty big stories and it is fun to read through multiple times. It may not rank at the top of my favorite four manga ever, but it’s on the list.
I don’t hate Japan, I just don’t understand it. I think it’s wrong for most people to criticize the Japanese for their incomprehensible culture or the maelstrom of strangeness that pours forth from their great island, but I think it’s far worse for anyone to pretend to comprehend it without having experienced it firsthand.
What I’m trying to say is this: I hate weeaboos. I can’t, in my heart, find it to understand people who choose to incorporate Japanese words into their vocabulary and pretend to live a Japanese lifestyle, when their sole cultural point of reference is manga and anime. Because manga and anime are art, not real life. Art is expected to be ridiculous and far fetched at times, but to consider a culture’s art as a direct representation of its way of life is just idiotic.
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