by Tori Miki
published by Fantagraphics
John listed it as a humor manga, which I think may have given me the wrong impression. It’s not funny so much as odd. (“Surreal” is a popular descriptor, as are comparisons to The Far Side.) The nine-panel, square strips are silent. According to the introduction, author Tori Miki was influenced by a style of Japanese comedy where the audience is supposed to need some time to get the joke, once they figure out what’s happening. So there’s almost a puzzle component to the strips.
For Americans, that’s complicated by the way he reportedly “quotes” movies and manga in his work. I was disappointed to see no notes or explanatory material beyond the short intro. Endnotes explaining some of these references would have been greatly appreciated.
If nothing else, the pink and grey pictures with the silent, almost grim-looking, protagonist are strangely soothing. And there’s certainly a lot of value to the book, since you’ll find yourself re-reading it to figure out if you got the point. I didn’t laugh so much as ponder some of the odder occurrences. And I do admire the cartooning skill on display. It’s tricky to work without dialogue or sound, and Miki is certainly readable that way.
Did I like it? Yes, due to how different it was from every other manga I’ve seen, and how I appreciated the way one’s mind is engaged. My favorites were the strips that played with the comic medium itself, as seen on the cover or in the last full page image at that link.
At one point, there was talk of a second volume, but I suspect now, four years later, it’s not happening. This kind of manga falls through the cracks in the market — it’s not aimed at teens, but adults who enjoy the diversity of what comics can accomplish, and many of them have the wrong preconceptions about manga.