Anywhere But Here

Based on John Jakala’s recommendation, I checked out this odd little manga from Fantagraphics.

Anywhere But Here cover
Anywhere But Here
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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.

I also liked the peaceful ending of the watermelon-eating strip (last sample page at that link), which reminded me of the message of Aria, to stop and enjoy the simple things.

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.

7 Comments

  1. Ed Sizemore

    It’s an odd little manga, but I was amazed how quickly it grew on me. I love these eccentric mangas that are far off the beaten path. They give you an unedited glimpse into Japanese culture that mainstream manga don’t. I’m glad you liked it too.

  2. Glad you liked it, Johanna. I’m disappointed that we probably won’t be seeing further volumes of this series, too.

  3. […] Hooded Utilitarian. At Comics Worth Reading, Johanna Draper Carlson checks out an unusual manga, Anywhere But Here, and Ed Sizemore reviews vols. 2 and 3 of Ral Grad. Gia does a video review of vol. 1 of Sayonara […]

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  5. chris duffy

    Thanks for bringing attention to a fun book, Johanna.

    In case it’s of interest, I found the book hilarious. I laughed a lot. I too couldn’t figure them all out immediately, but it felt worth the effort when I did.

    It reminds me of Cowboy Henk–anybody remember that?

  6. I love this book. I go back and read it every once in a while, and it always makes me laugh. A few of the strips, in particular, are just brilliant.

    It seems that there are 4 volumes of his work published in French, by Editions IMHO, at 96 pages each. Given that they’re wordless, these books might be worth tracking down. I’m sure they can be ordered online.

  7. Chris, I’ve never heard of Cowboy Henk?

    David, oh, that’s interesting! Wordless works do travel better.

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