by Sirial; translated by JuYoun Lee
published by Yen Press; $10.99 US
Review by Ed Sizemore
No-ah is a novice magician living with his three pets: Guru (a male cat), Nanai (a male dog), and Pritz Rang (a female mouse). At times it’s hard to decide who’s adopted whom in the series. Certainly, the animals see themselves as equals with their owner. one fine day (the series title is done in all lowercase letters) is a gentle, slice-of-life, humor series with a little magical realism thrown in. The series is composed of everyday stories focusing on the relationship between the four main characters. one fine day is currently being serialized in Yen Press’ monthly anthology magazine, Yen Plus.
There is a lot of ambiguity in one fine day. It begins with the nature of the animals themselves. They can appear as either a literal cat, dog, and mouse or as human children with the ears of the respective animal. Sirial never explains if their human manifestations are real or simply a story device. You can argue that they appear in human form when Sirial is giving us insight into how they feel and think about a certain circumstance. However, they have the abilities to write, draw, and use household utensils as if they have real hands. It reminds me of the unexplained nature of the tiger, Hobbes, in Calvin and Hobbes. I’m glad that Sirial, like Watterson, doesn’t try to explain this feature of the series, since it would take away from its charm.
Next is the question of No-ah’s apprenticeship. They talk about him studying to be a magician, but they never discuss the kind of magic he is studying. He tries using magic recipes but unfortunately fails. So is No-ah trying to master potions and other magic foods? We know that he works at a bakery; is that part of his training? We are also told that No-ah is struggling with his apprenticeship, but we are never told why or what the problem is. It’s frustrating because it’s mentioned with enough frequency that we want to know more than we’re ever told.
Even the character designs are a bit ambiguous. I honestly thought the cat and the dog were female until the character introduction page made it clear they were males. I also would have thought No-ah was a woman if it wasn’t for the masculine name. I don’t mind the androgynous designs. The large eyes and soft features are perfect for expressing emotions.
Sirial has crafted some wonderful characters. I like that the animals are slightly unpredictable and at times mischievous; it makes them seem more realistic. They come across as good-natured children whose sense of play gets the better of them at times. I like that the cat is always one of the instigators, but the dog and the mouse seem to take turns getting in trouble. It’s also funny to watch them gang up on No-ah when they think he is being mean. The group dynamics are pure joy.
The artwork is sparse, and Sirial uses lots of negative space. This helps to emphasize that the focus is on the characters; where they are and what’s around them is incidental. Although Sirial is Korean, you can tell the art is heavily influenced by Japanese shojo character designs. Sirial makes wonderful use of the large eyes to evoke emotions. Sadness and joy radiate from the page more powerfully when the feeling comes from the character’s eyes. There is one area of confusion created by Sirial’s art: No-ah’s hair. I don’t have a clue as to what hairstyle Sirial is attempting to depict. I’ve never seen anything like it, and it leaves me utterly stumped each time I think about it.
one fine day in some respects reminds me of Ziggy. There is the same gentle, uplifting humor. Also, both artists use lots of negative space, although one fine day is more sophisticated in its presentation and storytelling. Sirial has created a series that is comfort food for the mind. It’s light, airy, and makes you feel good after reading it. Like Ziggy, this kind of unbridled positiveness isn’t for everyone. A read through the first 20 pages will let you know if one fine day works for you or not. If it does, it’s like the smile of a close friend. It instantly brightens your mood and makes the day better.