Tonoharu Part Three
While I can intellectually appreciate the amount of work that goes into such a heavily detailed book, particularly given the artist’s comments on the subject — the style feels woodcut-influenced, with tons of crosshatching — I’m afraid that the third and final volume of Tonoharu didn’t fix the problems I saw in the first book.
In short, I don’t care to spend time with the protagonist, Daniel, who’s teaching English in Japan but bored and lonely most of the time. There are more events in this volume than previously — someone has died, for example — but without remembering much of the books from years ago, none of them have any impact on me, and taken fresh, they’re pretty unbelievable. (There is a story so far page, but like the rest of the book, I had trouble connecting to anything it talks about.)
Although he tries to make some decisions, mostly around wanting to date someone, I didn’t have a good idea of any of his motivations. All of the characters are paper dolls, moved through the motions.
I could draw inspiration, in spite of not liking the central character, from seeing the Japan he’s living in, but the images are so restrained and constrained — every page is based on a four-panel grid — that the detail becomes off-putting. My eyes graze over the images, looking for something to happen or something to catch my gaze, but everything’s similar in value, flat on the page.
I feel terrible, saying such things about something that took so long to make, but hard work is only a virtue if it’s put towards something of value. I found Tonoharu a bore. The exception was the 20-page epilogue at the end, in which Dan’s successor at the job looks back over a year of his experience. He meditates on the nature of communication and talks about trying to make the best of things. It’s such a contrast to the rest of the book, in that this character takes action and copes with change, all in abbreviated, fast-cut storytelling. I liked it best, which is quite the backhanded compliment. (The author provided a review copy.)