I. Opus [1995/96] by Satoshi Kon – ★★★★
I am a huge admirer of Japanese director Satoshi Kon (1963-2010). In his animations Perfect Blue , Millennium Actress  and Paprika , he created worlds that fuse reality and fantasy, playing with such concepts as memory, identity and perception. Opus is his manga work that was released before his first animated debut, and it also mixes up reality and make-believe to a curious effect. In this story, Chikara Nagai is a manga artist who is creating a manga series titled Resonance. One of his characters is special agent Satoko who has telepathic powers and who is set to bring down the leader of a mysterious cult known only as the Masque, who, in turn, has a goal to “brainwash” the Earth’s population. Nagai draws the ending to his manga instalment, but then realises that one of his characters does not want to submit to his sad fate, as Nagai’s real-life and fantasy worlds collide. This is a tale of a creator who “lives and breathes” his work, and, in consequence, is becoming lost in his own creation (similar to A-ha’s music video Take on Me), but the focus is also the characters, who all start to experience an existential crisis.
Continue reading “Japanese Graphic Novels: Opus, The Strange Tale of Panorama Island, & The Solitary Gourmet” →
The Jungle [1906/2018] – ★★★★★
“The opposite of poverty is not wealth, the opposite of poverty is enough” (Dr. Wess Stafford).
“Sometimes even to live is an act of courage” (Seneca).
This graphic novel is based on a classic novel by Upton Sinclair The Jungle  that tells of a Lithuanian family of immigrants who arrive to Chicago, Illinois in 1899 and find their hopes slowly turning to dust as they all take jobs exploiting them and their desperate need to survive in the foreign country. Jurgis Rudkus is a twenty-one year old man eager to work at any job in America and soon finds himself in a meat-processing factory, working in very unhygienic and even horrifying environment. His fiancée Ona starts working in packaging, while her cousin Marija begins painting cans, and even Jurgis’s elderly father tries to land some job in order not to be dependent on others, among other family members. This family comprising of three generations is soon hit very hard by the “hidden costs” of their American Dream, which becomes very hard to bear, especially when most factories close in winter and the mercilessness of the family’s employers and landlords leads to traumatic experiences. Though I have not yet read the original novel by Sinclair, I found this graphic adaptation deeply moving, offering an uncomfortable, yet valuable insight into Sinclair’s vision and the conditions of blue-collar workers in early twentieth-century Chicago.
Continue reading “Review: The Jungle by Upton Sinclair/Kristina Gehrmann” →
Clyde Fans  – ★★★★1/2
Seth (real name Gregory Gallant) is a Canadian cartoonist whose artistic style is said to remind of The New Yorker cartoons of the 1930s-40s. Inspired by a real business that was once in operation in Toronto, his graphic novel Clyde Fans follows a non-linear plot and two very different brothers (extraverted Abe and introverted Simon), whose father left them his business selling electric fans. The pair responds differently to the changing business environment, social demands and times and, in this story, we trace their lives through the life of a company that came to define them and their family, following them through their hopes and dreams, initial successes, bankruptcies, family tragedies and growing desperation fuelled by years of buried pride and reluctance to welcome the future. This reflective picture novel takes a very close look at nostalgia and asks whether there is something precious being lost every time we decide to walk with the changing times, or ahead of them. From the wisdom of the old age to “commercial” loneliness and misunderstandings faced in one’s youth, the novel asks – what is “success”, and what is “failure” in life? What is the nature of time and what it means to finally come to grips with its passage? How time changes us, or does not? Clyde Fans is a deeply-felt work about human memories, making sense of the past and the anguish of passing years and lost hopes, a tribute to one once-commercially successful and ambitious little world that is no more.
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Daytripper [2010/11] – ★★★★★
Fábio Moon and Gabriel Bá are twin brothers from Brazil who are the creators of Daytripper, an ambitious comic book about Bras de Oliva Domingos, an obituaries’ writer living in Sao Paulo. We follow and experience his life in a non-chronological order and witness everything from Bras’s “unusual” birth, his first kiss, his major break-up, his career change, to the birth of his child and the death of his parent. Bras learns important life-lessons along the way, and it is his relationships with other people that come to define him and his most memorable life moments. Daytripper may be dealing with very uncomfortable issues of life and death, but this beautiful comic book is also eye-opening, inspirational and moving. Gabriel Bá and Fábio Moon invite you to step into their colourful, slightly transcendental world of one’s memorable life moments, into the world of “what ifs”, ups and downs, hopes and despairs. Their message is clear: we have one shot at this thing called life and should prioritise the most important things in it, including the people we cherish and the relationships we hold dear. Daytripper is simply an exhilarating journey to uncover the mysteries of life and death. Continue reading “Review: Daytripper by Fábio Moon and Gabriel Bá” →