Monday, October 13, 2014

Book-A-Day 2014 #284: Sorako by Takayuki Fujimura

When I read stories from other countries, it makes me wonder what stories they see from the US. Do the Japanese think we all love Nicholas Sparks and Hunger Games the way we think they all love One Piece and The Ring? Do any of us ever get a real sense of the breadth of another culture, from across the gulf of language and society and geography?

And then I come across something fresh and honest and true: stories that aren't crafted for a particular demographic, but told because the creator had these stories to tell. I still might not know exactly how that other culture feels from inside, but I realize that they're people, like me and the people I know, and that the details of culture might not matter that much, after all.

Takayuki Fujimura's stories are like that: closely-observed stories of real people living their lives, mostly quiet and all about young women, at that moment in life between high school and "real life." Those stories, about a dozen of them, are collected in Sorako, and they're gems of their kind, reminiscent of Daniel Clowes and Adrian Tomine.

Sorako is the most prominent of those young women; she appears in about half of the stories: looking for a job, searching for her lost dog, hanging out with her friends. The other stories center on similar women in similar situations: getting caught coming out of a love hotel with the wrong guy, wanting to travel to England to study but not knowing any English, finding herself in a marriage and not really knowing why, realizing she never really engages with anything in her life.

Those sound like small things, and I suppose they are. But all lives are made up mostly of small things, and the greatest art is the art that can work from the stuff of regular lives. Fujimura's stories aspire to that level of art, and they do pretty well at it: there are lovely small epiphanies here, and each story is a precise vignette of a life, told with attention to the details of jobs and body language, of cluttered rooms and time of day, of take-out food and small apartments. Stories like these are worth the time to appreciate them, and to sink into them.

Sorako comes from a newer manga publisher called Gen, that declares itself to focus on seinen (manga for young men, so pitched a little older and more serious than shonen) and on doujinshi (self-published works, the equivalent of the US's indy scene). Both of those are things I'd like to see more of over here, so I applaud them, and I'll be keeping an eye out for more of their books.

Book-A-Day 2014 Introduction and Index

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