Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Review: Travel

As mentioned earlier, the Kawasaki Museum is hosting an exhibit spotlighting the manga art of Yuichi Yokoyama. They don't really have much in the way of exhibit books, instead the bookstore was selling Yuichi's manga - Travel, Niwa and New Engineering. I decided to pick up Travel.

Travel, by Yuichi Yokoyama, 2006, East Press, 1141 yen pre-tax ($12 USD), 200 pages. Yuichi is a trained artist who uses manga as a medium like other people use clay or canvas and oil paints. He's not as much interested in creating a commercial product as he is in experimenting with time, perspective and pacing to present an experience to the audience. He'd have been a perfect match for Garo magazine. As it is, his works have appeared in Comic Cue by East Press.

Travel has a simple narrative: Three men get on a train, look at the people around them, stare at the scenery and then get off at the end. There's no dialog or narration, and it's up to us to interpret the purpose of their travel. Actions are exaggerated and even the simplest movements are turned into earth-shattering events. Perspective is distorted, and the camera zooms from close-ups to distant zooms and back every few panels. POV shifts from within the train from the three protagonists to whoever is standing outside watching the train pass by, to center on the three drivers controlling the train and back. Characters are bizarre and mundane at the same time, and it's the "normal" that fails to fit in with the crowd.

Yuichi uses the same characters in each of his books, and we can actually see the fashion decisions made by some of them in Niwa and New Engineering (such as the characters that take parts from an airplane to turn them into hats and literal "nose cones". However, these characters merely make appearances in Travel, with no commentary on why they look the way they do.

Travel is an easy read, but the idea is that you go back and reexamine the drawings multiple times. Also, Yuichi has been carried by museums in New York and London, where you could see many of his pages laid out ala paintings. If you get the chance to see him in a gallery, I'd recommend checking him out.

Summary: Manga as Art. If you like the surreal, you'll like Travel. Recommended to fans of Axe and Garo.

(The smoking sequence.)

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