Thursday, August 30, 2012

Review Saibara-Dake, vol. 7

(All rights belong to their owners. Images used here for review purposes only.)

Reiko Saibara is highly visible in Japan.  Manga like her Mainichi Kaasan (Everyday Mother) has been animated, and a live action movie based on her life was released in 2011.  She's been on the cover of The Big Issue twice - once in 2007 and again at the beginning of this year.  However, her manga will probably never catch on in the west.

This volume is entitled Saibara Dake, or Saibara Mushroom.  Published in 2007, it's a 300-page collection of material that showed up in several different publications.  The manga is broken up into 3 different kinds of sections.  First, there's the yon-koma (4-panel gags).  These go on for 20-30 pages.  Then there's the autobiographical stuff, where the manga is interspersed with live photos.  Finally, we get the longer story-driven manga that may be autobiographical, but there's no photos.  Saibara is known for her brutal honesty, whether it be talking about her deceased husband's problems (he was a battlefield photographer, alcoholic and a drug user; he died from cancer) or her own adventures gambling, drinking and traveling in India, Egypt or Thailand. 

Examples of the yon-koma.  And this is why she'll never catch on in the U.S.  Reiko has a very primitive, crude drawing style, and her word balloons are handwritten and filled to bursting.  This is hard to read even for native Japanese.

The photo-based stories.

One of the longer stories, where Reiko goes out for a night of drinking, gambling and karaoke.

I'll be honest.  I can't read most of this because of the handwriting, and the heavy dialects.  Fortunately, there's enough sight gags to keep my interest when I'm flipping the pages.

I can't really recommend Saibara to western readers.  However, I'm including this short review here to help demonstrate that not all popular manga in Japan looks like Bleach, One Piece or Naruto.  Worth checking out, if you're a student of manga studies.

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