Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Sekai no Hatedemo Mangakaki

Mari Yamazaki is best known for her manga Thermae Romae, which posits a time tunnel connecting a roman bath with a Japanese sento. A Roman architect looking for new ideas discovers the tunnel and finds himself in modern-day Japan, where he runs into the typical fish-out-of-water situations. However, Yamazaki is also something of a travel writer. Sekai no Hatedemo Mangakaki (Drawing Manga Even from the Ends of the Earth) (2009, Kiss Carnival) is a travelogue of sorts, with vol. 1 focusing primarily on her experiences in Cuba.

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

Sekai no Hatedemo Mangakaki, vol. 1, by Mari Yamazaki, Grade: B+
The story starts out with a middle-aged Mari packing up for another trip. Her husband complains about the disgusting condition of her suitcase, and she defends it saying that she knows no one will try to steal it, and she can easily tell when it's arrived at the baggage carousel when the other passengers back up to avoid touching it. In fact, she hates actually traveling, it's just the idea of travel that she likes. The manga then flashes back to when she was a child watching Kaoru Kanetaka's The World Around Us on TV. Mari fantasized about the places that Kanetaka visited, and wanted to grow up to be like her. At about that time, her mother, a concert violinist, had a performance scheduled in Hong Kong, and both Mari and her younger sister, Maya, were invited along. Reality was much uglier than the fantasy - the air was hot and humid, the streets crowded, bodies lying in the gutter, and taxi drivers following them around speaking an unrecognizable language and demanding they get in the car. One small boy approached Mari and she grabbed his hand thinking he wanted to be friends. Her mother yelled at her because the boy was just begging for money, then her mother discovers that her own watch has been stolen. Returning to the present, Mari repeats that she dislikes actual travel, but still loves the pure idea of it.

The main story revolves around her trip to Cuba. The rain, the heat, the attempts to drink the same cocktails that Hemingway liked, the living in a tiny house with 8 other people. One of the young boys living in the house keeps trying to pull karate moves on her and punching her in the stomach when she's not looking. Of course, when she finally returns to Japan, the mementos the family gives her brings her to tears.


There's a side story drawn in more of Yamazaki's signature shojo style called Splendor, about a female art student. Nothing really great one way or another, just kind of a love story between university students in the same art class.

Summary: Sekai no Hatedemo Mangakaki is something of an autobiographical gag comic detailing Mari Yamazaki's travel experiences, drawn in a simplified art style. The characters are often cute, but still somewhat realistic-looking. There's little in the way of backgrounds, but the people wear highly-detailed patterned clothing. Mainly interesting if you like Yamazaki's other works, or if you plan on visiting Cuba some day.

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