Paste review of NonNonBa

“Comic Book & Graphic Novel Round-Up” / Paste Magazine / Hillary Brown / August 8, 2012

As opposed to Flannery O’Connor’s early works, I’m not sure you need any familiarity with Shigeru Mizuki’s oeuvre to enjoy NonNonBa. An autobiographical tale of the Japanese comics artist famed for his stories of yokai (monsters and spirits), it meanders and digresses, but its visual style is interesting and its content equally so. Rather than placing the focus entirely on the grandmotherly figure from whom it gets its title and Shigeru got his fascination with yokai, it wanders off to scenes of his parents’ financial difficulties, his childhood gang of boys and their “wars” against others, his journey to pacifism, and the like. Examined as a whole, this tendency produces a somewhat disjointed narrative, but the unexpected nature of certain paths is also appealing. Shigeru’s visuals, too, are odd, with caricatured, cartoony figures often appearing in front of extremely detailed backgrounds or what appear to be slightly altered photo reproductions. The story ventures into dark places, dealing with death, ruin, hunger, rising nationalism, cruelty, slavery and more, but for all that, it never feels either excessively sunny or depressing, striking the matter-of-fact middle ground that E.B. White made familiar in his children’s literature.
 

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