If you’re into manga, especially when done by creators who like to experiment, you should check out Seiichi Hayashi’s Red Colored Elegy.
It’s an attempt to fuse the Japanese art form with traditional Western-type comic conventions that was originally printed in the early 1970s and is being republished now by Drawn & Quarterly as part of the Montreal publishing house’s mission to bring forgotten Japanese creators to light.
I was relieved to find the collection of vignettes, featuring a male and female character, reads left to right, in keeping with the comics in North America and Europe. While not as confusing or frustrating as Tadao Tsuge’s Trash Market, the reader soon realizes that the elegy of the title is for the relationship between Ichiro and Sachiko, which is slowly unravelling. Emphasis on slowly.
And we never get to see them when they were happy with each other, so we don’t know why they got together in the first place. The existential emptiness they experience is reflected in wide panels that are mostly white space. The narrative is disjointed — Hayashi was influenced by the jump cuts found in French New Wave Cinema.
Their shared malaise is reflected in dialogue like: Ichiro: You feel achy? I’ll bring you some water. Sachiko: You’re sweet. Ichiro: What I’ll do if you die? Naturally, this exchange occurs in bed, where they seem to spend most of their time. But not making love. It’s like a pit of quicksand that drags them down, draining the couple of energy and ambition.
The natural world outside their window, meanwhile, is depicted as cold and uncaring. I don’t pretend to understand everything that happens in Red Colored Elegy. But what I can say is, this is a graphic novel that will appeal to those who aren’t interested in the same old same old.