Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Red Snow

by Susumu Katsumata

I found this collection of short pieces done in the gekiga style in the same treasure trove of Drawn & Quarterly remainders in Victoria.  I can never make up my mind about manga - what little I read I usually enjoy, but I never feel like I completely understand it.  Having read Yoshihiro Tatsumi's masterpiece A Drifting Life, I understand the context surrounding these stories, and their place in Japan's history, which is good because the back matter in this book did little to address that.

These are all rural stories, set in places that wouldn't even qualify as villages.  The characters in these stories tend to live in very small communities, bordering on total isolation.  They have a deep connection to their surroundings and its seasons, and the reader picks up a number of details of pre-WWII Japan, such as some of the complexity of sake manufacturing.

Frequently, these stories are about people lusting after or mistreating women, and many of them have magical realist qualities.  A girl falls in love with a chestnut tree, which begins visiting her at night.  Also, there are tons of Kappa around; these are mythical Japanese creatures who live in the water, and resemble turtle-shelled Fraggles.

I enjoyed this book, but found that many of the stories ended in ways that I felt left most of the plots unresolved.  I freely admit that there are any number of cultural connections that I am not making, and think it's a shame that the people at D&Q didn't include some explanatory notes in the back of the book, as was done for A Drifting Life.

1 comment:

Eoin Marron said...

"It's a shame that the people at D&Q didn't include some explanatory notes in the back of the book".

D&Q are absolutely terrible when it comes to that. You'd think they'd at least supply a one page bio on the creator, given it's usually the first time their work's been published abroad.

Have you read Yoshihito Tatsumi's short story collections by the way? They tend to have ambigious unresolved endings as well, but are well worth the look if you enjoyed A Drifting Life.