Jiro Taniguchi (artist
Published by Planet Manga € 12.34
died leaving the hatred I had as a young kid inside me". Youichi
is a man like any
other who works in Tokyo, makes good money, has a wife and a family.
He was born and raised in a rural town called Tottori, and everything
he has gained in life has been a struggle. He left his small town
fourteen years earlier, leaving everything behind: his relatives,
his friends, his sister, his mother and especially his father Take,
who works as a barber. When Youichi finds out about his fathers
death, he realises that the time has come for him to go back home
and cope with the memories of his past.
His journey back home is not just an emotional one, but it is also
a real "physical" journey. Youichi leaves Tokyo for his
hometown, with the aim of being present at his dads funeral.
However, although he doesnt make it on time for the service,
he is able to be present at his wake. During the wake, he sees all
his family and friends that he had left behind. In a type of modern
psychodrama, Youichi reconstructs his fathers life through a
mix of personal memories, stories told by his relatives as well as
in confidence by his stepmother. For the first time ever, he realises
that an insurmountable barrier of pride and misunderstanding had risen
between himself and his father. Youichi remembers all the most important
events of his life, such as his fathers newly opened barbershop,
which looks beautiful and shiny as it is remembered with bright colours.
As a kid, he used to play quietly on that sunny floor, while his father
was working. Its no coincidence that this flashback is the first
one of the story and that it is the only episode in colour (the rest
of the story is in black and white). His father at that time seemed
a quiet and re-assuring person, and his family was like a warm nest.
That apparent peace is destined to be broken.
During his flashbacks, Youichi sees Tottori completely destroyed by
a fire with all its houses burnt down and dead people everywhere.
The event was a devastating one which destroyed entire families and
which also hit Youichis family. While the entire town undergoes
re-construction, Take tries to re-open his business. This is not exactly
easy if not impossible without a lot of bargaining. Take gradually
becomes strange, reserved, proud and Youichi, who doesnt understand
the reasons for his behaviour, begins to despise him.
Summarising shortly Youichis story is a difficult task because
it includes a whole range of events and strong emotions, which can
only be fully comprehended looking at the story as a whole. Take,
who initially seems incredibly peaceful, gradually reveals some unusual
aspects of his character, which even his son doesnt know of.
Youichis relatives, his sister and stepmother give a different
picture of Takes character as they narrate episodes of his life.
Just like when, for some bizarre reason, mirrors can show distorted
images of people, Youichi learns something totally new about his father
when his sister shows him an old photo of him. The photo was taken
by Youichi himself, (photography used to be his favourite hobby) and
shows his dad working at the barbershop. The photo shows an image
of his father reflected in two mirrors.
Chichi No Koyomi has been written and drawn by Jiro Taniguchi, an
artist with great sensitivity and composure. Although Tottori is Taniguchis
hometown, the story is not at all autobiographical with the exception
of the part, which describes the fire. His art is very precise although
not in an exaggerated way as he manages to give life to his characters,
beauty to the landscape and a sense of bitterness throughout the story.
Id like to close by quoting Taniguchi. Quoting the magazine
"Big Comic" s editor Toshiaki Sato, Taniguchi said
that "the moral of Youichis story cannot be expressed in
full unless the reader overcomes the limit of comics as entertainment
art". He also added that "artists should not worry too much
about how popular comics can be, but rather focus on how effectively
they can communicate to readers", a goal well accomplished in