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Monthly Archives: March 2014


These are the comics that I most obsess about these days, these are the comics that keep me awake at night:
Oyasumi Punpun by Inio Asano
Nijigahara Holograph by Inio Asano
Children of the Sea by Daisuke Igarashi
Witches by Daisuke Igarashi
Abara by Tsutomu Nihei
Blame! by Tsutomu Nihei
Akira by Katsuhiro Otomo
Emmanuelle by Guido Crepax
Anita Live by Guido Crepax
Dracula… by Alberto Breccia
Blade of the Immortal by Hiroaki Samura
Pretty Deadly by Emma Rios, Kelly Sue Deconnick, Jordie Bellaire, Clayton Cowles

These are the movies:
Possession(1981)
Blade Runner
Alien
California Split
Numero Deux
The Counselor
Cries and Whispers
Marketa Lazarova
The Mirror
Dune

TV:
Person of Interest
Review

I like lots of other things. These are just the things I obsess about currently.

 This review would be more interesting and I would give it more value if it were about Nymphomaniac and not presuppositions on Lars Von Trier(I would also give it more time if it were written in a more entertaining manner).  I fail to see how one can conclude anything about any other human being through such a limited and manipulated prism as a singular film.  And what’s more, there are so many elements in a film that are out of the control of the director.  Do you believe Von Trier has some kind of mind control over Gainsbourg and she is merely a puppet on his hand?  She is giving a performance.  She is interpreting, not merely translating.  The same with everyone in the cast and crew.  The notion that a director or writer is the singular vision is completely flawed.

So I dismiss your premise that by examining Nymphomaniac we can know things about Von Trier, which allow us to make judgements on what he thinks about this or that.

Instead, focus on the film itself and what it has to say.  Much of the things you accuse Von Trier of thinking, can also be described as things that the film is saying about us as an audience.  Or western culture as a whole.  We must accept that a film is a film, and look at it as a film.  Not as the avatar of a therapy session, for which you are ill informed, and most likely poorly qualified.


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I see this kind of thing often in criticism, as if simply talking about a piece of art is too boring for you, so you have to transform from critic to arm-chair therapist.  It is a hack move because what it is principled on is that in order to make this writing noticeable, you need to elevate someone behind the work into the form of a celebrity, and then go TMZ gossip on their motives and mindstate.

Insight is traded off for a position that will get the most webhits. 

This kind of thing has lowered the discourse.  The auteur theory allows us to see some things, but as a predominant critical movement of the general populace it is wildly destructive to our ability to perceive art fully.
True Detective was a great example of this.  A show that was powered by beautiful visuals and clever visual references, mixed with powerful performances by it’s two male leads.  But so great is our desire to have this art king that somehow the weakest component of the whole show, the writer, became the emblem of the show.  His voice overrode all others, and his take and his words were all people discussed.  People lacked the ability to discuss the visual metaphors and performance choices that made up the work as a whole–and instead devolved the work into it’s basic plot and theme elements.  This is a limiting way to see things.

This is all another example of why you cannot replace the art with the artist.  You can learn things in examining an artist, but it is a mistake to think that art has a one to one relationship with it’s artist.  Even if an artist were to try, art is not the artist.  It is the relationship of an audience to a wider experience that sits between them and the artist.  It is a separate thing.

It is like when you are in love, love is a separate thing from the person you love.  The person may change.  You may end up hating them.  But that love is still an experience that happened.  It exists separate from the evolving things of identity and person.  It lingers on.  And you as a person are defined going forward by your relationship to that love.  It is an experience that makes up your life.  Just like seeing a favorite piece of art, or a despised piece of art.

 

An interview I did with Alison Sampson is up on CA today
Alison Sampson Nathan Edmondson Genesis
Since it’s the first interview I’ve ever run, I thought I’d talk about the experience.  Many interviews I read, particularly those with artists,  I find fairly empty, and they’re mostly sort of biographical PR in nature, and beyond influences, they rarely really get into what it is the artist is actually doing on the page, what is the thought process behind different choices–or just conveying a strong sense of point of view in terms of the artist.  With writers this is slightly less of a problem, because for the most part, writers, no matter what they’re being asked, say what they want to say.  But with artists, sometimes not so much.  Art is harder to put into words.  I don’t know.  Neither of those things are probably anything like partially accurate. 

My point is, that a lot of artists interviews, even with artists I am really really interested in, I find pretty boring, and I usually don’t leave with that strong of a sense of things.

Beyond that, obviously one of my big focuses critically is hewing as close to the bone of the actual work as possible.  On some level, I’m not ever overly interested in the artist as final word on a work.  But I am interested in exploring work with them, and sort of trying to understand how they see things.  Mostly for my own purposes to see if anything resonates back in terms of how I do my art, and if I can evolve my own thing.  So maybe my interview style is inherently sort of isolated, or isolating? 

I think one of the interesting things of going through work with an artist—and I don’t think it per se has to be the artist’s own work, is that it is another kind of criticism, another way to find different points of view on a work.  I don’t think for instance that Alison’s take on her own work is any more authoritative than mine or anyone else’s, even though she created it.  But because she created it, it is a different take on the work, and maybe it makes you see the work differently or try different ways of approaching the work, and then evolving your own way of seeing the art?  It is just an aspect of the discussion.  And I dig that.

I also really tried to limit the geography in play for the interview.  Perhaps not entirely successfully, but I’m really interested in zooming further and further into a work, to the infinitesimal.  The micro is the macro after all.

I’d actually like to try some more interviews on my website particularly with colorists, I just have to get over my nerves and laziness.  I was comfortable interviewing Alison because I felt like I had a really strong handle on her work.  But there are other people I don’t have a full grasp on, so I’d have to research more to figure out where to focus.  Maybe not though.  I dunno.  We’ll see.    I feel fairly confident that anyone I would want to interview, I could get, even if it’s just for my website.  It might be a good way to sort of fill in the gaps between the intermittent critical writing I do.

Once they started cutting holes in the walls of buildings to get at Banksy art, you should’ve known something was wrong with this viewpoint.  Yeah that’s right.  Should have.

There was an interesting discussion today on twitter that I mostly caught the Ales Kot end of, where he was talking about how critics that are ending their criticism with buy this or buy that are devolving their viewpoint to become advertisements.  There was some kind of snap back on that, because well…the dominant mode of criticism in every medium right now IS to talk about art as product.  You review art, like you review refrigerators.  If something is good, people need to “vote with their dollars”.  If something is bad, or someone does something bad, their art needs to be boycotted.  Our dialog with art has become poisoned by our inability to see things outside of the capitalist framework our lives have become dominated by.  We speak like ads because everything in our life is an ad.  And people say this is the only way.  This is how artists justify becoming hired hands for the corporate art that inundates our lives.  This is how audience’s justify talking more about the box office returns than the cinematography.  We talk about things in terms of how they are hyped.  How they are promoted.  Are they over promoted, are they under promoted.  Are they rated, overrated, underrated.  We see art as a series of ratings 1 to 10 thumb stars.

And my thing is that what is the logical endpoint of this line of thought?  That hole in the wall up above is the endpoint.  You want to make art a thing, you want to make it money, then what you are going to end up with are these literal holes in the community.  This line of thinking is self-annihilation.  It takes away our ability to see art, because we can only see money.  And if all we see is our world in terms of money, then we ourselves become measured by money, and then you end up with the wealthy betting on our lives.  People become numbers, they become statistics, what’s 5 dead, what’s six million(godwin all up in here).

But it hasn’t always been this way.

Art existed BEFORE money.  Money is an idea.  Money is not a real thing.  Money is a representation of power within a particular kind of social arrangement, which you can exchange for goods and services in place of say, bartering or sharing those resources.  Economics is a way of seeing, it is not all-time.

And here’s where we get into it, because what people say is that art is a product and you buy it.  But what I say is that that insidious viewpoint is the improper, unhealthy, encroachment of an economic viewpoint  That seeks to subvert the power of art to shape and change our communities, by bringing it under the almighty power of money.  The moment they got you talking about how many basquiats you can hang on your wall, is the minute you’re not talking about what is in those basquiat paintings.  What’s being said.

Money is not a real thing.  I said that.  I say it again.  Money is an idea.  That paper in your wallet is the antiquated representation of a system that fluctuates wildly beyond your control and awareness.  You think prices go up or prices go down?  No the value of your money is going up or down.  And by value I mean the idea of your money.  How much worth your money has is totally dependent upon faith in your government.  Money is church.  Money is religion.  And I’m not even saying money is bad.  The society we live in, you need money to get by.  But what I’m saying is that you need to realize, money is not real.  And you can define it’s boundaries.

Art is not product.  Art is not for sale no matter how much you buy it for.  When you buy a comic book, for antiquated sake, let’s say you don’t buy a digital comic, but an actual comic on real legit paper.  You owning those pages–that doesn’t mean you own art.  You can’t own art.  You can have every square inch of your house wall papered with Klimts, and all that is is wallpaper.

Art is a relationship between you and an experience beyond yourself that has been created by the third party which is sometimes called the artist.  When you buy a piece of art, the relationship of money isn’t to that art you have bought, it is to the person to whom the money is going to.  Art is not something you buy.  Art can be seen for free, it can be seen for more money than you’ll ever see in your entire life–but it is not something you buy.  Art is a relationship like love.  It describes an induced state of mind.

This state of mind which is one of the most amazing and sublime things our wretched stupid thing called humans can do–you telling me you own a piece of art is like me running up into the nearest church telling them I own God because I bought a bible.  It is absurd.  But it is accepted.  It is accepted because corporations and governments have conspired to subvert art by confusing you.  Confusing the experience.  In the same way that the pastor passes around that collection plate, and what you tithe is somehow something to do with the divine and not just you putting coin from one man’s pocket to another.

We’ve confused our relationship to money, and that money’s relationship to the artist, as a relationship to art.

And here’s my thing, you can do what you want.  This is just my viewpoint on the thing.  Both as a critic and as an artist.  But understand that the way you’re doing it is a choice.  It is not an ineffable truth that art should be viewed in terms of money.  That is an imposed truth, and it is a rubric you as a critic or audience member decide to use.  And in a world with a greater disparity between the wealthiest among us and the poorest of us, consider the endpoint of what you’re pushing.  If you write an amazing piece of criticism of a piece of art, and in the end you don’t call for people to act as consumers to the work you’ve talked about–I mean–do you think people who value what you have to say are for some reason not also going to be interested in buying the work?  The notion that if you don’t tell people to buy the work you’re talking about, that it won’t get bought, is a false imposed notion.  And this whole long stupid screed I’ve written here, that bless you if you made it through the thing, is my most likely futile attempts to rail against that notion and point out that we don’t have to be like this.  We don’t have to cut holes in our community.  It doesn’t have to be like this.

These are the two things I’m talking about:
1. Saying that when an artist makes corporate art so they can put a roof over their head, that excuses weak art, or the stifling of greater creativity because of an unhealthy corporate system.

2. That the only way we can talk about things is in terms of whether the reader should buy it or not.

3. That art is successful if it sells.

I want to find the code of words and art that breaks down the system that those are a part of.

I know the way I wrote this comes off like I’m trying to tell people what to do, but it’s really just the way I write.  I say ideas out loud to think about them too.  I like discussion.  I change ideas on things all of the time.  That I write like this is mostly the result of listening to too much hiphop in my formative writing years.

My soundtrack to this whole thing was “Gotta Have It” off Watch the Throne. So maybe you play that that’s what this sounded like coming out of my head.

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Nijigahara Holograph is a comic book by Inio Asano published for the first time in English by Fantagraphics.  It is currently available for pre-order and will be available soon at whereever fine comic books are sold. This is second of a three part series on the book.  The preceding section covered the role of memory.  The last section will focus on beauty and the characters of Arie Kimura, and Maki Arakawa.

One of the things that I have always found interesting with Inio Asano’s work is how Asano depicts emotion through physicality. His works are so tied up in their emotions that it ends up permeating into how characters stand, how they move, and how they physically interact with one another.  From the muted depression of the sex in Girl By the Sea, to the pulled back violence of Nijigahara Holograph, Asano’s work is constant in communicating its emotional themes.  And I mean, this kind of thing has been part and parcel of successful comics going back to Eisner and beyond.  Body language, and how you depict movement in unmoving frames is a huge device both in terms of characterization, and in thematic mood.

I wanted to focus on these things specifically in the violence of Nijigahara Holograph, and maybe sometime later in the year I’d like to write about the sex of Girl by the Sea or the molestation in Oyasumi Punpun.  But for now, it’s enough to focus on the violence of Nijigahara.

Violence is an important theme in Nijigahara, because one of the core aspects of the book is the constant repression by the community of prophecy, and the violent feeding of the monster who lives beneath that said community, in the tunnel at the Nijigahara embankment.  Nijigahara Holograph is a world where emotion is something that is expressed without the expectation of being heard.  Which is to say, it is emotion that can never find release.  Nijigahara is a kind of purgatory time loop of horrors visited continually from one generation to the next.  Many of the principal actors of these horrors appear over and over through time.  The concrete block.  The unbuckled belt.  The cast aside umbrella.  The pocket knife.  In some ways, it’s a very morbid joke by Asano to create this hellish game of clue where every room is a crime scene, but there is no investigation.

Violence in Nijigahara Holograph has no difference from screaming, or saying something brutal to emotionally harm someone.  The physical and the psychic have no barrier both in terms of what goes in and what comes out–and what is more, neither is given more importance over the other, which gives both their effectiveness.  To see how this works, I thought I would break down a few pages so you can see how this works, particularly in terms of physical violence because I think there are some lessons in that which have application beyond this particular kind of book.  Even though Asano’s comics aren’t action comics per se, when his characters throw punches it is always with bad intentions.  The brutality of the violence in Asano’s comics is extremely affecting.

112458866.jpgI wanted to start with this segment because it’s one of the more extended sort of fight scenes in the book, and shows really well how Asano creates the brutality of this world.  With Asano the action is typically shown in either long or medium shot.  He chooses similar distance when characters are saying hateful things to one another.  It is effective in both instances because of how often Asano uses close-ups for everything else.  The shot is far enough away here that Asano hasn’t even drawn in the faces of the perpetrators of this violence.  This speaks to the dull impersonality of the violence in Nijigahara Holograph.  The violence in Nijigahara Holograph is rarely personal, because it all stems from an inability to express the horror of the world they’ve been cast into and feel unable to escape from.  Which on the other hand is where a lot of violence happens anyways.  It comes from a lack of options in terms of expressing one’s own internal horror.  Notice in this scene Khota’s friend says “He just wants to hit someone”.  There’s a loading up here when the knife is introduced.  As I mentioned, the knife actually pops up all over Nijigahara Holograph.  Not only does it pop up in scenes like this where it’s utility to try and cut another person, it also shows up with Amahiko Suzuki’s step mother, who is always shown with her back to Amahiko saying something about how she hates him, while cutting carrots.  Which again speaks to how Asano has mirrored violent action to psychic action.

Anyways, once the knife is introduced on this page, there’s a tension in the next two panels of a new level of danger–no longer is this simply kids playing at violence, this is about inflicting long term pain and agony.  The stakes have been revealed, and those two panels create a buffer to this:
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Those two panels allowed this medium shot top panel to hit harder–and what’s more the barriers between friend and enemy have been completely broken down now, because no longer is Khota beating up on Takahama who he has always bullied, but he has turned on his partner in crime Hayato.  This is narratively important too because Hayato actually was part of the group of kids who pushed Arie down the well which put her in a coma, so in a way Khota is now directly acting against those responsible for his misery–even though he is himself unaware of this.  And what’s more is that the scar he gives Hayato will follow Hayato into adulthood as a reminder of his own burden.  We see the loading up device again here as Hayato grabs the concrete block(which re-occurs several times, like the knife–it may even be the same exact concrete block–it might as well.)  This is the musicality of action, it’s something I’ve talked about in terms of Hiroaki Samura and the silent loudness of his action scenes in Blade of the Immortal.  But this type of technique is firmly entrenched in Japanese comics and fighting video games.  The notion that one action precedes another more violent action–this escalation is integral to making the punches have weight.

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The sound effect is almost unneeded.  And again we’re back at a long shot.  Which gives the hit a kind of lonely isolation.  There’s also some really nice things in the composition with Hayato and Khota forming the top part of a triangle, but also how the left to right counter clockwise spin of the action, bends you back to the kid trying to push himself through that wall and disappear from the trauma.  With Asano trauma radiates out like a grenade embedding it’s shrapnel in all who happen to be near it.

This sequence shows these similar compositional elements:
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Again here we have the long shot, and we also have the triangular composition.  We also start with a low angle which makes the hit seem more elevated.  The best thing about that panel though is the spiraling top of the broom and how Takahama is watching the broom head from behind his mother, and Amahiko’s teacher, Ms. Sakaki is also following the arc of the broom handle.  Their aversion from the actual violence adds to its impact, because it makes the reader want to look away as well.  We again have the child witness to the trauma in the right of the panel, the girl Arakawa Maki.  It actually wasn’t until I started writing about this that I even noticed that that was Maki.  If you read Nijigahara Holograph and JUST pay attention to Arakawa Maki in the book, it is quite an experience.  She absolutely haunts Nijigahara Holograph. Also interesting because Maki in Oyasumi Punpun, who is drawn in a similar way, also haunts that book, even though neither book is directly focused on either character. Arakawa Maki is arguably the most important character in Nijigahara Holograph though.  Her and Arie Kimura are the books two most singular influences.

Anyways, we get that lovely second panel of the broom handle hovering in mid air, which underscores its attention in the first panel.  Asano is underlining the impact, by the time you see blood coming down Narumi’s face in the bottom row you can see how this entire page has been constructed to underscore both the brutality of this page–but also it’s trauma.  The page operates as a reflection.  This is one of the events that happens in these people’s life which will choose the direction their life heads in.  Which is of course one of the central themes of Nijigahara Holograph.  That the horrors we are exposed to or create as children are perhaps unfairly navigatory in the horrible lives we end up living.  The fragility of children in a horrible world, and how it predisposes them to perpetuate an eternal hell from which there is no salvation.  Wire Seaon 4, ya.

Nijigahara Holograph is a comic book by Inio Asano published for the first time in English by Fantagraphics.  It is currently available for pre-order and will be available soon at whereever fine comic books are sold. This is part of a three part series on the book.  The other two parts will deal with Beauty and Violence respectively. 

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The above is an image from Inio Asano’s Nijigahara Holograph.  This image explains the core motif on which Asano’s human hellscape nails itself.  The story as it is explained above is that a beautiful girl is sent to a village by god, to prophesize on the doom that a monster living there will bring, but the people rather than addressing the monster, are so scared of the beautiful girl that they cut off her head and feed her to the monster, who as the cycle repeats grow larger and larger.  Feeding upon the repressed fear and unaddressed traumas of the village people.  In Nijigahara Holograph the girl represents the horrific divine beauty that the community can not process.  She instantly drives anyone who sees her face to madness.  Not because she is beautiful.  But because she represents beauty in its perfection.  It’s terrible perfection, which represents an outside world and a God who would put a monster under a village in the first place, and damn the villagers to a life away from beauty and within monsters.

Life in Nijigahara Holograph is depicted through the management of trauma and memory.  Adults become adults by what precious things they are stripped of as children, and how well they function as adults is down to just how well they can deny those memories.

Everyone in Nijigahara assumes that everyone else just forgets, and so they should as well.  But in actuality, no one in Nijigahara forgets, but because they never are able to exorcise the monster that is their separate memories they are forced through an unending cycle of hell and abuse.  A good example of this is when Kyoko Sakaki, the ex-teacher takes her husband that she is divorcing to an embankment where she foiled a rape of one of her students at the cost of her own eye.  She stands with her husband right there in the place of the most terrible event of her life.

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She is talking about how she can never forget this horrible moment that has happened to her, and Asano has put literal distance between her and her family, to show how her inability to reconcile this horror has cost her her ability to function within her family.  She explains to her husband that his ability to go on through life ignoring these memories(this monster), is why she resents him.

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In Nijigahara, emotions are expressed with no expectation of them either being heard or mattering.  Even though she has expressed the truly dark depths to which these memories have caused her pain, and caused her to hate her family, neither her nor her husband move.  In fact, Asano repeats the same panel frozen four times.  The only thing moving is Maki on a Vespa zooming past in the background uncaring or noticing, and Sakaki and her husband’s child who is being ignored by both parents.  This is a devastating page particularly when coupled with it’s follow-up page:

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Do you see that?  The bruises on the child’s arm?  The abuse and neglect visited upon the child because of the trauma of memories that have warped their parents and broken them.  In this page is the cycles of memory, trauma, and abuse, which inform the lives of every character in Nijigahara Holograph.  This is the monster in the tunnel–which if you had any doubts about that, the panel right before the child’s bruised arm is the dark brooding tunnel that we’ve been told holds a monster that will one day destroy the world.

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The origin of Nijigahara as given with the book is that it is the plane of the rainbow.  A rainbow, which is this happy prism of light that in some faiths is meant to be a promise of God’s grace.  But there is a darker origin behind that, which is that Nijigahara also means: Plain of the Two Children.  It got that name because sometimes a Kudan(cow with a human face) would appear to prophesied doom, and the people would kill the Kudan and send it down the river.  And the Nijigahara Embankment is where, after doing that two Kudan children would always appear.  The symbolism at play here isn’t hard to deconstruct.  That the shiny happy holograph of the rainbow is the disguise for a world where girls disappear, and the brutality and horror of one generation is magnified upon the preceding generation.

Characters like Amahiko and Sakaki live in hell because they are aware of this copy world, this horrible timeline, but are unable to bring about it’s end.  They are constantly as in a nightmare that they can’t wake up from.

The magic of Nijigahara Holograph is how understated and subtle the depths of all of this is conveyed.  Asano both through his panel construction and how he structures narrative focus, masterfully crafts a spiraling never ending hell where one layer merely lays atop another more horrible one.  There are characters like Makato and Khota who are so warped by the burden of the hell that they live in, that they seem to become insane monsters with no conscience.  But you would be wrong to think they are the monsters living in the tunnel.  The sinister oppositional force in Nijigahara is well hidden, and not really the emphasis of the book as a whole.  But the monster’s identity and reveal is another example of the understated qualities of this unfettered howl of a book.

You don’t need to play count the Evangelion quotes and references to understand the apocalyptic beauty that scars the pages of this book and testifies to Asano’s brilliance as an artist..

This is the best comic book that will come out this year in comics, and even if you have read it before in scanlation, it is a book that gets richer with every time it’s experienced.  I usually don’t say that kind of thing, because it feels like I’m selling something, and I’m not interested in what you do as a consumer.  So I’m not saying this in a “go buy this” kind of way.  I’m saying it in a, I can’t help myself from saying it as a qualitative statement about the experience of reading this book.

One of the things I often try to do when I write critically is to divorce the work from my own personal biography or feelings, and try to write about the art as close to the art itself as I possibly can.  I do this because I want to sort of wear the skin of the art, and allow it’s attributes to express themselves through me, and in doing so, hopefully find things in the work and myself that I wouldn’t have been able to see otherwise.  Which that last sentence sort of disavows the stated goals of the first–but it is accurate to say that I hold both thoughts concurrently.  And that while I realize it impossible to ever divorce anything I say, or see from myself, what I’m really talking about is the relationship that I have to the work, and allowing the work it’s own space so that more can be revealed.  And when I talk about revelation in art, I’m really talking about revelation of self, because the things I see in art are the things I am seeing in myself–so a lot of this approach is simply allowing for whatever sense of self that exists within the art, to be called forth and to be interrogated.  

I’m writing this in front of planned writing on Inio Asano’s Nijigahara Holograph book, published by Fantagraphics.  I’m doing it because Inio Asano’s work, particularly this book and to some extent Oyasumi Punpun are deeply personal works for me, and it is perhaps much more difficult for me to set aside what I’m bringing to those works, than in other experiences.

The first time I read Nijigahara Holograph was maybe 2007ish.  It was in the blur of time when I was moving back and forth from Rhode Island the first time.  It was around when Obama was starting to run for president.  I had tried to kill myself twice in the spring/summer of I think 2008.  2008 was also when I started making my first comic Ophelia, which was my collage comic made out of cut up images of Gemma Ward,Jodorowsky’s Holy Mountain, and iconography from the various tarot card readings I was doing each week to write the story.

I say this to say that the first time I read Nijigahara Holograph was during a really transformatory time.  I kind of read all of Inio Asano’s work except Punpun and Girl by the Sea during that time period, and the sense he created of lost broken adults with no future was extremely palpable to me.  Economically I was below the poverty line(I still am) and I had been let go from a job I was doing really well at simply because another company had bought them.  So a lot of these messages resonated powerfully with me.

Most of Asano’s best work deals with the ways in which childhood trauma and untreated mental illness warp and destroy their way into these broken malfunctioning adults who then rehash those same traumas back into the world creating a new cycle for the next generation–over and over and over.

 

His work, particularly Nijigahara Holograph, depicts a kind of silent howl into an uncaring void.  And if you’ve been in that space ever, you can see that familiar weight the kids walk around school with.

Coming up as a kid torn between two abusive religious families as a kid with body horror/gender issues I can see myself in the way Amahiko or Punpun stand or sleep.  I used to throw tantrums when I was a really little kid about various toys I wanted, but the two tantrums I remember most, one was when my mom got married to my step-dad, and the other was this time when my dad was picking me up from my mom’s at a dog show, and ha, I’ll never forget that instead of just putting up with me, my dad just dumped me back off on my mom.  I was maybe 4 years old, maybe 3.  Really young.  I learned early on that my emotions wouldn’t find their expression in family.  And when you couple that with my transgender stuff and how that mixed with the uber-religious nature of my surroundings, and the crushing guilt of that, and not being able to find an outlet for any of that–I dove into art.  In books, music, and movies I at least had a way to engage myself and try and find my own answers.  The pressure of religion also drove me really early through existential works, and so I went through that whole period of questioning god, heaven, hell, and existence, on my own in my room, ages 8-10.  I read philosophical works I had no way of understanding just to try to find the magical combination of words that would make me feel less shitty and less worthless.  I remember as a 8 or 9 year old hiding under my bed with a pocket knife my grandpa had given me, for a whole afternoon, thinking about cutting myself with it, and what would happen if I did.

So by the time I hit my teens I was so numb and fucked up in the head, that high school was like…something that happened to someone else.  It was around this time that I ran into Neon Genesis Evangelion.  Eva combined all of my issues of depression, suicide, parental issues, and religious issues into one crazy mecha punch soup.  And it wrecked me.  Probably Eva and reading Cormac McCarthy’s Blood Meridian were the two most devastating things I did as a teen.

This matters, because one of the things Nijigahara Holograph IS, is Evangelion sans mechs.   So when there are all of these references to Eva in Holograph, besides already hitting up my mental health issues, it’s also connecting to a serious moment in my childhood.

Evangelion was one of these works that I experienced and it just made me hungrier for art, I wanted to find the thing that made me experience that rush and connection again, or hopefully in an even more severe way.  From 17-22 this was mostly through movies and hiphop and some comics.  So when I read Asano I would have been…25ish I think.  Which I came out at 23 two years after a suicide attempt which put me in a mental health ward.  An attempt which lost me most of my close friends that I had at the time–and being hurt and alone and responsible for only myself, I couldn’t bear to live another second also having to deal with being in the closet about who I was.  One life was hard enough to fuck up.  I wasn’t about that get to 50 with the wife and kids, and be like “guess what?” life.  I’ve never been able to see much of a future for myself, but I think coming out was the first time I ever made an attempt at at least living in the present.  There’s this moment in Nijigahara Holograph where Amahiko has collapsed in the snow and ash of the terrible world around him, and Khota is suddenly in front of him and he says, “And yet you still live”.  That’s those mornings waking up with terrible headaches unable to really move, with your arm more a twisting ribbon of scarring flesh than anything resembling a human appendage, “And yet you still live”.  

What Asano does better than anyone in any other medium is he captures the sensation of surviving horror and dissociation, and having to live in a world surrounded by so many people who are so much better at faking it than you.  Sometimes depression is like caring about everything all at once, which is the same as being hurt by everything all at once–over and over, until you learn not to get up anymore.  And while I think Punpun is his opus on the matter- Nijigahara Holograph is his most focused effort on it, his most concise treatise on it.  And like I said, I read it at an impressionable time.  

 

Though with Asano, he’s so good that every time you read his best work it becomes an impressionable time.

So yeah.  All of that is what I’m trying to NOT bring to my critical writing on Nijigahara Holograph.  It’s okay for you to know it’s there.  In fact, I am writing this as part catharsis, and part because I do want to talk about the personal impact of the book in total.  Plus I am very exhibitionist when it comes to the things which hurt or shame me.  I enjoy the humiliation of confessional writing.  If I ever do write an autobiography I’ll frame it as an apology, probably.  Ha.