By Kanta Ishida / Yomiuri Shimbun Senior SpecialistThe manga this week
Kyo no Jinsei (Today’s life)
By Miri Masuda (Mishimasha)
I must confess I picked Miri Masuda’s recent manga for this week’s column because it seemed like an easy read. However, my impression turned out to be completely wrong. Although the manga is a depiction of the author’s daily life drawn in an extremely simple — at times almost sloppy — style, each episode somehow struck me as profound.
In one, the author gets into a big fight with her father while visiting her parents’ home. After leaving their place, she doesn’t want to return to her own house straightaway, so she stays overnight at a hotel. Viewing the night sky from the window, she suddenly acknowledges that her parents won’t be around forever, and feels very sad.
Another day, she overhears a conversation between female office workers on a train. When one of them says, “I want to work hard and make lots of money,” the author suddenly becomes uneasy. On another day, during a casual chat with an old acquaintance, she gradually remembers she never actually liked the person.
Twice in the work, she writes the phrase, “Ahh, I’m so tired.” Although other more heartwarming episodes appear in the book, these somewhat unsettling vignettes are more likely to leave an impression.
The mangaka declares in one episode, “I am going to sublimate every single troubling thing in my life into my manga.” Around the end of the book, the author reveals that her father, with whom she had the big fight in the beginning, has passed away. “Crying and mourning, I think to myself, someday, I will surely describe this day.”
While I was taken aback by the unexpected seriousness of the author, my wife, who translates my Japanese articles into English for this column, had a completely different impression. She says she laughed out loud.
Hmmm … why are we so different? Seeking the answer, I decided to read the author’s popular “Su-chan” series as well. It describes the humble, quiet life of Su-chan, a single woman in her 30s working as a waitress at a cafe. I felt she was full of unease about her future, as if being suffocated with cotton lint. Indeed, this series weighed on me as well. Compared to the Su-chan series, however, “Kyo no Jinsei” captures the strength of a woman who has learned to take life as it is. Before realizing it, I had read eight books by Masuda. And I still don’t agree with my wife’s impression.
The startling beauty of the book’s binding is worthy of special mention. The pages in the manga come in four different colors, and the manga panels are arranged in a unique, varied way. The book’s publisher, Mishimasha, is attracting the attention of the publishing world with ambitious projects that are likely too difficult for large companies to attempt. I will continue to support the fledging company’s painstaking work.