Nostalgia e realismo magico nelle storie brevi di Mississippi
Nostalgia and magic realism in Mississippi’s short stories
What is immediately strinking in Mississippi‘s manga Tsukiko and the satellite and other stories, published by the small and independent american publisher Glacier Bay Books, is the pace of narration.
In every short story of the anthology, Mississipi alternates pages with few static panels with splash pages, but these splash pages do not create a major break in the rhythm of the narration. Instead, they reinforce what the author wants to communicate, often indicating the inherent normality of a specific situation. The thin lines, that tend to synthesis and semplification, support the calibrated storytelling and the calm and subdued manner in which the characters are made to act symbolizes a way of living in balance between normality and anormality, routine and fantasy.
I chose to highlight two graphic and conceptual features of the manga that in my opinion are very interesting in how they were inserted and treated: the theme of nostalgia and the rielaboration of magic realism.
Nostalgia is always introduced by a technique as immediate as it is complex: the use of the pencil. Using the pencil to draw specific pages or elements, in contrast of the overall digitally drawings, conveys nostalgic sensations and emotions, both due to situations connected to the past and to those related to a somewhat fairy-tale dimension. For example, in Audrey Hepburn 2049, when the protagonist is watching Roman Holiday (1953) Mississippi represents the scene entirely in pencil with a plongée shot. In next page he shows only the movie in pencil while characters and shadows are made digitally, stressing the nostalgic mark of the event. In Supermoon, the protagonist met a bear, a seemingly fantastical animal being that can appear and disappear at will: it is drawn in pencil and it has soft shapes. In this way it recall a fable-like immaginary and aestethics. Furthermore Supermoon remembered me Kawakami Hiromi‘s beautiful debut short story Kamisama (unfortunately not yet translated in italian and translated only partially in english), where the protagonist meets a bear-like divinity in a setting on the edge between magic realism and surrealism. In Tsukiko and the satellite the most important moment of the story is drawn in pencil and it concerns specifically the past of the female protagonist. This makes light again on how the production methods of the drawings and the conveyed emotion are linked together, marking a great particular artistic value of Mississippi. This is also the case of David and Down the Uji River, which in decisive situations present pencil drawings, always linked to what has been said previously.
The second element, magic realism, is in every short story. They present all the characteristic of the literary genre: the reader faces with fantastic events or beings with a disarming normality and past and future become ordinary, common, almost at hand. Moreover the overlap of fiction and reality, mostly through cinema and memory, is often the heart of every situation. Magic realism is reworked through the filter of childhood-like sensitivity, as if the reader comes by short novels written for children by Marquez, Sepulveda or Murakami. Reality and fantasy, rational and irrational, coexist in our world and people do nothing but observe mysterious events and characters passing through their lives without paying much attention to them. They accept everything with a carefree lightness and with serene detachment, before all of this becomes an obsession, that is the instant in which the magic breaks and it fall back into everyday life: this is perhaps a key to interpreting the entire work of Mississippi. This is also the case of David and Down the Uji River, which incorporate what I wrote above with an uncommon force, always spontaneous and never artificial.
Author and publisher
Mississippi (aka Horiguchi Takashi) is a cartoonist and painter who lives and works in Kyoto. He exhibited in several galleries, both in Europe and Japan, and published several self-produced zines. The story Tsukiko and the satellite also appears in š!#32, a four-monthly anthology of the Latvian publisher Kuš! specialized in underground comics, in an issue dedicated to alternative and indie manga.
Speaking of alternative manga, dōjinshi and annexes, Glacier Bay Books is an independent American publisher that lets out this type of works and is getting noticed in a certain editorial niche (I point out in this regard an exceptional interview in The Comics Journal with the editorial director/editor (Emuh Ruh) and translator/editor (zhuchka) of Glacier Bay Books, where they tell the work done behind the publication of Glaeolia, another anthology of alternative manga, more substantial in the number of pages and authors).
In the end I think that Tsukiko and satellite and other stories is an excellent anthology, which captures a delicate atmosphere with great incisiveness and I also think, just as written in The Comics Journal, that Glacier Bay Books is driving the manga in a different direction for the future.