Ripples: la dissoluzione della luce e del tempo per Hagiwara Rei
Ripples: the dissolution of time and light for Hagiwara Rei
Hagiwara Rei‘s Ripples, originally self-published for Comitia 2019 and then published in the U.S. in 2020 by Glacier Bay Books, of which I’ve already had a chance to write about here and here, comes across as a calibrated and precise yet instinctive and heartfelt work. This is because content and form make up a complex and layered mosaic, rich in symbols and metaphors and open to interpretation. It is an experimental work, very far from mainstream manga in its approach, philosophy, style, and drawings, easily placing itself within the publications proposed by the American publishing house.
Hagiwara’s work is based mainly on two fragile and impetuous materials, which shape it by making every other component convey onto them: light and time. Towards these two elements Hagiwara carries out a process of dissolution, stripping them of their consistency, solidity, and fixity to reduce them to fluid and malleable entities. This is especially evident in the drawings and more generally in the visual structure that Hagiwara sets up, inevitably reflecting on the story and narrative, the first elusive and the second ambiguous. The drawings are done in gray watercolor – the prevailing and most present part – pencil and nib. The shades of gray, from dark tones very close to black to light and whitish brushstrokes, are the means to convey the total dissolution of light: Hagiwara moves between pages with sharp contrasts, where light cuts bodies and faces; completely white pages made of very few lines, where light annihilates bodies; almost completely gray pages, with very few glimmers of light. In doing so, he communicates his own emotions and those of the characters, while outlining the bare setting and the external sense of oppression: the dissolution of light thus becomes the dissolution of the human condition. In this sense, he uses the crossfade to communicate the flow of images and perceived temporality, doing so in a particular way by breaking the fade in the last vignette of the page to complete it in the first of the next one, creating a sort of interrupted overlap.
To all this is linked the time, pushed to dissolve and collapse on itself. In fact, we are faced with two temporal planes (present and past) and three planes of reality (real world, dream world and afterlife) cleverly mixed to (de)structure the narrative. If at first glance it may seem too complex or confusing, and at the beginning of the reading this system may leave the reader puzzled, thanks to Hagiwara’s sign and his graphic and visual setting everything is very fluid, as if you were floating on a river and being carried away by its current. Obviously, dealing with such a broad concept as time brings with it universal themes that are easy to grasp, such as the value and validity of memory, the importance of remembering and the inevitable dissolution of the family (and more generally of every sentimental or emotional bond). However, they are not an end in themselves but bring with them interesting symbolic images, which are directly linked to light: for example, the fire that with the passage of time consumes itself if it is not fed, a metaphor that precisely symbolizes the memory. Hagiwara’s sign makes of inconstancy its strength, thinning and dilating like the inner temporal dimension, regulated by emotions and by the instability of the mind.
A third key element is the choice of setting. The environments shown are essentially two: a seaside stony beach and a path that runs along a cliff. Both are the reflection of an isolated emotionality, closed in on itself and unable to open, a dryness happened and not wanted. Not only is the environment completely rocky, even the heart of the protagonist has become stone, or perhaps it would be better to say ice: the warmth of the flame, therefore of memories, becomes necessary to bring feelings back into circulation. As well as time, which can soothe wounds and contribute to a cure for the mind and soul.
In conclusion, it can be said that this is an experimental but successful work, an elaborate self-reflective vision of Hagiwara, who in addition to creating an evocative story seems to want to explore himself, laying oneself bare but at the same time hiding among the brushstrokes of his creation.