Book reviews of inconsequence: Kaira

Trust me, this comic isn't for happy people.

In light of the recent events in Japan and other personal reasons, my blog will be a bit late on updating. Just letting all you eager readers know.

I was meaning to write about racial injustice or something and link it up to Nazi Uniform wearing Japanese pop-bands, British nuclear fallout on press and anti-muslim sentiments in Orange County, but I decided to write a separate op-ed on that and give you a book review instead.

So here’s #2 of Book Reviews of Inconsequence, it won’t be about something depressing about oppression and racism… it’ll be about the formation of consciousness and its existential properties once consciousness is freed from a single individual.

回螺(Kaira/Spiral) by Yoshitoshi ABe

Where to start about this series? Well, first it’s by ABe, who is by far one of the best artists and writers around today. His works are known to explore human nature framed in some of the most extreme or far out situations possible.

What’s more accessible to audiences, and perhaps even more poignant, is his use of humor to draw out subtleties of human nature in a surreal setting. In “NieA_7”, he illustrates the life of a cash-strapped young woman reflecting on a youth she lost while living with an alien from outer space. ABe examines the perception Japanese people have of foreign immigrants through the lens of space aliens settling in modern Japan. There’s an examination of guilt and purgatory in “Haibane Renmei” which is set in a slice of life series about girls with wings living in the outskirts of a humble little town. The shows have some good humor to them, and they’re composed with a delicate attention to detail.

Kaira is hopelessly depressing, and there’s not much else to say about it. It contains a series of four stories ABe worked on from 1996 to 2007, over 14 chapters. As he describes it, this story is a look into “qualia,” the understanding of subjective experience, but through dire circumstances and tragic characters. The comic has the same level of detail, the same level of profound depth on what ABe is known for, but it makes The Road seem like a walk in the park.

And how can it not be when the opening line is: “There is no salvation.”

The letters are in simple white serif lettering on a solid black page. The next page is similarly desolate and equally forlorn: “There is not one thing, at all, that you can call salvation in the world you are about to enter.”

Here's a page I shamelessly stole from Celestial Kitsune, because he is the only other blogger that has bothered to talk about this book in any detail. Seriously.

That’s just the first 2 pages, and the next few offers nothing better. The reader is introduced to Ennli Hamil, a young girl. She is climbing a dark tower, why? She does not know. A disembodied voice makes her doubt her own existence before forcing her to continue climbing the tower, because she has to.

The story follows multiple characters, none of them all too telling, but the setting is amazing. The actual story opens to a dark snow-covered city, the world we see in the book is an apocalyptic future where the world has stopped spinning. The side trapped in perpetual night is bitterly cold while the other side is constantly day and a dry desert; the denizens of dark city gather snow to pack into cannons that shoot it to the other side of the world, and it only goes downhill from there.

Art: Very ABe

If you like ABe’s style of somber painted sketches, you’ll like Kaira. It’s got plenty of space to show off its moody imagery and, as the book jacket boasts, 192 pages of the 232 pages in this book are in full color, if you call dark greys and blues colors.

Story: Totally ABe

The story makes a fair amount of sense by itself in character study. It also makes considerably much more sense when you read his afterward, where he says he plans to revisit this series eventually. If anything, Kaira is the prologue to a far more epic tale of Ennli.

Freshness: Summer Chicken

It’s by far nothing too fresh. ABe’s art work here is older and it comes from a time when he used Photoshop filters religiously. It’s not bad, but I can feel the age of the artwork compared to his newer works.

 

It's a shame this won't be coming out anytime soon. I can tell you all about how awesome the second half of the anthologies are. You guys are really missing out if you haven't bought it in Japanese already. If only UDON would hurry up and get back on board with delivering quality product. Did you know that the Japanese version came with a PVC figurine bust too? It's really awesome. This installment of "Wasteland" was particularly heart wrenching and moving too. Oh well.

Cost: 2500 yen…or…

The book at Kinokunia of SF cost me $38.75 plus tax. I’ve wanted to buy it for 2 years, but I held off because of the price. I’m pretty sure it’s the same one copy that’s been sitting there all this time too.

The series can also be collected episodically from Robot: Super Color Comic Vol. 1-9, though that is only for 廃域 (Wasteland) and not for the other 3 sections.

Will it be translated?: IT IS! Kind of…

Remember how I said Robot has them? You can buy Vol. 1-5 of Robot in English. What about the other half? Well, after Digital Manga Publishing (the guys that do yaoi) published 3 volumes, they quit. UDON Entertainment picked up the slack… and stopped publishing at Vol. 5, they still say they’re coming out with them though (been waiting four years now… only 8 more years before that Amazon page becomes a lie)

The full book is published by Wani Books, the same publisher of Robot and Comic Gum. Their primary American localizers are…. Tokyo Pop, so you can expect this to be never out in English ever.

Flash Summary: The Qualia of Despair

Also, check out: Celestial Kitsune’s blog on anime and stuff. Pretty thoughtful stuff, and good videos!

About Tomo Hirai

For more than half a decade, Tomo Hirai has whittled his time away playing video games and reading comics. He has been writing about Japanese pop-culture since his start at the Nichi Bei Times working on Anime/Manga special issues.

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