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Friday, August 24, 2007

Red Colored Elegy

I'm pretty excited about this comic even though it's something like nine months away from arriving in stores but I've been working on it recently. Red Colored Elegy is a true cornerstone of the Japanese underground scene of the early 1970s.

Seiichi Hayashi produced Red Colored Elegy between 1970 and 1971, in the aftermath of a politically turbulent and culturally vibrant decade that promised but failed to deliver new possibilities. With a combination of sparse line work and visual codes borrowed from animation and film, the quiet melancholy lives of a young couple struggling to make ends meet are beautifully captured in this poetic masterpiece. Uninvolved with the political movements of the time, Ichiro and Sachiko hope for something better, but they're no revolutionaries; their spare time is spent drinking, smoking, daydreaming, and sleeping—together and at times with others. While Ichiro attempts to make a living from his comics, Sachiko's parents are eager to arrange a marriage for her, but Ichiro doesn't seem interested. Both in their relationship and at work, Ichiro and Sachiko are unable to say the things they need to say, and like any couple, at times say things to each other that they do not mean, ultimately communicating as much with their body language and what remains unsaid as with words.

Red Colored Elegy is informed as much by underground Japanese comics of the time as it is by the French Nouvelle Vague, and its cultural referents range from James Dean to Ken Takakura. Its influence in Japan was so large that Morio Agata, a prominent Japanese folk musician and singer songwriter, debuted with a love song written and named after it.

"I wanted to live like Sachiko and Ichiro; to have aspirations even while living stoically and humbly." – Morio Agata (from obi)

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