Thursday, November 17, 2011

Manga Thursday: A Zoo In Winter

A Zoo In Winter
Jiro Taniguchi

I had a blast reading Jiro Taniguchi's The Quest For the Missing Girl recently, so was excited to pick up his new book A Zoo In Winter, in which he recounts scenes from his youth surrounding his beginnings in manga.  I love Taniguchi's art style.  It's very realistic and lush, very detailed with beautiful scenery.  While this book had less breathtaking surroundings than The Quest For The Missing Girl, his cityscapes are just as dazzling as the mountains he portrayed in that book, and the cartooning he brings to the expressions of his characters is just a perfect marriage of art.  Of course, reading this autobiographical account of breaking into manga brings to mind Yoshihiro Tatsumi's recent A Drifting Life and it's hard not to compare this unfairly to that master work.  This is a much shorter glimpse into Taniguchi's life, whereas Tatsumi's work is a sprawling masterpiece.  But A Zoo In Winter is a really riveting, well-crafted piece of work in its own right.  I like how the manga that he works on in this title parallels his own feelings for the girl in his life, and I enjoyed the oddness of the situation with his boss' daughter.  I think the manga industry is really fascinating too, so this glimpse into that world is a real treat.  It's something I love about Bakuman, and while this doesn't go into as much detail, it's much more grounded and I appreciate that.  It was also nice to see some awkward humanizing moments in Taniguchi's life: getting drunk and dancing with a drag queen, getting aroused while drawing a nude, getting taken advantage of by a pretty face...  It makes you feel closer to the author for his admissions and I grew to really like him.  Overall, this is a pretty solid, if quiet, story.  Moments from it kind of stay with you, which is the mark of good storytelling.

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