TOKYO IS MY GARDEN (Tokyo est mon Jardin) • Frédéric Boilet (story and art), Benoit Peeters (story), Jiro Taniguchi (tones) • Fanfare/Ponent Mon (2008) • Casterman (1996) • 1 volume • Romantic Comedy Drama • 18+ (nudity, sex)
Drawn in Japan by European artists for a 1993 Kodansha International Morning Manga Fellowship, this marginal “manga” combines Boilet’s focus on seinen-style relationship stories and Peeters’ obsession with cities themselves (à la the Cities of the Fantastic series). The hero, a 33-year-old French cognac salesman living in Tokyo, has spent a year going to endless drinking parties and dreading the approaching visit of his boss, who will surely fire him when he sees that he hasn’t sold anything. But even though doom looms closer, he is distracted by a relationship with a Japanese woman, as well as by kanji studies and other gaijin distractions. Boilet’s photorealistic, rather impersonal Eurocomics art documents Tokyo with realism, while non-titillating sex scenes alternate with prosaic and humorous details of everyday life. In the end, it all adds up to a tidy story of warmth, charm and melancholy. As in Yukiko’s Spinach and Mariko Parade, Boilet’s obsession with Japanese women raises questions about the possibly autobiographical nature of the work, but for insights into the tourist-in-Tokyo experience, it beats Lost in Translation hands down.
Today’s winner is Ileen D. of California. Congratulations, Ileen!