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Anywhere but here

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Tooku e ikitai can be summed up in few words : Monty Python, the Japanese way. Tori Miki’s series consists of nonsense-based gags playing out in an unchanging grid of 9 silent panels.[1]
Usually, the author starts off from a wacky idea, but then follows it with a logic based on common sense — flirting with surrealism where always remains an underlying anxiety.
Other strips play around with the page structure, removing the sequentiality of panels to use them as as many “window panes” opening on a single space — bringing to mind some OuBaPian experiments.

Be warned, though : Tori Miki’s gags are sometimes hard to get, and even if a few of them are obvious, the better part remain cryptic, leaving the reader with only a vague indication of the meaning to be found (but as this seems to happen even for Japanese readers, there is no need to panic).
Moreover, Tori Miki often refers to elements from the Japanese culture (from the traditional figure of Momotarô the peach-kid, to the preparation of the mochi rice-cakes, including numerous sequences in public baths), which adds another hurdle for the western reader.

But beyond those cultural specificities, Tori Miki’s pages are full with worries, feelings of unease and questions that are deeply human. Anxieties that are indeed summed up in the subtitle[2] of Tooku e ikitai : “Anywhere but here”. One would be better off elsewhere — elsewhere, anywhere … anywhere but here.

Notes

  1. On this aspect, Tori Miki sets himself apart from the usual structure of Japanese comic strips, the yon-koma manga : four panels in a vertical row, often concluding on an absurd punchline.
  2. In English in the Japanese version, and used as the title for the US edition.
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Chroniqué par en mai 2007