Yukiko's Spinach

Frédéric Boilet is a French artist who lives in Japan and is a practitioner of 'Nouvelle Manga'. My guess is that the term is in part a reference to the French 'New Wave', because there's an awful lot of fourth wall-breaking in Yukiko's Spinach. The story (of a short-lived affair between the artist and a native) is actually about how the story was put together, to the point where Boilet scans in pages from his notebook containing the sketches that ended up as panels. The foregrounding of the creative process allows for key moments to be revisited several times at different stages of refinement. Repetition, one of the basic techniques of meaning-generation in art, is shown to be a particularly powerful tool for comics, which are always a succession of frozen moments.

The sense of certain images being picked out for particular study is enhanced by Boilet's contrasting talent for portraying stream-of-consciousness in panels. Much of the comic is in P.O.V. with the protagonist's dialogue in captions at the bottom, while the other characters get speech bubbles. The gaze is liable to drift away from the person 'we' are having a conversation with, often when the subject strays into uncomfortable territory. It's a clever way to juxtapose the immediate sensation of time-bound life with the objects and practices that capture that time and allow us to meditate on it.

The story itself is barely there, but it does have a certain resonance for me. My girlfriend is Japanese and I've done a lot of the dating things the two lovers get up to (onsen, purikura). As should be obvious from the above, Boilet is very good at conveying what sharing those romantic experiences in Japan is like.

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