Tonoharu: Part Two

Lars Martinson, Author, Lars Martinson, Illustrator
Lars Martinson, Pliant (pliantpress.com), $19.95 (150p) ISBN 978-0-9801023-3-8
Reviewed on: 10/11/2010
Release date: 11/01/2010
Hardcover - 115 pages - 978-0-9801023-2-1
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The second volume of Martinson’s semiautobiographical look at an American English teacher adjusting to life in rural Japan finds his protagonist Dan Wells trying to break out of his social isolation, and forming some relationships that aren’t particularly good for him: a crush on one expatriate (she’s not interested in him), an uneasy friendship with another one (he’s kind of sleazy and kind of a mooch), and a sexual liaison with a Japanese teacher (whose feelings for him he doesn’t really reciprocate). But what else is he to do? The undercurrent of the book is the crushing slowness of smalltown life and the way cultural clashes redouble Dan’s boredom, frustration, and isolation. The distinctive look of Martinson’s black-and-white artwork—four borderless panels on each page, fanatically cross-hatched backgrounds behind characters drawn as broad caricatures with a few bold lines, typeset dialogue—owes a lot to Harvey Kurtzman and Will Elder’s Goodman Beaver. But Martinson’s breed of humor is less broad satire than a darker comedy of embarrassment: awkward silences, tedious karaoke, the frustration of trying to find a socially appropriate Secret Santa present, the wince of a one-night stand offering Dan her business card, Dan’s growing sense that nothing he does will let him fit in with any community. (Dec.)
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