The Sky Is Blue with a Single Cloud

Kuniko Tsurita, trans. from the Japanese by Ryan Holmberg. Drawn & Quarterly, $29.95 (384p) ISBN 978-1-77046-398-1
This consummate collection of manga shorts by Tsurita (1947–1985), the first volume of her work to be translated into English, exemplifies how she stood out on the early alternative scene. While many of her themes echoed those of her male contemporaries—the political unrest of the 1960s, cynicism mixed with comedy, self-insertion of author as narrator—Tsurita’s work illuminated the lives and perspectives of women. “65121320262719,” for example, observes a woman on the edge of the student protests that dominated Japan in the period. The character’s male friends use her home as a base of operations, but she feels powerless to stand up to authority herself: “Like you said, I’m really just a law-abiding citizen at heart!” This cynical view of women’s place in progressive movements is juxtaposed against pieces that probe women’s interior lives, such as “Occupants,” which depicts two women, one androgynous, in a complicated sexual relationship, emphasized by turbulent ocean imagery. An extensive essay by Mitsuhiro Asakawa and Holmberg grants more insight into Tsurita’s life and how her diagnosis with lupus informed her pensive comics about death and dying, such as “Yuko’s Days” and “Arctic Cold.” Her artwork blends comedy with languid surrealism, as influenced by Shigeru Mizuki as it is by Aubrey Beardsley. Tsurita gets her due in this retrospective; though she died too young to see her legacy take hold, her place is akin to that of a Trina Robbins in the formation of indie manga, making this essential reading for fans of underground comics. (July)
Reviewed on : 05/07/2020
Release date: 07/21/2020
Genre: Comics
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