cover image The Navidad Incident: The Downfall of Matías Guili

The Navidad Incident: The Downfall of Matías Guili

Natsuki Ikezawa, trans. from the Japanese by Alfred Birnbaum. Viz, $24.99 (350p) ISBN 978-1-4215-4222-5

In the fictional island nation of Navidad, formerly a Japanese occupied territory, a bus containing a Japanese delegation vanishes without a trace, causing a diplomatic imbroglio. President Mat%C3%ADas Guili, the dictator of Navidad, favors the Japanese way of life and looks to Japan for inspiration. The people of Navidad are rather less friendly, however%E2%80%94many of them remember the Japanese occupation and are worried about the Japanese proposal to anchor oil tankers over the island's coral reef. As Guili bumbles through his days, visiting his girlfriend's brothel, flattering Japanese diplomats, and taking long baths, a conspiracy forms against him from the mystical Navidad island of Melchor. Despite ghosts, mysterious disappearances, and magical priestesses, the book is as much a leisurely commentary on post-colonial dictatorships as it is a work of magical realism. Readers are treated to rambling digressions on topics like the importance of buses in Navidadian life or Guili's past history and love life. Still, Ikezawa's newest (after A Burden of Flowers) has its own strange, meandering charm, giving readers a glimpse into the legacy of colonization from a Japanese perspective. (Mar. 20)