Friday , July 19 2024
Murasaki

Graphic Novel Review: ‘Second Hand Love’ by Yamada Murasaki, from Drawn+Quarterly

Second Hand Love

Second Hand Love by Yamada Murasaki, published by Drawn and Quarterly, comes from the increasingly complex 1980s era of latter gekiga manga. Manga turned toward vivid realism and even dark fantasy earlier; by the time Murasaki began producing her stories, people wanted a different perspective on realism. As one of the most accomplished female manga artists, Murasaki introduced bold feminist themes into her tales, telling Advertising Review in a reprinted 1985 interview that men sometimes said her work “frightens them, that they would never show it to their wives.”

Second Hand Love by Yamada Murasaki

As in her previous collected work, Talk to My Back, Murasaki pulled from personal experience for inspiration in Second Hand Love. Talk to My Back is the story of a wife struggling with a detached husband who is likely cheating on her. Murasaki said in her interview, “When I was married, I absolutely despised and cursed the existence of the ‘other woman.’ But after I got divorced, I started thinking differently.”

The result is something of a sequel or perhaps more of a thematically inverted “midquel.” Second Hand Love shows women who are knowingly dating a married man. They are doing it not for financial gain or hoping to steal him away as their own husband; in fact, one spends her money on him while she despises the idea of being tied down. In their stories these women, Yuki and Emi, are simply looking for love in the moment.

Murasaki’s art tells as much of the story as her text does. in the interview, she said, “‘Your work is getting more and more poetic,’ they tell me, though that’s not at all what I’m aiming for!” Yet her method of fine lines and focusing on key details while the mind’s eye of the reader fills in the gaps fits exactly with the poetic method of highlighting something tiny and often missed in a busy world. The inking is bold, pulling the reader’s gaze toward the large swaths of color in the fashionable clothes and hairstyles, while the backgrounds are often empty. The stories are truly about the characters.

Rather than being a formal graphic novel, Second Hand Love is a collection of linked stories. Already the stories are divided between two protagonists with different outlooks on love, Emi more reflective and Yumi more pragmatic. Their experiences are chopped into glimpses of their lives, whether discussions on what they are doing in their relationships or important turns, such as Yumi telling her boyfriend that she is moving and he will be left behind out of inconvenience.

Murasaki told her interviewer, “I can’t do long stories…Drawing something longer requires coming up with a plot.” Yet her method of storytelling proves all the more realistic as we rarely see clear, singular-goal plots in our everyday lives and instead experience these powerful moments that stand out, with the rest of life in between.

About Jeff Provine

Jeff Provine is a Composition professor, novelist, cartoonist, and traveler of three continents. His latest book is a collection of local ghost legends, Campus Ghosts of Norman, Oklahoma.

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