Page 45 Review by Stephen
"What? It's an Asian thing."
From the creator of MEANWHILE and DOUBLE HAPPINESS comes a bittersweet tale about a young man called Jimmy who follows his friend to New York City with every intention of telling her much he misses her, and more.
Twenty-five and still living at home, Jimmy's still unversed in the ways of the world, and he knows it. As an adult he feels like an imposter. Instead of a bank account he signs paychecks to his Mom in exchange for an allowance, and has yet to discover the difference between an espresso, cappuccino and latte. So when the more pragmatic and consistently less impressed Sara takes him to his first coffee shop, it's an endearing moment of childlike glee for Jimmy which Shiga portrays to perfection.
But if that's what passes Jimmy as a great big thrill for Jimmy, one wonders how he'd cope in wide world outside. Not well, as he discovers after choosing to travel by bus instead of plane:
"I thought it would be fun. But no. Sitting next to ex-convicts, going poo on a bus, and being called a ching chong is not fun."
"What?! Who called you that?"
"Some tattooed redneck. Sara, I was so scared I wanted to scream like a girl."
"What did you do?"
"I screamed like a girl."
Shiga is a master of the super-deformed (Japanese term for squished), Jimmy wide-eyed and uncertain. His shoulders are hunched high as if in defence, while his face peers hesitantly out at the world from between them.
Instead of the pages being divided into a full grid of panels, the panels themselves are arranged sparingly on top of the page against its big, white space, giving them an unusual melody and affording Jimmy a degree of protection from what lies outside. These are then contrasted arrestingly with the occasional double-page landscape spread which bleeds right to the edges in which Jimmy is comparatively small and in awe.
Like ASTERIOS POLYP, the book is composed of past and present sequences, interwoven and beautifully colour-coded by SUBLIFE's John Pham. And it's important that they are interwoven for Jimmy's determination to visit is directly informed by these memories, as is his optimism at how well he'll be received. In one particular sequence Sara positively encourages him to up sticks and explore a world more commercially promising for his web work, so he bites the bullet and sends a letter on ahead, telling her to meet him atop of the Empire State Building. For him, this is the big romantic gesture inspired by films they'd discussed. But there are also warning signs in those rose-tinted recollections, for Sara's attitude to romance - as to so much else - is dismissive, dispassionate and detached, and there is one subtle moment of stark revelation which we can only discuss once you've read the book for yourself: three panels, timed to perfection, as the implications of what Sara says sink in...