Page 45 Review by Stephen
"Never, never allow yourself to sympathise with Outsiders."
If that doesn't ring wrong with you in this day or any age, then heaven help you. And heaven help the rest of us.
Isn't mankind most excellent at scare-mongering - at spreading poison like a virus - and, in so doing, causing its own self-destruction?
It is also exceptional at viewing the world in binary, blinkered black and white. This is how the white soldiers perceive what is happening to them, perpetuating it through what is so often simplistic, dictatorial legend and lore.
None of what I write is random - including the virus - for what Nagabe has so very gently fashioned here is a fable all too pertinent to our times both created and told in black and white. By "created in black and white", I mean this is a black and white comic; by "told in black and white" I mean something entirely different.
Shiva is an optimistic and surprisingly stoical young girl dressed entirely in white.
We find her in the protective custody of a kind and capable guardian whom she calls "Teacher".
Her guardian is black from fuzzy, horned head to toe, but his compassionate eyes are white and they see so much more than he will let on, lest the girl in his charge become distressed. His duty, as he sees it, is to protect her from anything harmful, including the truth. His livery is mostly black too, though you will notice the soft folds around his collar and his billowing sleeves, both white. This elegant entity appears to be a human / goat hybrid, and haven't we demonised goats?
They live together in a cabin, outside in the woods, and they make do. Occasionally they visit a deserted village to forage for much-needed food including bread. It's probably quite stale by now, for it's been a fortnight. Undeterred and ever-optimistic, awaiting the promised return of her unseen Aunt, Shiva maintains her childhood rituals of tea parties. Unwilling to break her illusion - to burst her balloon - her Teacher indulges these fancies.
But alone in his study, cluttered with books and notes and plants in bell jars, Teacher suspects that he probably shouldn't have lied to her. She's been abandoned. Her Aunt is never coming back.
The sense of quiet, tranquil isolation is emphasised by Teacher's calm, short and soothing assents. It would be almost be a bucolic idyll if we weren't reminded of that the village is deserted and cannot help wondering why. The self-sacrificial role of Teacher is made poignantly clear by his insistence that they must never touch.
Meanwhile soldiers are patrolling the woods all around them, maintaining an exclusion zone, a perimeter, lest any Outsiders invade their territory and spread the Curse. Indeed, they are already taking ruthless, pre-emptive action inside their towns against any they suspect of being cursed - on no discernible evidence - and, while disposing the bodies, they see Shiva alone in the woods.
She is outside, therefore by definition, she must be an Outsider...
I've another page of jottings amongst which I note the black umbrella - designed for protection - and the hole in it; the wreath which Shiva makes for her Teacher so that he won't feel so alone once she's gone; the story about the God of Light and the God of Darkness from which I will leave you to infer what you will, and the completely unexpected, startling new development at the end.
I wonder what you will make of the interior art which I've captured for you? It could be interpreted in several different ways. Note: one piece is obviously in another language than this English edition. Also note, if you Google for more, please be aware that there have been unlicensed online translations before which don't quite capture the nuances of what you'll find here.