Page 45 Review by Jonathan
Ahh, Mr. Taniguchi you've done it again with this deeply thoughtful fictional work suffused throughout with gently beating veins of autobiography. Just how much of this work is purely fictional and how much is directly autobiographical I honestly have no idea, but I certainly read it with the strong sense that the portrayal of the main character, Hamaguchi, is perhaps very closely based on Taniguchi himself. Also, certain specific events that take place within the book are direct representations of actual events, I suspect.
Regardless of the emotional connection to Taniguchi's own past, though, this is a really moving work, and certainly one that alongside A DISTANT NEIGHBOURHOOD, GUARDIANS OF THE LOUVRE, THE SUMMIT OF THE GODS and VENICE etc. I will be recommending in perpetuity to people who inquire about more sophisticated manga.
The story opens with a young man at the beginning of a fairly typical salaryman's career working for a textile manufacturer in Kyoto circa 1966, who then almost by chance falls into a new career as a mangaka's (manga master's) assistant in Tokyo. From then on the story focuses heavily on the trials and tribulations that a budding manga artist faces both in terms coping with the hectic working schedule and hitting the relentless weekly deadlines, but also adjusting to the social life of the more bohemian set. Along the way there's just enough time for some romance too, both firsthand with a particularly frail young lady and also at a remove as a chaperone to the textile boss's daughter.
As ever, Taniguchi's art is impressively crisp and precise, with typically lavish attention paid to minute background details, without them ever becoming a distraction. I always feel that reading something illustrated by Taniguchi is a genuinely immersive experience, precisely because of such detailing. It draws you in deeply to the world he's created as much as any well produced television programme or film does, and thus creates a seamless experience for the reader.
Much of the subtle poignancy of this work does come from wondering precisely which are Taniguchi's own experiences, particularly when it comes to the romantic element, not least the slightly mysterious ending that's not really an ending. I would love to know whether the frail young lady was a real person in Taniguchi's life and, if so, precisely what did become of her. I have my suspicions, but no amount of googling has yet revealed any definitive answers! Maybe that's for the best, as no answer is necessary really to receive the warm emotional message which Taniguchi would like you to take away from this work.