Page 45 Review by Stephen
And now for something completely different...
You may have seen Yuichi's previous books NEW ENGINEERING and TRAVEL listed in March's News & Letters column as part of a list of wordless comics and graphic novels. The occupants of the bizarre garden here aren't half so silent but the terrain they explore is as bizarre as anything you'll have seen from Yokoyama so far: vast and complex artificial structures celebrated for their man-made origins. Which, if you think about it, is entirely at odds with the current cry against wind farms etc. I'm all for it, myself. I love a great Henry Moore sculpture standing out resplendently in its designated environment.
Far from geomorphic, then, the shapes here are geometric in nature (or rather nurture), the lines precise and the level of control is breathtaking. Also, hilariously, there is no preamble whatsoever
except round the wall for one panel! To Yokoyama there is evidently no point to that: like his cast, he's interested in the constructs and constructs alone, and I'll bet you anything you like that when you first pick this up you'll wonder if there are pages missing. Those with an aversion to old windbags like me will also find the dialogue refreshing, averaging out at something like five words per person restricted purely to observation and conjecture about what they discover and its possible purpose/mechanism.
The first garden feature our crazyheaded crowd encounters after breaking in through a hole in the wall is a river of rubber balls which they follow upstream to a cascading waterfall. Thereafter they find not a footbridge but a bottom-bridge full of chairs. These they must navigate by sitting on their seats then swivelling in each before moving on to the next. Throughout the journey our impatient, empirical adventurers must solve similar riddles before progress is possible, like the rooms full of cracks which are mostly drawn-on. There they need to discern which cracks disguise a moveable panel which acts as a portal to the next room or corridor. At another juncture a giant chain-link fence is cut off below, affording them no way down so instead they climb. Negotiating the obstacles - some of them decidedly perilous for they are, after all, intruders - is like early Tombraider and its ilk, only with an economy that yields far more imaginative environments, and I would kill for a first-person adventure game dreamed up by Yokoyama.
There are illusions, patrols to hide from, and some spectacular set pieces involving bubble distortion, camera flashes and a wave of wet photographs, plus the most bizarre bookcase imaginable: some books arranged open, others packed like a game of Tetris in odd configurations so that no single book can be moved. There's even a furious climax which references previously passed checkpoints as the garden erupts into life - triggered, I think by all their actions to date - before an ending as abrupt as its kick-off.
This is one for those who relish a visual adventure, a treat for the eye from an artist who's as much an inventor of objects and systems as anything else, and if console games really wanted to move into new territory, stylistically at least, they'd give this man a call right now.