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Just So Happens h/c

Just So Happens h/c Just So Happens h/c

Just So Happens h/c back

Fumio Obata


Page 45 Review by Stephen

You’re going to adore these colour washes. They are clean, they are crisp, and the rooftops and mountains are sublime.

Add in the Jenga-like dream sequence of a wooden, Japanese theatre stage tumbling apart then dispersing around young Yumiko, suspended in a void, and this is quite the spectacle.

“Where I am right now…
“Guess what…
“I am in a theatre…
“Performing a piece, pretending to be something else…”

Yumiko is attending her father’s funeral.

She’s right: funerals all over the world are so often meticulously choreographed pieces of theatre during which mourners become scared in case they miss their queues, forget their lines, show too much emotion or none at all. Really, they should be about honesty, open consolation and saying good-bye.

But Yumiko has been distracted of late from this much honest introspection and open conversation because she has adopted a very specific role. A Japanese woman living in London, she has enjoyed the freedom to pursue her artistic goals abroad which her mother, a generation behind her, had to fight for back in Japan. Even Yumiko’s beloved father disapproved, and her mother had to leave. She’s now a successful critic and teacher.

Yumiko, meanwhile, has travelled abroad, carved out her career and, having assimilated, feels completely at home in the hustle and bustle of London. In spite of the crowds. In spite of the tensions. In spite of being in a relative minority. Or is she as equanimous to it all as she believes?

There’s an early scene so telling when her fiancé, Mark, correctly identifies a couple passing by as Japanese. Yumiko is surprised, but Mark ‘fesses up..

“I still can’t tell the difference between Chinese, Korean or Japanese but I can usually tell from your reaction. It’s quite subtle, though. When you come across another Japanese person, or a bunch of them, you try not to look at them or turn away…”

Called to her father’s funeral following his sudden death, Yumiko flies back to Japan, reminiscing about her last visit when her father was very much alive and, during a public firework display, she was drawn to the hypnotic calm of a Noh theatre performance so improbably late at night that she’s no longer sure whether she imagined it.

The funeral itself is what really sets Yumiko thinking, after which she spends a week with her mother in Kyoto. Together they tour the city, like the spectacular climb up white stone steps through a twisting colonnade of red, black-based Torri surrounded by trees before sitting in quiet contemplation in the open, hillside tea house.

You may want to make a pilgrimage of your own, it’s so beautifully painted and composed.

Because of these washes it seems reminiscent in places of Glyn Dillon’s NAO OF BROWN, but the faces and figures with their inked outlines are more representational. Expression-perfect and bursting with character and charm, they’re no less attractive for that, but it’s quite, quite different. There’s also the use of flat satin flesh tones – sometimes on the same page as the washes – and, back in London city, much looser sketches of the fast-flowing foot traffic as pedestrians flash past your eyes like the phantoms they are. The odd tableau is even akin to Guy Delisle’s shorthand.

It’s a spacious and dreamy book of reflection I read thrice in quick succession.

Plus you’ll find the cutest kettle you ever did see, especially when it boils.