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You're probably expecting me to make some correlation between Calvin & Hobbes and Kobako Totan's Sketchbook, after all that. Well, I would, if I could see clearly why I am convinced one exists. Before encountering Sketchbook, I did not believe that anything in this medium could rise to the caliber of Watterson's work. Having encountered it, I still believe this. Yet I nevertheless know that Sketchbook has validated something essential; I am aware, though vaguely, of a specialness to it.
Sketchbook is, for one thing, funny. Many comic/manga series succeed in eliciting, with decent consistency, an appreciative smile, or feeling of amusement. They don't, at least in my experience, make one laugh too often - not actually laugh, not really. Sketchbook, as Andrey Biely might say, differs impressively from them all. Every individual strip, nearly without exception, managed to jolt me into what R. H. Blyth called "surprised approval" - that happy sensation of life suddenly seeming simultaneously more and less complex than previous estimates indicated, with the sinister, menacing elements of existence reduced to simple trivialities while the more joyful aspects acquire an apparent infinitude of subtle gradations, an endlessly complicated network of implications and hidden significance. In conclusion, this series is (as was mentioned) funny.
There are no throwaway characters in the main cast - I'd go as far as to say there are no nonessential characters in the main cast - but the soul of Sketchbook is its protagonist, Kajiwara Sora. It is not incorrect to call Kajiwara-san a shy, quiet girl, but realize that she is the superlative iteration of this trope. She doesn't speak rarely. She just doesn't. Ever. I am yet to detect a single piece of spoken dialogue authored by her (an aspect of her character the animation does not preserve). She manages to communicate with her friends, her brother, and cats through a combination of pantomime, written messages, and apparent telepathy. Her reticence is also perhaps not best described as mere shyness. She flees - as in, turns around and runs - from strangers, or even acquaintances in unfamiliar costume. Yet, partly because she refuses to make concessions for the sake of social expediency, there is an unmatched purity to Sora's personality, an integrity that might be impossible for real human beings outside of saints and buddhas. She assaults life head-on, confronting existence directly in a way that people of my culture, of my generation, have forgotten how to do. She does it with a dauntless spirit of fun, curiosity, invention, reverence, decency and gentleness. Because most people do not pay meaningful attention, constantly worry over useless things, fall into degradation and depravity to the neglect of what is truly valuable, and wallow in selfishness and self-pity, ceaselessly concerned with themselves and how others view them, each will have lived less by the time of his death than Kajiwara-san does in one day.
I suppose what I might've wanted to say earlier was something like this: what Calvin & Hobbes represented to me in my formative years, Sketchbook represents to me now in postadolescence. The range of what is possible in this universe is quite encouraging; the truth of how little of that promise we fulfill, quite distressing. But with Watterson next to my cereal bowl each morning, I did not need to strain to feel optimistic about humanity's potential or about its capacity for self-improvement; I could allow myself not only hope but even confidence that we were headed to some nobler, exalted place, that we would eventually be lifted from our present lamentable state to a dignified, shining enlightenment. And nowadays, with a companion like Kajiwara-san, it is so much more difficult to despair, much harder to dismiss people as vicious, unthinking beasts, and existence itself as a pointless absurdity. We are not yet beyond redemption; this world is not dying.
I have given Sketchbook a ten in every category. To do otherwise would intimate that I wished some part of it changed.
It is a personal request I am making. Please read this series. read more