We begin with a day in the life of a disenchanted Chinese worker. One Day has sketchy art that is more art than it is sketchy. Really beautiful to just look at and admire.
The story is that tired cliché of being jaded at the society around you, but with this first chapter it feels like a more graceful interpretation. Due to the fact that it’s set in the middle of China, giving us a brief glimpse of a country that is increasingly shutting its mainland off more and more from exposure, and the dialogue isn’t overly trite.
Chapter 2 loses the dialogue altogether
and is almost abstract in its rags to riches tale of a struggling artist and his female muses. The art continually impresses in its simplicity and shading.
Chapter 3 is a showcase for colour and very short, lacking a solid narrative and more concerned with a general vibe. Watch a woman mesmerise everyone around her and destroy a city with love.
Chapter 4 continues the striking colour artwork and applies it to idealistic daydreams of love and success. By this point it’s clear that Benjamin's talent lies not in storytelling but art and mood. Angsty kids will lap it up but everyone else will feel unsatisfied with the potential not being met. If this were simply an artbook there wouldn’t be an issue, but it’s a manga, or in this case manhua, a visual novel, and some semblance of story is essential.
So story is dropped entirely as the remaining two chapters are just packed with amazing colour artwork and illustrations; showcasing great talent and Chinese vision of 'alternative' lifestyle. Lots of cigarettes, leather, nakedness. In short not that different from other culture's alternative lifestyles.
Quality storytelling is what’s lacking in One Day, but it is nonetheless an interesting look into Benjamin's earlier efforts.