If you’re checking this entry, it’s probably because Kiiroi Hon or Yellow Book, a manga written by Fumiko Takano, won the 2003 Osamu Tezuka Grand Prize, but chances are the name Fumiko Takano will be completely unknown to you except if you’ve read some of her translated interviews with Taiyou Matsumoto or with Katsuhiro Otomo.
She’s actually one of the big influential figures in the industry, she was inspired mainly by Moto Hagio and by some of the big authors of COM (an avant-garde magazine created to rival with Garo) such as Fumiko Okada or Shinji Nagashima and started writing comics in the late 70s.
She was immediately considered as being part of the New Wave and soon enough joined the alternative revue “Rakushokan”. She’s known for trying herself to an incredibly different range of artstyle, for her portrayal of women and especially the mother-daughter relationship, and for depicting the most common events of daily life in a fascinating manner thanks to her gestion of space, her economy of lines and careful observation of the usual gestures and expressions of people. Her stories also are known to have hidden meanings or to not be completely understandable from the first reading. One of her most famous stories “Tanabe no Tsuru” is about an old woman suffering from dementia and presenting her under the traits of a very young girl, mixing point of views from different periods of her life. Some others can simply depict a girl folding an origami or handmaking an umbrella.
She’s also described by critics as “an artist that can draw things as she sees it” and “the artist making the best use of her visual art”.
Now that was a long introduction in order to apprehend Yellow Book which is one of the only translated book of hers and one of those works that you can easily dismiss or not care about because of its vagueness or cherish with all your heart if you take the time to understand it. I’d also say your appreciation will rely on how much you like abstract and minimalistic artstyle and are sensible to stories that aren’t direct but are told in a more evocative manner.
You also have to know only the first story which takes a bit more than half of the book was created specifically for it, the other one-shots are some of her previous works that were collected with it for the occasion.
The first story is about a young girl fascinated by a famous French novel series called “Les Thibault” that originally started in 1922 and published for the first time in Japan in 1966. She’s so obsessed with it that she reads and rereads it whenever possible and imagine herself talking with the characters, walking into its cities and almost falling in love with Jacques Thibault himself. Ideas of socialism,revolt and social outbreak are weaving themselves into her tranquil life where nothing really happens. This story makes a wonderful job at making the transitions between the two worlds and making them echo each other to bring forth its characterization.
The 2nd story, “Cloudy Wednesday” is the shortest of the bunch, it was originally published in Comic Cue in 1996 and could be called a typical Takano story, simply consisting of a mother interacting with her daughters in a happy household.
The 3rd, called “Mayonnaise” depicts a romantic relationship building between co-workers and some problems of communication arising in such a place.
The final one called “ Live at 2-2-6” is about a woman working for the social assistance that tries to avoid men and love at all cost. While taking care and preparing food for a 57 years old woman, she also has to do her best to avoid the unexpected and unsympathetic presence of her son.
Kiiroi Hon offers a decent sample of the abilities of Fumiko Takano with the stories each having a different theme and focus. She’s an artist worth getting visibility and to be better known in the West because some of her previous works are in my opinion more sophisticated than those presented here.