TCAF Announces: Natsume Ono!
Posted Tuesday, February 01, 2011

Today saw the announcement of a new Featured Guest at TCAF, Japanese manga-ka Natsume Ono! Creator of the excellent manga series not simple, Ristorante Paradiso, Gente, and House of Five Leaves (all from Viz's Sig/Ikki line), Ono joins announced guests Chester Brown, Mawil, Jillian Tamaki, Adrian Tomine, and Chris Ware, and over 175 other confirmed 2011 exhibitors.

If you're not familiar with Natsume Ono's work, well, you should be. She's great! But don't take my word for it. Over the next few weeks, we'll attempt to run some reviews (written by our staff) of our Featured TCAF Guests, to familiarize you with their work and give you a good reason to come in and pick it up.

Kicking things off is Krystle Tabujara, recommending Natsume Ono's English-language debut not simple.

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Absolutely in every sense of the words, Not Simple.
Review by Krystle Tabujara

I happened across Natsume Ono's not simple the day it came out and was immediately drawn to its minimalism: the font, the colours, the art, the clean lines, the elegant spareness of it's pages--It was gorgeous and sad and wonderful and all that, but in a uniquely hushed, haunted way. This stood in sharp contrast to the manga I was used to. It lacked, among other staples of the form, the lurid action and dynamism of action adventure and or the toy-bright, cutesy/corpulent characters that clog the comedy and fantasy wings. The art was neat, sparsely detailed, almost recessive--in other words original. Not being an avid manga reader myself, I decided to give the book a shot based on its look alone. I planned to take it home to read, but was so enthralled I finished it before I stepped off the subway. I have since read it countless times and recommend, humbly, everyone does the same. Like, right away. NOW!

But what about it's story? The narrative is a kind of hobo-picaresque about a boy named Ian, who embarks on a journey to put his broken family back together or cobble together a makeshift, provisional family with the people he meets along the way. Ian travels from Australia (where he was born) to England and finally making a cross-country journey (on foot!) to find his sister. The book begins at the end with Ian's fate firmly sealed, and yet even with the outcome known in advance Ono's great storytelling feat (or trick or treat) is that when it's done, you are left surprised, shocked and craving for more.

The book is suitably dark and brooding--bordering on the melodramatic--but the histrionics seem to stem from a bottomless reservoir of real life angst. Ono effortlessly ensnared me in Ian's gaunt desperation, but no matter how many horrific things life (or Ono) heap on him this indomitable sprite just won't give up. In the end, the themes of not simple could be distilled into a simple yet powerful message about how far the heart is willing to go for familial love. But this reductive interpretation is complicated by its hard, minimalist style, its ingenious corkscrew plotting and a heart-stoppingly abrupt finale will haunt you for weeks.

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Look for more reviews, coming soon.

- Chris @ The Beguiling

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