Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Anno Moyoco: Kantoku fuyukitodoki

Anno Moyoco 安野モヨコ initially serialized this between 2002 and 2004, and the book came out in 2005.  Kantoku fuyukitodoki 監督不行届 - it's been translated as Insufficient Direction, which is a great handling of the title.  

Anno is best known as an author of women's and or girls' comics, often with a really sexy flavor;  this is a little different.  It's about her first year or so of marriage, and it just so happens that she's married to Anno Hideaki, director of Evangelion, etc. etc.  So this is a celebrity marriage memoir in manga form.  The subtext is that since Hideaki is Lord God King of otaku, for Moyoco the first year of marriage was a crash course in otakudom;  but the punch line is that she's constantly realizing how fundamentally otakkii she is herself, so it's not a big leap for her. 

This manga works perfectly on every level.  As a gag manga about newly-married life it's funny and
sad and wise in all the right places - it hits all its marks.  As a meditation on otaku and their ways, from inside the citadel, it's thoughtful and perceptive (and it does its homework - it's accompanied by an exhaustive glossary of the titles and terms that come up in the comic).  And as a piece of manga art it's brilliant.

That's what I enjoyed most about it, I think:  the art.  Particularly the way she's chosen to draw herself and her husband.  In the manga she calls him kantoku-kun - Director-boy - and she draws him with a wickedly accurate but inexcapably affectionate caricature.  It's recognizably him, with the wispy beard and the glasses and the Ultraman poses, so it has all the specificity needed to make an effective parody of an individual, but it's also abstracted enough to make him everyotaku, and in some ways everymiddleageddoofus.  I.e., there's universality there.  And it's funny:  she's such an expert artist that even though he's drawn in a really cartoony way every gesture, every pose, every facial expression communicates.  It's human.

Meanwhile she draws herself as a big baby in a onesie and a bib;  she calls herself Rompers.  This is the genius, the fascinating bit.  There's a weird and wonderful disconnect between the two characters:  he's cartoony, but as I say realistic enough to be recognizable as a middle-aged dude, while she's much more cartoony, and as a big baby who's nevertheless introduced as a 30-year-old professional comics artist, she's pure sign.  There's no indication that the other characters see Rompers as a baby - no baby jokes at all.  There's no way in which Rompers can be taken as a physical representation of the author, no attempt at self-portraiture here on an external level.  And yet in nearly every frame we have the two of them side-by-side, interacting as a married couple.  It's gleefully surreal.  Here's Rompers trying on wedding dresses, here's Rompers having a beer, here's Rompers lying in bed with Director-boy. 

It's surreal, and it's funny, but it's also tremendously effective.  What it's doing is giving us, in the same visual field, an external view of her husband and an internal view of herself.  We see her husband as she sees him, and we see her as she sees herself.  It's first-person in a way that I've seldom seen in a comic - it's a wonderful device.  And it's made possible, again, by Moyoco's tremendous drafting skill - even though Rompers is as cartoony as a Peanuts character in terms of line and level of detail, Moyoco achieves a tremendous nuance of expression with her, somehow conveying totally adult mannerisms, reactions, emotions. 


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