Wednesday, 5 February 2020

The Girl From The Other Side volume 7

There's always that dilemma with reading a graphic novel, particularly if it's one that has less text; often they can be devoured in one long sitting, but does that dilute the experience? Should you savour that first reading by restricting your reading time with them? In the case of The Girl From The Other Side (Seven Seas Entertainment), the artwork demands closer inspection, whether you whizz through the story and return afterwards, or you take your time with each page.

A mixture of blocks of black, but also fine delicate line-work, there's something both timeless and ancient about artist Nagabe’s work – like Victorian photographs of a medieval fairy tale. The Outsiders in the story are cursed with the appearance of blackness that has twisted their shape to varying degrees so that they resemble skeletal goats, or deer as if they were slowly transforming into barren winter trees. The affect is not quite scary, but certainly unsettling.

There is a dream-like quality to both story and art. In this most recent volume, Shiva, the sought-after little girl who is in the care of an Outsider known as Teacher, runs from pursuers in a nightshirt looking like Winsor McCay’s Little Nemo. In the way that dreams veer between the enchanting and disturbing, crows watch events and speak to each other like the chorus in a play, but they have also sharpened their beaks to resemble teeth.

As is sometimes the case with translated work, the dialogue can be a little stilted (in one panel a soldier cries mid-battle; “The monster is unmistakably trying to kill me!”), but on the whole it adds to feeling of other-worldliness that lingers long after reading and invites a return to its pages. 

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