Thursday, January 9, 2014

Gold Pollen and Other Stories by Seiichi Hayashi


Recently published by Picture Box, is this selection translated and edited by Ryan Holmberg, previously Drawn and Quarterly had published Hayashi's Red Colored Elegy, so this makes a much appreciated addition to Hayashi's appearance in translation. Collecting four stories these are also accompanied by an essay by Hayashi - Azami Light: Childhood Remembrances, from 1972, and also an essay by the translator Ryan Holmberg. At a first reading the stories have a fragmented feel to them, Hayashi's style mixes traditional Japanese art with a mixture of Western influences, from pop art to DC comics, looking at the lines of some his female characters you wouldn't be far off if you were reminded of the Taisho era artist Yumeji Takehisa, but many other influences intercede with this style. The first story Dwelling in Flowers, from 1972 tells the story of an artist trying to escape a past love and at the same time telling the strained relationship with his mother. Stylistically this is one of my favourites in the collection, the pace of how the story unfolds joins perfectly with the slightly enigmatic feeling that the story is unresolved, this feeling can be felt to differing degrees throughout the collection.  In Dwelling in Flowers there's the appearance of the origami paper cranes which feature in Hayashi's work. Without first reading Holmberg's essay Red Dragonfly from 1968 feels that it is dipping heavily into elements of the autobiographical, following again a mother/son relationship, not too distant is the passing away of the father whose portrait looks over them as they eat. It's a tale set in the austere post war years, where the mother has to rely on the generosity of a male visitor who comes to the house, but this comes at an emotional, (and physical), price for both mother and child, Red Dragonfly, I think is the shortest in the collection but has a deep emotional dimension to it. The last two stories, Yamanba Lullaby, from 1968 and the title story Gold Pollen from 1972, are laced with layered allegorical meanings, which Holmberg's essay fully elucidates on their meaning and definition.

The inclusion of Holmberg's essay Momoko and Manga: Seiichi Hayashi's Maternal Roots, (Momoko was Seiichi Hayashi's mother), and also Azami Light, the essay from Hayashi himself makes this book a fantastic document, in Momoko and Manga, Holmberg traces Hayashi's childhood and his first contact with children's literature through a neighbourhood friend, whom Hayashi nick named Uncle Pipe who would later be instrumental for Hayashi to move into the world of having his art published. Holmberg traces Hayashi's involvement with Garo and his work post Garo, provided within Azami Light is some examples of Hayashi's art from his self published magazines from the late 50's and early 60's. Holmberg's essay goes on to explore Hayashi's influences, notable those of classical Japanese art which can be seen referenced in some of the stories here, also Holmberg's essay fills in many of the biographical details which can be detected throughout the stories, giving the fuller picture to the more allegorical and hidden meanings within them.

Probably the only slight gripe is that I wished there was more of the stories to this volume, but the inclusion of the essays makes for a great addition in contextualizing Hayashi and his art within the alternative scene of the late 1960's, rather tantalizingly Gold Pollen and Other Stories is listed as Volume One in Picture Box Inc's, Masters of Alternative Manga Series, another name that is mentioned a number of times is Tsuge Yoshiharu, so here's to future volumes.

Gold Pollen and Other Stories at Picture Box Inc 

                   

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