From the start of his manga career in 1970 up to his death in February of this year, Jiro Taniguchi produced an incredible body of work that earned him several accolades including the Japan Cartoonists Association Awards’ Excellence Award, the Tezuka Osamu Cultural Prizes’ top honour, an Ignatz Award nomination, several Eisner Award nominations and was even knighted as a chevalier in France’s Ordre des Arts et des Lettres in 2011. Needless to say, his work is always well worth a look and this latest release from Fanfare of his 2011 series Furari is a perfect showcase of his talents.
Furari may be a bit of a change of pace when it comes to what is deemed mainstream manga today. Not only is it very much grounded in reality but it isn’t exactly heavy in the plot department. But this is far from a detriment. Inspired by the life of the original creator of the first map of Japan, Inō Tadataka, the focus of this standalone story is on an unnamed wanderer travelling through the various districts of Edo – the ancient Tokyo. On his journey, he takes various notes, measures, draws and takes in the various happenings he encounters on his way whether it be farming, fishing, busy markets or simply observing the complexities of wildlife (why does a turtle he set free return to him and what can be learned from behaving like a cat) with each chapter giving focus to a particular animal at certain points.
It should be clear that Furari is not the sort of title people should be going for if they’re after intense storylines and drama. But it is definitely one of the most relaxing manga releases of recent memory. There is a calming levity that permeates throughout Taniguchi’s work in both the scripting and the art even when there is plenty of activity happening. The art evokes a very clean and traditional feel that is far less stylised than what you would see in today in a lot of manga artwork. Keeping with the wanderer’s work as a cartographer, everything on each panel is very precise and deliberate. The bridges, cultural landmarks and towns are all incredibly detailed and almost give the impression that Taniguchi must have been there himself to get such a good likeness. The wanderer is also great guide through this Edo period Tokyo. Like the style of storytelling, he is a subtle character who is reserved in his expression even when he’s particularly engrossed with some wildlife or has had too much to drink. Despite this, just watching his action and reading his musings greatly enhance the tone Taniguchi is establishing and adds to the sense of awe given off by this particular period of Japanese history.
Furari is one of the most relaxing comic reading experiences you will have and it is easy to see why Taniguchi is held in such high regard. Any manga fan worth their salt should give this a look.
Furari is out now from Fanfare
9781908007292 – H/B – £18.99
Post by Leo