One of the most entertaining manga series of recent memory has to be Keiichi Arawi’s Nichijou – an absolutely bonkers series about mundane school life in Japan which manages to be completely bizarre at the same time. Arawi recently wrapped up Nichijou and is currently working on a new manga CITY which looks to be just as bizarre. But if you are looking for something to hold you over until CITY hits shelves next year, then Helvetica Standard is just what you need.
Part sequel/spin off and part mind map of Keiichi Arawi, the first half of this book collects the Helvetica Standard short comic strips that were originally published in Newtype Magazine in Japan. Some of the characters and themes would spill over into Nichijou (Tengu and Arawi’s rather unintimidating grim reaper should be instantly familiar) so the random off the wall style of humour is very present. Ranging from bizarre scenarios (an angel teaching a demon how to say fresh fried fish) to banal (getting lost in the countryside), the sheer ludicrousness of the whole thing has a lot of appeal. Whilst it may be hard to understand the humour in some of the strips due to them being very much aimed at a Japanese audience, Arawi’s art helps the reader look past that as it is just as great as it is in Nichijou. In some ways it is even more impressive as the way he manages to get so much character out of deceptively simple designs and limited space is something to behold.
The second half is a grab bag of bonus features. One of the main highlights is a collection of Nichijou promotional strips and images that were included in a monthly paper for Japanese bookstores to promote new volumes of the series. If you’re a fan of Nichijou, you know what to expect (plenty of madness squeezed into a four panel promo pieces in this case). There is also a treasure trove of various standalone illustrations for exhibitions, calendars, fans and some just for Arawi’s own amusement. But the highlight of the second half is the glimpse Arawi gives into his own life as he recounts tales from his youth and teenage years. Featuring childhood friends and teenage crushes, these are a great insight into where he developed his brand of humour and are very funny to boot. There’s even a very detailed look at his work space which manages to be informative and funny at the same time.
This is not only a brilliant collection of comedy manga that fans of Nichijou will leap upon, but also a great look into the mind and creative process of a top mangaka. A terrific showcase of Arawi’s truly unique style!
Helvetica Standard Bold is out now from Vertical
9781945054327 – P/B – £14.99
Post by Leo