Our Graphic Novel of the Month for November is a deeply personal account of terminal illness from a prominent female voice in the manga industry. Yukari had long struggled with a chaotic love-hate relationship with her mother Chieko, so when her mother is diagnosed with advanced stage pancreatic cancer with just months to live, she is faced with a difficult situation.
Yukari Takinami has built a reputation in Japan for her straightforward and humorous interpretations of everyday life. Her previous works take a look at things like obsessing over exes and life for women in Japan in a very tongue and cheek way, whilst still providing a sometimes biting commentary on these subjects. It’s therefore not surprising this is the balance she achieves in her latest work, I Wish I Could Say “Thank You”.
Takinami’s account of her mother’s terminal illness will hit a lot of readers close-to-home. It is obviously a situation many can identify with, not just because of how common it is, but in the honest way Takinami presents it. There is an emotional core to the story as Takinami struggles to come to terms with what is happening to her mother – who she has always had a complicated relationship with, along with trying to come to grips with what a world without her would be like. But it also goes into the practical issues that come with such an event. These include where her mother should be treated, who should look after her and balancing such an incident with raising children at the same time. Takinami does a sensitive job at portraying how these can wear on one’s soul, particularly with her sister who works as a nurse juggling parenthood with becoming her mother’s main carer which leads to a high mental toll.
Despite the heavy subject matter, Takinami’s humorous style still manages to shine through. The love/hate relationship between mother and daughter is one many can relate to and Takinami’s mother provides plenty of great moments – such as discovering the healing qualities of searching for dog pictures online. In addition, the art style leans toward the zany side which lends some levity to some of the more heavy moments, as well as showing that times like this don’t always have to be completely bleak.
I Wish I Could Say “Thank You” is a deeply personal work that many readers will relate to and is a perfect example of why Takinami is such a respected name in her industry.
I Wish I Could Say “Thank You” by Yukari Takinami is published 12 November 2020 from Fanfare (9781912097425, p/b, £16.99)
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