Saturday, September 7, 2019

Blank Canvas volume 2 shows the college struggle is real (Manga Review)

Akiko Higashimura
Blank Canvas: My So-Called Artist's Journey Volume 2 continues the autobiography of creator Akiko Higashimura, a well known mangaka. As is my general policy when reviewing autobiographies, I won't be giving this a numeric rating. After all, who am I to rate someone's actual life? I really liked volume 1, and volume 2 meaningfully continues that story.

Volume 2 opens with Akiko applying to her final art college. Disturbed by the news she didn't get into her first choices, she was too distracted to paint well during the exams for this one. Although she was sure she wouldn't get in there either, she was finally accepted.

The majority of volume 2 traces her college path and her visits home. She spends most of her first year unable to paint, skipping classes to avoid feeling like a failure, and just generally falling apart, her dream of being a mangaka slipping away.

But her private art teacher back home won't stand for that. In his typically blunt way, he forces himself back into her life providing direction and structure and forced motivation until she can break through her mental blocks. Finally, she's painting again.

She gets a boyfriend, has fun with friends in the snow, and is enjoying her time but still overall struggling with art and with her classes. Perhaps sensing this, her old teacher comes to visit her at school, even though he doesn't have the money to freely spend on such a trip. Shocked, and embarrassed by her own life, as if she were letting him down, she all but ignores him on his visit and he ultimately leaves without them spending much time together.

Like with volume 1, there are repeated glimpses into the future (our present) as well as ominous signs of some upcoming tragedy. Because of those tragic hints, there remains a well-struck balance between reporting on her life, light comedy, self-awareness (in her current person) and lack of self-awareness (in her younger self), and deeper emotional stakes.

We can really imagine Akiko's reality, being a depressed college student after being somewhat of an overachiever in high-school, but now unable to put in the effort any more. Yet, we also know that in the end, Akiko becomes a famous mangaka, so it is the journey (the subtitle of the series) that proves so powerful. It takes truly well crafted writing to make the journey itself valuable when the audience already knows the ending. And yet, there are parts of the end we don't yet know, those that are hinted at, and that place a dark veil over what otherwise might just be a funny path to her current success.

Along with quality writing, is a uniquely individual art style. There are no idealized characters - not in their depictions nor in their actions. These are real people going through the complications of every day life. Backgrounds have a lot of detail when it is needed, but are sparse at times where we need to feel the isolation of Akiko. We feel her sensei's energy every time he is in a panel. It is art that perfectly compliments the vibe of the writing.

In many ways, this series could be considered sort of a shoujo/josei hybrid, particularly as the character ages, and with the realistic stakes of every day life. As an autobiography, it is a fascinating and meaningful read. There is something bittersweet and heartbreaking coming, and we don't know what. We also get to see the very real struggles of someone who did become successful which has its own importance as a message.

So I highly encourage you to read this series. It is a very open exploration of this woman's life from high-school leading up to her current work with revelations yet to come. So far, this series is two very quality volumes (out of four total, I believe).

ps. I'm sick today, so that's why this isn't the most well crafted review. Sorry. But it is a great manga!


Please legitimately purchase or borrow manga and anime. Never read scanlations or watch fansubs. Those rob the creators of the income they need to survive and reduce the chance of manga and anime being legitimately released in English.

All comments are moderated by a real person who only checks them once a day. Therefore, comments may take a while before they show up. Thanks for understanding. It's how we keep this a community of lovingkindness.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Remember: please talk about the work, and offer counter points to others' analyses but DO NOT ATTACK THE PERSON whose analysis you are countering. (no ad hominem comments) Thanks! <3