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Garden Paperback – June 30, 2011
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When a group of friends decides to enter a garden through a break in an enclosing fence, they find themselves in a world never before imagined. Instead of wandering through a natural landscape, they are in the midst of a fusion of the natural and mechanical, including rivers of slowly moving balls, buildings of finely cut paper, and mountains made of seed bags. As the characters move from one part of the garden to the next, their dialogue is exclusively devoted either to describing matter-of-factly what they see or asking questions about it, questions that are often delightfully unanswered. If this seems bizarre it certainly is, but it is also strangely beautiful and illuminating. Yokoyama (Travel; New Engineering) creates a visual landscape that is so imaginative and so dynamic that it sometimes looks as if Picasso and Dalí are having an intellectual argument about the limits of manga as an art form. Ultimately, the narrative is a celebration of the natural world through the observation of its forces at work, rather than a critique of our fascination with technology, though some will no doubt read it this way. A stunning, mind-expanding achievement of graphic storytelling. --Publisher's Weekly, May 9, 2011
Sure, all the characters have no personality and there's no story to speak of. But that's beside the point: This architectural fantasia by the Japanese art-manga master looks like a geometry textbook from an alternate, 6-D universe. --Dan Kois, New York Magazine, May 2011
Yuichi Yokoyama's Garden is like looking at plans for an art installation that's too big to ever be made. This 300-page graphic novel takes some large risks with its storytelling, but those risks pay off big time. Garden has been translated from Japanese to English, but it kept the right-to-left, back-to-front style of book-lookery. The story concerns a group of friends who are denied access to a place called "the garden," but sneak in anyway. The characters exploring the space are nameless humanoids who are all pretty freaky-looking, which is fitting because the shit they find in the garden is pretty freaky-looking too. First they come across a waterfall with rubber balls instead of water and a bridge covered in swivel chairs. To cross the river, the explorers transfer from chair to chair, all while spinning around in circles. The things they encounter later are harder to describe, although they make sense when the confused characters observe and comment on them. The plot doesn't build like a traditional story. The characters explore, comment on beautiful and frightening things, and occasionally engage with or hide from security patrols. It seems like the things they see become more and more dangerous as the book progresses, and then it ends with a confusing sequence that acts as an epilogue, in which we see what may be an explanation of some of the strange things they came across. My best dreams usually involve me moving through some strange and unfamiliar space while looking at alien objects, much like the characters in Garden. I blame those dreams on video games. A big part of gaming is immersing yourself in weird environments--you move through a space and try to understand it, just like in this book. --Nick Gazin, Vice, May 18, 2011
Even though it frustrates ordinary expectations at every turn, though, Garden is thrilling and engaging--a page-turner, in its perverse way. --Douglas Wolk, Time, May 13, 2011
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The world that emerges is radical, extravagant, and limitless, but for the most part seems possible. You could actually build most of the things that appear in a Yokoyama comic, but who would finance an artificial mountain range or a city on coasters? Yokoyama raises unanswerable questions about technology, public space, the environment, consumerism, and desire.
"Garden" is probably Yokoyama's best work to date, alongside "Travel". Not just comics readers, but anyone interested in abstract art, conceptual architecture and design, experimental narrative, or open-ended science fiction should check it out.