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TOWN OF EVENING CALM, CNTRY OF CHRRY BLS Paperback – February 25, 2015
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About the Author
Fumiyo Kouno was born in 1968 in Hiroshima, Japan. She started drawing manga in junior high school. She published her first commercial manga in 1995.
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I first came across this online, as a fan scanlation. When it came out I just absolutely had to have it. As a physical object, it's beautiful, not your typical paperback tankoubon. It's printed on nice paper, with a very nice dust jacket.
Don't take the "violence" and "sexual content" ratings seriously - the "violence" is hitting someone on the face with a pine cone, the "sexual content" is - just innuendo. And pretty funny, at that. Something about a hotel.
The manga is actually two interconnected stories. The first is a quiet love story. Be sure to have a hanky ready as Minami's story will take you by surprise. The second story is a two-parter about Minami's niece and while it is not as quick to pierce the heart as the first story, the details that are revealed haunt and linger until it all comes clear. It is a rare "sequel" in that it tells its own story and yet it completes the first story in a most satisfying way.
Because it isn't the standard manga that we have gotten used to, but I hope people give it a chance. Much as I love the manga that has become "mainstream", it is works like this one that expand the audience of this unique type of storytelling.
Town of Evening Calm is my favorite of the two stories in the collection. This takes place in Hiroshima, ten years after the dropping of the atomic bomb. Minami is a young seamstress who lives in the Atomic Slum. Like most people in the city, she is still haunted by the events of ten years ago. Her survivor's guilt is so intense that refuses to let herself be happy. This is a story about how she's going on with her life and trying to be at peace with herself.
The two part Country of Cherry Blossoms is about how the effects of tragedy cross generations. This story features Nanami, niece of Minami. In the first part, Nanami is a happy-go-lucky fifth grader. In contrast to her childhood innocence, the second part picks up about a decade later. Nanami is now a slightly jaded adult who worries about the mental health of her aging father. Her father has been disappearing for days at a time recently, and she follows him on one of his excursions to Hiroshima. This gives her a chance to reconnect with her family's history and her own childhood.
Town of Evening Calm, Country of Cherry Blossoms is a beautiful, melancholic collection of stories of how the past haunts the present. Although it may seem short for its price tag (it barely exceeds one hundred pages) I'm sure it will enchant mature readers with its lovely art, haunting atmosphere, and subtle character-driven story-telling. I found it beautiful in every way a story can be. That's the highest praise I can give.
Kouno has an amazing gift for portraying the dignity and aspirations of the common man and woman, and it is this juxtaposition with the cruelty and destruction of war that is most poignant and evocative. All three vignettes are excellent, but the first--"Town of Evening Calm"--is particularly so. I doubt that anyone could fail to be moved by it. Together, the stories are a reminder that for the survivors and their families, the war did not end ten years or even fifty years after the bomb was dropped: it is an inextricable part of their destiny even today. For an English-speaking audience, the stories are probably especially eye-opening: not just for its unblinking "insider's perspective" on the people who were bombed, but also for its look at the lingering and subtle discrimination these people face even today in modern Japanese society. This further compounds the complex feelings of the survivors and their descendants.
"Town of Evening Calm, Country of Cherry Blossoms" is one of my all-time favorite manga, and one of my favorite works of fiction, period. This is the kind of work that lingers in the depths of the reader's mind and soul long after the final page is turned.