Friends! As I write, Magician A is almost fully funded. It’s so exciting to see people getting excited about this book I love! And gratifying! I was sure there was an audience for a book like this in English, but it is one thing to know that in your head and another to see the love your precious baby is getting out there in the world. If you haven’t already pledged to get a slightly smutty treat early next year, maybe you could do so now?? I really want everyone to read the interview I did with Ishitsuyo earlier this year, but that’s a stretch goal, so we need to get those numbers up. Pep talk! Then you can hear all about how I went to a shrine and paid a priest to pray for the success of the English translation! (Yes, it was a weird experience.)
And now that I have sufficiently promoted myself, how about we talk about some books? The internet is doing some interesting things to the world of manga. I’ve commented before on the trend of including the number of Twitter followers an artist has on the obi of manga, and we’re seeing more and more of the series artists are publishing independently on pixiv or their own platforms being picked up by publishers and released in book form, the most notable of which is probably My Lesbian Experience with Loneliness. That book (and its sequels) exploded in a way that I think no one really expected, no matter how many views Kabi’s work had gotten on pixiv. The (well deserved) success of Lesbian opened the door to a wave of autobiographical essay manga spilling in from various corners of the internet. And fictional manga was soon to follow. But while the memoir comics tend to stick to a monotone colour palette, the fiction was branching out and experimenting with colour and form in a way that was not exactly done traditionally in manga.
One of those experiments put to the page is Kotteri’s Veil, a full-colour, two-volume work that is more of a mood than a story. Loosely, it’s about a man and a woman who don’t get names until profile pages at the end of volume one. The names don’t matter anyway; they’re never used in the main text. The woman is blind—or rather, she has her eyes closed all the time. The details of this, like many other bits of these two books, are never discussed. The man is a police officer of some kind. His uniform looks vaguely Russian, but he smokes Chesterfields. We see him smoking a lot, but pretty much never doing police work. Mostly, the man and the woman swan around looking beautiful in beautiful clothes, flirty and cute together in various flirty and cute locales. It seems like they are a couple, and we watch them get closer to each other through chapters like small vignettes.
The body of the story is these chapters, generally only a few pages long, just enough for the reader to glimpse a moment between the man and the woman before the door is shut on their world again. It starts with a prologue that sets the whole thing going: the woman is walking with a cane and she hits the man, who is sitting on a step in her way. It turns out she is running away from home and looking for a job. His precinct needs someone on the phones, so she goes with him, ostensibly to live and work at his station. They have a lovely assortment of tea there. These are the sorts of details and non-details Kotteri offers up. When you’re reading, you feel present and right there with the swanning couple, but close the book and it’s hard to pin down what exactly you’ve been reading. He helps her choose and put on a belt, a random office woman kisses her when she sits on the sofa, she takes his arm in the museum.
The books are a catalogue of small moments, and the sense of dreaminess the whole endeavour gives off is boosted by the pages between the chapters, one panel illustrations of the man or the woman or both of them, drawings of them in various outfits like a fashion designer’s sketchbook, rough sketches of who they will become. It’s a curiously compelling mix of manga and artbook, and I got the feeling that Kotteri mostly just wanted to draw some hot people in pretty clothes. As someone who enjoys looking at beautiful people fashionably dressed, I’m not opposed to this desire, but it makes a strange starting point for a comic. She adds a little more narrative glue with monologues from both man and woman (and even a tea set later on), pages of short pieces of text depicting their current mental state or mood.
The whole thing is beautiful and very lovingly put together. It’s all in colour, although the base of the manga pages is a beige-yellow rather than white, giving a hint of a sepia feel, further adding to the dreamy quality. It’s clear that Kotteri loves colour and uses it well, with splashes of bright red amidst muted turquoises and dusty roses. And her linework is so expressive and moody, drifting from tight and controlled to loose and ethereal. I mostly just enjoyed staring at the pages and losing myself in the lushness of the art. This is one of those books you can swim lazily through even if you don’t read Japanese. It’s more of a dream you had than a story you read, and it lingers in the same way, details hazy but the emotions hanging around in your heart.