12 Days

12 DaysCreator: June Kim
Publisher: Tokyopop
ISBN: 9781598166910
Released: November 2006

June Kim is a Korean-born comics artist and illustrator who currently lives and works in the United States. Although some of her short comics had previously been collected in various anthologies, 12 Days was her first and, as far as I know, only graphic novel to have been published. What I can say for certain is that 12 Days was my introduction to Kim and her work. 12 Days was released by Tokyopop in 2006. The book’s cover design is really quite lovely with silver foil line work and striking red accents. Tokyopop didn’t always take such care with the presentation of its releases, so this was nice to see. 12 Days is at least partially based on a true story—a sad tale that a stranger told to Kim about her ex-girlfriend. Kim herself originally developed the story of 12 Days while getting over a breakup in her sophomore year of college. However, it wasn’t until 12 Days was picked up by Tokyopop that she completed the graphic novel.

On the way back from her honeymoon, Noah was in a lethal car accident. That was a month ago. Noah’s death hits her ex-girlfriend Jackie hard. Already a wreck from their breakup, Jackie is faced with the reality that she has now completely lost the love of her life. And so she devises a way to forget and finally let go. Over the course of twelve days she will drink Noah’s ashes as part of a personal ritual. Somehow Jackie convinces Nick, Noah’s half-brother, to steal some of his sister’s ashes for her from the urn on his parents’ mantle. It’s under these strange circumstances that the two most important people in Noah’s life meet. Nick and Jackie are each struggling to accept and cope with Noah’s death in their own ways. Their shared experience becomes a source of comfort as much as it is a source of pain. They both loved Noah dearly and it will take far more than twelve days to ever change that.

Kim’s style in 12 Days is influenced by both manga and manhwa as well as by independent comics. A prominent theme in both the artwork and narrative of 12 Days is reflection. This can be seen in Kim’s use of mirrors in the graphic novel, but also in the page layouts and panel composition. Jackie and Nick’s actions and how they are captured in the artwork often parallel or echo each other, providing yet another tenuous connection between the two of them. The narrative itself isn’t linear. Much of the story is told through the flashbacks, dreams, and memories that intrude upon Nick and Jackie’s lives. It’s as if a mirror containing all of their thoughts of Noah has been shattered and they are left picking up the pieces—a fitting metaphor for the grieving process. Some of the transitions can be a little difficult to follow at first, but overall it as a remarkably effective approach.

As a whole 12 Days is a very reflective and introspective work. There is intensity and drama but it’s not overblown; the graphic novel tends to be rather intimate and quiet. Despite the realistic portrayal of the complexities of grief, family, love, and loss, 12 Days is not overwhelmingly bleak or depressing. The graphic novel can certainly be heartbreaking considering Noah’s death, the circumstances surrounding her and Jackie’s breakups, and some of society’s prevailing attitudes towards same-sex love, but there is also a fair amount of humor in 12 Days that keeps things from getting too heavy or dark. Even while dealing with the tragedies in their lives, Jackie and Nick, who are both endearingly eccentric, are still able to joke around and tease each other. Sometimes that humor can be a bittersweet reminder of what they have lost, though. 12 Days is a work that holds extraordinarily up well to multiple readings. In fact, I think I enjoyed and appreciated its subtleties even more after reading it several times.

My Week in Manga: August 13-August 19, 2012

My News and Reviews

Experiments in Manga celebrated its second year anniversary over the past weekend. Thank you to everyone who took a moment to congratulate me here, on Twitter, and elsewhere. And thank you to everyone who reads Experiments in Manga! Last week I posted two new reviews. First was for Hiroaki Samura’s Blade of the Immortal, Volume 12: Autumn Frost. The volume features a showdown between Magatsu and Shira which I think is one of the best fights in the series. I also reviewed Isuna Hasekura’s light novel Spice & Wolf, Volume 6. Even though the sixth volume isn’t my favorite book in the series, I have been pleasantly surprised by Spice & Wolf and look forward to the next installment.

As a reminder, The Kurosagi Corpse Delivery Service Manga Moveable Feast will begin this Saturday and will end on Friday, August 31. In order to coordinate with the Feast, I’ll be pushing this week’s Friday post back one day. I’ll be reviewing the first volume of The Kurosagi Corpse Delivery Service. Next week I’ll be posting some random musings for the Feast, too.

Quick Takes

12 Days by June Kim. Loosely based on a true account, Kim’s debut graphic novel 12 Days tells the story of Jackie Yuen who is trying to come to terms with the death of her ex-girlfriend Noah. Over the course of twelve days she plans to drink Noah’s ashes in a ritual effort to move on and forget. Noah’s younger half-brother Nick becomes Jackie’s co-conspirator of sorts. Despite the constant progression of days, the narrative isn’t told linearly. Flashbacks, dreams, and memories interrupt and invade Jackie and Nick’s lives as they deal with their grief over the loss of Noah together. Noah’s death is a tragedy, but so were the circumstances surrounding her and Jackie’s initial parting. 12 Days is a meditation on love and loss.

Gen, Issues 7-13 by Various. I’ve been enjoying Gen, but I’m still getting used to reading a monthly anthology. Some of the stories are well suited for the format, while others seem to lose a bit of their oomph in short installments. One of the things I like best about Gen is the variety of stories that are included; stories that would probably never have found their way into English otherwise. Of the more recent issues, I’m particularly fond of Isora Azumi’s “Stones of Power” and hope to see it continue for a while longer. Nagumo’s “Let’s Eat Ramen” was another personal favorite. The stories in Gen have been introducing all sorts of elements to the anthology that I enjoy: boys’ love, yokai, androids, slice-of-life, comedy, suspense, and more. I look forward to future installments.

The Legend of Kamui, Volumes 1-2 by Sanpei Shirato. The original Legend of Kamui was a highly influential manga from the 1960s that was one of the first stories to be serialized in the underground manga anthology Garo. The Legend of Kamui available in English is actually a side story to Shirato’s original manga, focusing on the eponymous Kamui’s exploits on the island of Sugaru. Viz only published two of the twelve Japanese volumes, although more of the series was also released as monthly comics. Kamui is a renegade ninja who has left his clan. Hunted as a traitor, a peaceful life will be impossible for him. The second volume gets a little shark-happy, but overall it’s an exciting and well-executed story.

The Monkey King, Volumes 1-2 by Katsuya Terada. To fully appreciate and understand what Terada is doing with The Monkey King requires a familiarity with the Chinese classic Journey to the West. Having previously read it in its entirety, I didn’t have a problem. If you haven’t, I would highly recommend starting the series by reading the beginning of the editor’s afterword in the first volume. The Monkey King is like a collection of “best hits” from Journey to the West with Terada’s own twists on the tale. The scenes are certainly memorable, but don’t necessarily flow very well. However, the narrative in the second volume is more coherent than in the first. If nothing else, The Monkey King is worth checking out for Terada’s phenomenal painted, full-color artwork.

This Boy Can Fight Aliens directed by Soubi Yamamoto. This Boy Can Fight Aliens is a rather unusual anime, about thirty minutes long, with art film sensibilities. Yamamoto had complete control over the project’s creation, writing, direction, and animation. Her style of digital animation is visually interesting but at times crude; it certainly won’t be to everyone’s taste. The story itself is rather surreal but takes advantage of common tropes. I particularly enjoyed the more comedic aspects of the anime. Sentai’s release also includes three of Yamamoto’s early short works which share similar themes (personal relationships, aliens, the destruction of the world, etc.) and visual elements with the longer feature.