Thursday, March 20, 2014

31 Days of Short Reviews #20: Yuichi Yokoyoma

The latest book by Yuichi Yokoyama, World Map Room, is an odd hybrid of his books Travel and Garden. Once again, the plot is very simple: three men set out on a journey in a city with which they are unfamiliar. Walking around, they manage to get a ride on a boat to the building at which they were expected. In the building, they meet the owner walk around and examine the books in a library and then walk to a built-in pond. A boat is sunk in the middle of the pond. The end. As always, the plot in a Yokoyama book is far less important than the qualities of each page and the ways in which he tries to engage the senses. Travel, for example, was all about the exhilarating sensation of movement and navigating an environment. The distortion of shapes to create this sensation was key. Garden, on the other hand, is all about the sensation of color that one experiences in navigating a floral space. World Map Room is Yokoyama's attempt at depicting sound.

There's a repeating event in the book where planes launched from an airport in the center of the city fly slow low that they leave behind a roaring backwash of sound that rattles buildings and people. It's the emblem of the strangeness that the three men, all of whom, as Yokoyama notes have the sort of circular heads of a slightly different race of beings. Indeed, their outfits and the city itself are heavily stylized in a strange and futuristic manner that's designed to have a maximum of attention-grabbing qualities. The patterns are garish and intense, especially from the men alien to the city. Yokoyama designs many of the sequences where each panel takes up a horizontal third of a two-page spread. This allows the reder to fully experience the sensation of intense sounds and sights washing over them. When they finally reach their destination, the clamor and clangor of the city is replaced by the quiet of what would one guess is the titular room. Even in a library, each of the books roars to life as the reader follows along in tomes about typhoons. The conversations the men have are deliberately inane, like in a Stanley Kubrick film. It's perfunctory dialog, designed to move the men from room to room and discuss little more than surface issues about what's around them. Their desires, needs and goals are all left unknown and unknowable; drowned out, as it were by the cacophony they encounter. It is fitting that the book ends with looking at the mostly sunken boat, because that is an image of implacable stillness, especially since the owner notes that the boat cannot be retrieved.

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