postMonday, 17 September 2007

Review: Shortcomings

Read Shortcomings by Adrian Tomine. Or you can read this review of it but be warned the review isn’t as good as the graphic novel.“What’s the difference between Asian and Caucasian men? The Cauc!”

No it isn’t racist joke month over hear at the end, this is a line from Adrian Tomine’s Shortcomings. Shortcomings is a graphic novel centred around the life of Ben Tanaka, a disillusioned 30 year old Asian male whose life is moving slower than a bill to prevent global warming.

Ben has reached the peak of his profession as manager of the university theatre. His relationship with his long-term girlfriend, Miko, has hit rock bottom and among the many arguments they are sharing, Minko’s fear that Ben is obsessed with white women is a frequent fixture.

Tomine captures the essence of a dead relationship and I must say it is refreshing to read a graphic novel that doesn’t venture into the action/sci-fi/horror realm. The medium is underused as a platform for emotional “everyday” storytelling. Tomine carefully weaves general male melancholy in with racial tension.

Interestingly enough I read another review of Shortcomings, which slammed the book as a style over content type piece with a lack of plot. I’d like to point out that there is a tendency to overate plot in our culture. At the end of the day most stories travel along the same path and it’s more about the journey than the ride. A plot is something you can tell someone in a couple of minutes but it doesn’t capture what went on in between. That’s where the real magic lies somewhere in the middle where the text come to life.

Take When Harry met Sally for instance. It’s your average Hollywood plot, guy meets girl, girl is repulsed by guy. Guy and girl meet again and become friends. Girl falls for guy. Guy falls for girl, blah, blah, blah… Happy ending. I’m sure that’s never happened before (obvious sarcasm). Nothing in the plot captures the amazing character building events in-between and why it leaves the viewer feeling something at the end.

Point being Shortcomings isn’t a plot driven piece going through the motions till it gets to its final climax. It’s a character driven emotional traffic jam, which reminds you that you’re not going anywhere you might as well look around and see who you are stuck here with.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

i read this book and i though is highly overrated. It's boring at best, there is no real character development as some people suggest, and the drawings are bleak and uninteresting.

people get all excited over this kind of comics just because it's "real" and "mature", but that's not the point. i don't have any problem with mature stories, i have a problem with BAD stories.

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