02 Junio 2017 15:56
The stark work of Shun Umezawa, author of ‘under the sky such as pantyhose,’ reveals the horrors of Japan that nobody else wants to see
Of the few reviews that have so far appeared in the Spanish media of under the sky such as pantyhose (ECC), by Shun Umezawa, they almost all highlight the publisher’s daring for translating and publishing it in Spain without it first being tested in other European countries or North America.
At first glance, Umezawa is a complete unknown. A reasonably young and reasonably controversial mangaka who rather than bringing to our bookshops an attractive book series, has given us a set of earth-shattering stories.
Over and above the risk involved in putting new literature on the market with no kind of European endorsement, the real courage the editors at ECC have shown is their choice of such a complicated literary work, with such raw images and metaphors and such a hellish depiction of Japanese society.
True, the evil and general repulsiveness of mankind is often portrayed in different manga formats. What is unusual here, however, is the level of realism in the stories, which are so faithful to the truth and so committed to showing a side of Japanese society that is hard to find from other contemporary authors.
In under the sky such as pantyhose the fantasy never ends. Here, if the characters are loathsome, it’s not because they’re monsters. If they’re evil, it’s not because they’re possessed. And if they suffer, it’s not because of some kind of adolescent torment, but because Japanese society is deeply sexist, deeply classist and deeply racist. And that is precisely what Umezawa is trying to get out there.
Violent demonstrations against Koreans; women sleeping with disgusting old men for their money, lousy students who want to kill themselves, lousy students who make life impossible for their classmates or lousy students who are still-in-the-closet transexuals; youngsters who think of nothing but masturbation; and abhorrent lugheads who’ll rape a woman if need be, or try at least, despite having no idea why.
And all set in streets strewn with rubbish. From the dregs of a society that is seemingly clean and tolerant, Shun Umezawa’s flashes of poetry are a soothing respite, giving readers a ray of hope and a vision of tender insanity.Under the sky such as pantyhose is just the first installment of a series of two volumes that ECC has been brave enough to publish, along with another two books from this mangaka, once likened to Inio Asano, only much more brutal.
Personally, and if I had to choose a western equivalent, Umezawa’s prose is reminiscent of a bizarre cross between Charles Bukowski and his scenes of stark adolescence, and David Foster Wallace’s concept of ridiculous masculinity in Brief Interviews with Hideous Men.
As is the case with Wallace’s iconic work, one of the most admirable aspects of under a sky such as pantyhose is how it challenges manhood, questions what we understand by masculinity and heroism and introduces us to a handful of shockingly ghastly characters, whose flaws, however, are frighteningly reminiscent of our own.