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Storytelling: Yamashita Tomoko

{Yamashita Tomoko} Bara no Hitomi wa Bakudan-01

I’ve always wanted to read a story in which the main couple worked really hard to get together, finally did, and ended with the happiest of endings, but in the next volume or continuation, they’re no longer together, dating other people or trying to. This ever after volume would not be about them finding their way back to each other; it would be about showing how things don’t always go as planned and how people’s feelings change. I think if anyone could write it, Yamashita Tomoko would be the one.

arianwells​ posted about Yamashita’s Good Morning Bad Day a bit ago on Tumblr which brought me back to some recent thoughts. I haven’t seen this title yet, but I just got through a mini binge with Yes It’s Me, Illumination, and Black-Winged Love for the umpteenth time and was trying to figure out (for the umpteenth time) what exactly Yamashita does to make her oneshots so awesome; even the least of hers are better than most. It’s strange that they’re awesome, because there are at least two things that they’ve got going against them that would generally make a oneshot by most other mangaka not as awesome. First, they’re oneshots and usually a collection of them, at that, which are OK, enh, but not my preference; I like long stories. Second, they usually end with something (many things) remaining unresolved, unsaid, or undone. This drives me to a particular level of insanity, BUT Yamashita dips her pen in some kind of hoodoo and I can’t be upset at all about the ellipsis at the end of her stories. Why?

{Yamashita Tomoko} Koi no Hanashi ga Shitai-04After vacillating between “maybes” and “on the other hands,” I think I’ve come to a conclusion of sorts: Yamashita doesn’t write stories with an ending. I mean this in every sense. Her stories are not about people getting together or living happily ever after. And they stop at such a point that she could, one day, if she so chooses, pick up right where she left off as if she never stopped. Her stories are about characters realizing one thing, admitting defeat, or resigning themselves to their unwritten fate. Yamashita doesn’t write about turning points and sticking points, she writes towards them. This journey includes those crystal-clear moments that illustrate what the character is made of in that instant. What happens after is not important and if you need to know what happened before, she’ll tell you. “The Turquoise Morning” from Bara no Hitomi wa Bakudan is a bit of a departure from this, but it nonetheless illustrates the yearning, conviction, doubt, and loneliness that courses through the character’s veins as they are pumped out with every beat of their heart. It’s what the characters are doing/saying/thinking in each panel that matters. The recapitulation of a single thought, the self-deprecation, the conceit. The confusion, the denial, the remorse or lack there of. The stories are about that one reflection followed by the next and the next thereafter. That’s it. And since she doesn’t promise you anything, there’s nothing to measure any sense of disappointment against, if that feeling should visit you at all. You just move on to the next story, close the book, or go back to the beginning and read it again. The fourth option is to stare at the ceiling and drown in your own momentary reflections, possibly bringing you back to the abstraction that started me on this.


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