Imiri Sakabashira’s paintings and manga

September 8, 2008

Photo work by Imiri Sakabashira

And photos, I suppose, though I don’t know the context of the works in this gallery.  I just wish I’d been walking down the street when they were taken, especially if it was before I’d ever read Sakabashira’s ink-drunk manga.  They’re dreams, both dreadful and absurd.

I’ve written about him twice before, though I don’t know that it’s brought me closer to understanding his work.  He’s in a tradition that started with Yoshihiro Tatsumi, if just for their backgrounds.  He freely mixes pan-Asian sources in his flowing brush line.  A favorite scene of shopping streets appears over and over again, a rotting Chinatown in Bangkok, Penang, Kobe, or all three at once.

His Surreal stories often follow a quest, a merciful gesture for the reader.  “Libertine’s Sea” in MaMaFuFu, for instance, rides a moped to the sea for 50 pages.  It goes through grotty alleyways filled with bizarre sights, from a box-hatted widow to a horse on oxygen.  In part, the stories give an excuse for the drawings, leading to the grand non sequitur of the ending, when the biker pulls a crab-man out of a box.

However, many of the images feel familiar.  Sakabashira darkens and troubles the kaiju genre of goofy movie monsters.  So he owes much to Toru Narita, the designer behind Ultraman and Ultra Seven, whose inventive creatures held those shows together.  In a fitting symmetry, noted by Takashi Murakami in Little Boy, Narita drew on the Surrealists.  One of his monsters was even named “Breton.”

A painting by Imiri Sakabashira

Much thanks to Aeron at Monster Brains for the impetus.

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