Books / Pop

Yokohama Kaidashi Kikou, Deluxe Edition 1, by Hitoshi Ashinano

Yokohama Kaidashi Kikou, Deluxe Edition 1, by Hitoshi Ashinano (Seven Seas Press, 450 pages)

Originally published in Japan starting in 1994, the manga series Yokohama Kaidashi Kikou (translated as Yokohama Shopping Log) follows the daily life of Alpha the android running her missing master’s coffee shop. Now the series has made it to the United States after a long wait, collected in this single volume, and publisher Seven Seas has done an excellent job preserving the style of the time in which it was originally published. Most of the pages are black and white with old-school screentones, but there are full-color images and panels as well, bursting with beautiful warm yellowish hues. Both aspects are preserved excellently with no apparent digital tampering. This desire to stay true to the original makes opening the book for the first time akin to rediscovering a long-lost favorite from your shelf.

Typical of manga created in the ’90s and early 2000s, the character designs are big and bubbly with round exaggerated features. There is less focus on realistically rendering the human face and more on amplifying expressions, making emotional beats more easily understood. Whether characters are enjoying a cup of coffee or asking for directions, the reader can get a sense of what they feel in quiet moments.

Yokohama’s art elevates itself past merely entertaining; two incredibly evocative scenes, one of dancing and the other of swimming, capture the nature of each specific movement. There’s a lightness in the renderings of Alpha’s dance at the Neighborhood Association party that shows a character free from worry or judgment by others.

The setting and background art contribute significantly to the reading experience as a whole.

The story takes place after some unknown large-scale ecological disaster, on a strange yet familiar Earth. Throughout the volume, whether Alpha is home or out traveling, there are only a few people, and nature has reclaimed much of the environment. The one local gas station with its single kindly caretaker feels lonely with a wide and empty lot, the asphalt cracked with fault lines. The roads, when they are not flooded, battle against ever-encroaching overgrowth. Flashbacks later in the volume depict the previous lay of the land, so we see how it has changed over time.

Another small but overarching detail is the way Yokohama implements shading in the panels. A chapter where a child plays outside would not be as vivid if the background art did not show the passage of time from a clear summer afternoon into dusk. Instead of using the setting as a vehicle to propel the narrative, it becomes a separate entity to care about all on its own.

There’s not a lot of plot in Yokohama Kaidashi Kikou. While there is the underlying thread of Alpha waiting for the cafe owner to return, it is rarely anything but an implication. Instead, the narrative is more of a series of vignettes with shared characters connecting them. Going with this larger, more unstructured narrative could have made the reading experience fragmented but, because of the work done in the setting, it is as if the reader is going alongside the characters throughout their day. Chapters consist of everything from trying to get rid of excess watermelon before it spoils to spending the day attempting to take a good picture. There’s the occasional mystery of the setting to ponder, like Alpha’s legendary neighbor the Osprey or watching the sky for a plane that never lands, but these things are passing curiosities, never resolved.

As summarized on the back of the book, the story presents itself as Alpha the android watching the end of the human world, but such an unstructured narrative, focused on the day-to-day, presents more a paring down of the world. What if money stopped mattering? What if there were no job to wake up early in the morning for, and no fear of losing shelter or health care? What would people care about and what would they value? Yokohama Kaidashi Kikou is a fantasy of kindness, where what matters most to the characters is connecting with others and the environment they live in. For them, there is time to contemplate who they are and what they want to become, and even how they want to experience the world around them.

For a work of fiction to gently remind the reader to open their senses, whether to a swirling storm of clouds or an expansive endless blue, and commit to memory the day that is given, truly is a treasure. A+ — Bethany Fuss


Book Events

Author events

PHIL PRIMACK presents Put It Down On Paper: The Words and Life of Mary Folsom Blair in a Literary Lunchtime event at Gibson’s Bookstore (45 S. Main St., Concord, 224-0562, gibsonsbookstore.com) on Thursday, Sept. 8, at noon.

MINDY MESSMER presents Female Disruptors: Stories of Mighty Female Scientists at the Bookery (844 Elm St., Manchester, 836-6600, bookerymht.com) on Wednesday, Sept. 14, at 5:30 p.m. Free admission; register at bookerymht.com.

SUSIE SPIKOL, a naturalist at the Harris Center for Conservation Education in Hancock, will discuss her book The Animal Adventurer’s Guide: How to Prowl for an Owl, Make Snail Slime, and Catch a Frog Bare-Handed, on Saturday, Sept. 17, at 11 a.m. at Toadstool Bookshop (12 Depot Square in Peterborough; toadbooks.com, 924-3543).

JOSEPH D. STEINFIELD presents Time for Everything: My Curious Life at Gibson’s Bookstore (45 S. Main St., Concord, 224-0562, gibsonsbookstore.com) on Tuesday, Sept. 20, at 6:30 p.m.

BOB BUDERI author of Where Futures Converge: Kendall Square and the Making of a Global Innovation Hub will beat the Bookery (844 Elm St., Manchester, 836-6600) on Wednesday, Sept. 21, at 5:30 p.m. for a discussion with special guests C.A. Webb and Liz Hitchcock. Free admission; register at bookerymht.com.

SUSIE SPIKOL, a naturalist at the Harris Center for Conservation Education in Hancock, will come to Gibson’s Bookstore (45 S. Main St. in Concord; gibsonsbookstore.com, 224-0562) to “teach your kiddos how to find critters in their neighborhood” on Saturday, Sept. 24, at 11 a.m. with her book The Animal Adventurer’s Guide: How to Prowl for an Owl, Make Snail Slime, and Catch a Frog Bare-Handed, according to a press release. The book, which is slated for release Sept. 13, features “50 hands-on activities and adventures that bring you closer to wild animals than you’ve ever been,” the release said. Spikol will also bring supplies to do one of the crafts from the book.

MARGARET PORTER presents The Myrtle Wand at Gibson’s Bookstore (45 S. Main St., Concord, 224-0562, gibsonsbookstore.com) on Wednesday, Oct. 12, at 6:30 p.m.

Book Events

CAT KID COMIC CLUB: COLLABORATIONS CELEBRATION Toadstool Bookshop (Somerset Plaza, 375 Amherst St. in Nashua; 673-1734, toadbooks.com) will hold a party to celebrate the release of Dav Pilkey’s newest Cat Kid Comic Club book (Nov. 29) on Saturday, Dec. 3, from 1 to 4 p.m. The afternoon will feature games, puzzles, goodies, raffles and more, according to the website. The book is available for preorder now.

Poetry

OPEN MIC POETRY hosted by the Poetry Society of NH at Gibson’s Bookstore (45 S. Main St., Concord, 224-0562, gibsonsbookstore.com), starting with a reading by poet Sam DeFlitch, on Wednesday, July 20, from 4:30 to 6 p.m. Newcomers encouraged. Free.

MARTHA COLLINS and L.R. BERGER hosted by the Poetry Society of NH at Gibson’s Bookstore (45 S. Main St., Concord, 224-0562, gibsonsbookstore.com) on Wednesday, Nov. 16, from 4:30 to 6 p.m.

Writers groups

MERRIMACK VALLEY WRITERS’ GROUP All published and unpublished local writers who are interested in sharing their work with other writers and giving and receiving constructive feedback are invited to join. The group meets regularly Email pembrokenhtownlibrary@gmail.com.

Book Clubs

BOOKERY Monthly. Third Thursday, 6 p.m. 844 Elm St., Manchester. Visit bookerymht.com/online-book-club or call 836-6600.

GIBSON’S BOOKSTORE Online, via Zoom. Monthly. First Monday, 5:30 p.m. Bookstore based in Concord. Visit gibsonsbookstore.com/gibsons-book-club-2020-2021 or call 224-0562.

TO SHARE BREWING CO. 720 Union St., Manchester. Monthly. Second Thursday, 6 p.m. RSVP required. Visit tosharebrewing.com or call 836-6947.

GOFFSTOWN PUBLIC LIBRARY 2 High St., Goffstown. Monthly. Third Wednesday, 1:30 p.m. Call 497-2102, email elizabethw@goffstownlibrary.com or visit goffstownlibrary.com

BELKNAP MILL Online. Monthly. Last Wednesday, 6 p.m. Based in Laconia. Email bookclub@belknapmill.org.

NASHUA PUBLIC LIBRARY Online. Monthly. Second Friday, 3 p.m. Call 589-4611, email information@nashualibrary.org or visit nashualibrary.org.

Language

FRENCH LANGUAGE AND LITERATURE CLASSES

Offered remotely by the Franco-American Centre. Six-week session with classes held Thursdays from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. $225. Visit facnh.com/education or call 623-1093.

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