Rei Hagiwara, 102 pgs, Glacier Bay Books, glacierbaybooks.com, $18 (print), $9.50 (ebook)
Coming off the success of their much-heralded alternative manga anthology Glaeolia, Glacier Bay Books has another gem on their hands. Rei Hagiwara’s Ripples is a reflection on grief, emotion, and memory, all in manga form. It’s incredible.
Drawn in cold, dark watercolours, the characters and settings in Ripples are only distinguishable negatively, through their absence of shade.
There’s an intangible weight to the images as backgrounds begin to encroach on the characters — the oppressive scenes and environments often weighing just as heavily as the characters’ emotions. Brief moments of light, often in the form of memories of better times, provide time to pause and reflect. What or who have the characters lost? What brought them to now?
Unnamed figures wander through cold bleak environments, speaking of their distant memories and reminiscing on past events. “Where can I return these feelings?” asks one figure. “What do I do with this sorrow?” Relationships are never explicitly spelled out, but
Hagiwara is easily able to convey that the connection, whatever it may have been, was (and is) an important one.
There’s an impersonality to Ripples at times, with the reader’s inability to fully understand what is transpiring making the work all the stronger. We don’t need to fully grasp the events being depicted, we just need to be there for them.
In the afterword, Hagiwara speaks of their motivations in producing Ripples: “We witness all sorts of events over the course of our lives. If we lend an ear to the voices that dwell in the depths of this world, we may even be able to hear them.” Ripples accomplishes just that, and powerfully so. It’s an engrossing and meaningful work from an artist I’m deeply excited to see more from.