Manga Meets Nouvelle Vague: Red Colored Elegy


Red Colored Elegy by Seiichi Hayashi

Red Colored Elegy is a story told in the space between words. Two young lovers named Sachiko and Ichiro are living a simultaneously simple and complex life. They are mirrors to one another, and are finding their voices through a difficult period of trial and error, presence and absence. Dialogue in Red Colored Elegy is used with restraint; the book’s narrative is fragmented and riddled with despair, and just holds together on a first reading. Some speech balloons are populated with emptiness, others with nothing more than an ellipsis.

The faces of Hayashi’s characters are at times rendered with only the eyes drawn in, which gives them a ghostly appearance. His artwork possesses a quality reminiscent of naïve and primitive artists, with a softness of line that depicts bodies with the innocence of children’s drawings. And though Red Colored Elegy was not written for children, it does address the hardships involved with growing up.

Seiichi Hayashi’s environments sometimes employ heavily textured inks, while on other occasions his compositions come across as spatially unbounded.  Many of the splash pages and prominent panels in Red Colored Elegy include extremely detailed hatching and cross-hatching, with the light cast in these drawing conveying a full palette of mood and emotion.

Initially published in 1971, Red Colored Elegy’s narrative influences are in part attributed to the French nouvelle vague film movement of the 1960s. The work in translation has received multiple awards in the West. The Wikipedia entry on the subject is well worth reading, and the Red_Colored_Elegy_excerpt from the Drawn & Quarterly website (with its insightful–and helpful summary of the book) demonstrates the brilliance of visual narrative techniques included within the story’s first pages.

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