I know just about nothing in regards to Japanese cartoonist and experimental musician Harukichi, but that’s one of the sublime joys of the long-running Mini Kus! line from Latvian “art comics” publisher Kus! — its introduces you to new voices from around the globe whose work likely wouldn’t come across your radar otherwise. And when it comes to Harukichi’s Hero — number 85 in the Mini Kus! series — I’m damn glad it did.
Apparently, our protagonist in this one — a cat named Gosshie who “works” as a DJ — is a recurring character in Harukichi’s stories, and his gift appears to be the ability to find exactly the right song for every occasion. Not a bad skill to have, to be sure, and in this comic he cleverly deploys one apropos track after another for situations ranging from the everyday to the extraordinary as he makes his way through town with his little wagon full of LPs. It’s cute as hell, gently humorous, and exceptionally well-drawn — and really, what more are you looking for in a comic than that?
Rendered in colored pencils (I’m fairly sure, at any rate) and inks, this is vibrant, intricately-detailed stuff that establishes a kind of timeless environment, or perhaps one outside of time altogether, and while Harukichi is a bona fide maestro when it comes to drawing people, places, and things, it’s the subtleties of expression displayed on Gosshie The CJ Cat’s face here that steal the shower and will instantly register with any feline-lover : quizzical, determined, intuitive, but always at least slightly unimpressed by anything other than himself, this is the kind of cat we all know about very well indeed. And yeah, you can’t help but love the little bastard.
Not that he loves you back, of course — there’s always somewhere else to be, something else to do, some new track to spin. He’s not exactly out to help or anything, he’s just there to do his part. To evaluate what’s happening and find something that fits the mood, whether that’s pleasantry or peril or something in between. He’s a cat. He’s gonna do his thing. Now get out of the way and let him do it.
As with any creative creature, he’s found a way to make a living at it, too, passers-by tossing Yen his way for his records, and his entrepreneurial skills are one more reason he wins you over so effortlessly. In a pinch, I suppose, Gosshie might look a little like Garfield to the very casual reader, but there’s nothing lazy, cynical, or boring about this little furball. He’s the coolest of cool cats, and he does it all without breaking his suitably confident stride. I think I might just have a new hero — and I’m kinda thinking that’s why Harukichi chose that title for this book. It’s as good a theory as any other.
As far as short-form comics stories go, the simple fact is that they just don’t come much better than this one. Harukichi’s art is incredibly distinctive without being “showy,” his visual storytelling is fundamentally sound without relying on any crutches, and his humor is well-timed without being forced or feeling even moderately shoe-horned. If you don’t like this, you don’t like comics.
Hero is available for $7.00 from the Kus! webshop at https://kushkomikss.ecrater.com/p/35759366/hero-by-harukichi
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