Eurocomics Spotlight : Tiago Manuel’s “Mishima : Manifesto De Laminas”

However you slice it — sorry, bad choice of words — they don’t make ’em like Yukio Mishima anymore : the epitome of the “warrior-poet” mystique made flesh and taken to its natural conclusions, his death by his own hand the only fitting capstone to a life that basically demanded nothing less for its final act, to this day he remains a revered figure in as many disparate milieus as he travelled in himself, from far-right nationalist revolutionary cells to the more extreme quarters of the queer BDSM underground. A mass of fascinating contradictions that could never be resolved, we can only really know him, perhaps, through his work, despite the best attempts of everyone from filmmaker Paul Schrader to Death In June’s Douglas P. to illuminate the enigma that was his life and art in their own art.

To that list add the name of Portuguese cartoonist/fine artist Tiago Manuel, who in 2008 produced a gallery exhibition entitled Mishima : Manifesto De Laminas —or Mishima : Blade Manifesto in English — a portion of which made it into print in 2015 in S! #20, from our Latvian friends at Kus!, and which has now (as of late last year) been published in its entirety by Portugal’s premier purveyor of all things artistically avant-garde, Chili Com Carne. Indeed, the release of CCC’s book coincided with the 50th anniversary of Mishima’s ritualistic act of seppuku, and while an extra layer of historic import isn’t exactly necessary to further one’s appreciation of what Manuel has achieved here, it certainly doesn’t hurt — even if the sword no doubt did.

Ostensibly a “graphic adaptation” of Mishima’s Confessions Of A Mask rendered as a series of wordless mixed-media illustrations (each presented within the gorgeous open-bound book adjacent a blank page for maximum consideration value and, if we’re being brutally honest, impact), it would be a mistake at best, betrayal at worst, to think of Manuel’s “suite” as concerning itself overly much with the literal aspects of its subject — after all, if conveying such were his intention, he could have simply gone the “prestige graphic novel” route. Rather, it is the character and philosophy of the work that we are both welcomed to explore and confronted by herein, and while original exhibition curator Antonio Mega Ferreira’s “Visions Of Mishima” text piece serves to set the table, it is the artwork that is the main course, replete as it is with all the martial precision, poetic beauty, unrequited longing, and psychosexual pathology that informed both the narrative it takes it cues from and, of course (and much more crucially, in my view) its author.

To that end, expect to start walking a knife’s edge of internally conflicted thoughts and feelings from the moment you open this darkly exquisite volume until the moment you close it — and expect to keep walking it in the days after. I’m not privy to Manuel’s thoughts or feelings on either Confessions Of A Mask or Mishima himself, but there’s a very real sense here of someone trying to work all that out through his art. By turns respectful bordering on the humble, contemplative, elegiac, and despondent, the medium is the message here, but the messages are as much in conflict with one another as they are conversation — one image is turbulent and immediate, the next reflective with an air of the forlorn, and all points in between make themselves both known and felt along the way. If you’re looking for resolution of and to any of it, there’s none to be had — and that, of course, is both its beauty and its tragedy.

I’ll admit that may be a curious choice of words, as Mishima himself would likely blanche at being described as a tragic figure, yet his work is positively redolent with it, and all of it is ultimately unresolvable. After all, we’re talking about a guy who was at war with modernity itself, and who largely concerned himself with telling the stories of characters hopelessly encumbered by both its weight and the uni-directional arrow of its purported trajectory. Manuel’s task of communicating that via purely visual means is a daunting one, to be sure, but he never misses the mark, and if the examples included with this review — taken from the publisher’s own blog site — aren’t enough to convince you of that, then who are we kidding? It’s an equally safe bet that no amount of blathering on my part will, either.

What I can say with a fair degree of certainty is that ultimately this isn’t a book that you “come to terms with” in a traditional sense so much as it is one that you continue to ruminate upon and analyze your own reactions to — it’s a fait accompli, as is the life of the author whose work inspired it, but as is the case with that life, deciphering its meaning, its purpose, and its repercussions and ramifications is an ongoing and ever-evolving process that, if you’re not careful, may just tell you more about yourself than it does anything else.

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Mishima : Manifesto De Laminas is available for 15 Euros from Chili Com Carne’s website at https://www.chilicomcarne.com/index.php/shop/novidades-new/04-mishima-manifesto-de-l%C3%A2minas-detail

Review wrist check – Formex “Essence Automatic Chronometer” brown dial model riding Formex’s own (and, it’s gotta be said, exceptionally well-made) stainless steel bracelet.

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