A review of

Red Colored Elegy

by Seiichi Hayashi

Central question: Is it possible to become an adult without being utterly compromised?
Format: 240 pp., cloth; Size: 8.5" x 6.3"; Price: $24.95; Publisher: Drawn & Quarterly; Editor: Tom Devlin; Print run: 8,000; Book design: Tom Devlin; Font design: Rich Tomasso; Translated from the Japanese by: Taro Nettleton; Magazine that contained its initial serialization: GARO; Years of serialization: 1970‒71; Number of hit folk/pop debut singles inspired by and named after Red Colored Elegy: one; Number of panels that don’t contain an image of a human being: eighty-seven; Representative sentence: “She’s somewhere getting rained on now.”

An animator is trudging forward, doggedly trying to avoid his companion, who’s attempting to convince him to ditch his animation job. “That production company pays peanuts!” says the companion, who has the white gloves and rubbery posture of a Disney character, but no head—his blood sloshes about in the gaping ring of his turtleneck collar. On the next page, the animator commits bloody murder, reducing his hectoring partner to a lone deflated glove, snagged on a barbed-wire fence.

That’s more or less how it goes in Red Colored Elegy, a graphic novel by Seiichi Hayashi, originally published in Japan in the early ’70s and now receiving its first English translation. The emotional thrust of the scene is clear, but it’s expressed through strange, externalized details. Hayashi was trying to import the disjunctive innovations of French new-wave cinema to the comics page. The result is a condensed visual poetry that still feels avant-garde nearly forty years later.

We hope you enjoy this excerpt.

To read the full piece, please purchase a copy of the magazine from The McSweeney’s Store.

—Chris Lanier

Chris Lanier is a cartoonist, artist, and an assistant professor of digital art at Sierra Nevada College. He has written about comics and art for the San Francisco Chronicle, shotgun-review.com, the Comics Journal, and thehighhat.com.


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