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Today on the site Ryan Holmberg looks at Sasaki Maki and Hayashi Seiichi's relationship in comics.

As copies of Sasaki Maki’s Ding Dong Circus and Other Stories, 1967-1973 trickle out into the world, Breakdown Press and I are finishing the next volume in the series, Hayashi Seiichi’s Red Red Rock and Other Stories, 1967-1970.

Like the Matsumoto Masahiko and Sasaki Maki books, Red Red Rock is kindly sponsored by the Sainsbury Institute for the Study of Japanese Arts and Cultures in Norwich, England. Over 200 pages, it collects most of the rest of Hayashi’s work from the late 60s (thirteen works, all but two from Garo), from his earliest Pop-influenced allegories about postwar Japanese identity in light of the Vietnam War to the experimental homages he made to the Nikkatsu universe just prior to commencing Red Colored Elegy (1970). It also includes a lengthy essay by me (written while on a Hakuho Foundation Japanese Research Fellowship) trying to make sense and order out of an eclectic and deeply culturally embedded body of work, placing Hayashi’s experiments in relationship to the contemporary avant-garde art scene in Tokyo.

It’s obviously appropriate that Sasaki and Hayashi books should follow one upon the other, since the two artists were the original representatives of Garo as house of avant-manga. Their work provided the magazine an incredible balance. Shirato Sanpei’s old school leftwing epic of peasant resistance, The Legend of Kamuy, held down the first 40-100 pages of most issues. Filling out the middle was a neo-kashihon gekiga tribe of idiosyncratic talents, including Mizuki Shigeru’s yokai parables and further adventures of Kitaro, Tsuge Yoshiharu’s mystery-cum-travel tales, Tsurita Kuniko’s off-kilter stories about youth and counterculture, and Tsuge Tadao’s anti-cathartic portraits of urban working life. When it came to Sasaki and Hayashi, some people weren’t sure whether their work should be called manga. Their work introduced cutting-edge Pop and avant-garde sensibilities into the comics medium, and created bridges between manga and the wider artistic counterculture of late 60s Japan.

Elsewhere:

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