Nagabe and poetry in manga: the meeting at Lucca Comics and Games 2022

Manga is not a fad as many hoped or thought. They are not just for kids, each manga has its own genre and is aimed at a well-defined audience: shonen for boys, shoujo for girls, seinen for men just to name a few categories which in turn are divided into other narrative strands.

Nagabe – Lucca Comics 2022 – Photo by Gloria Rubino

In this case the Sensei Nagabe it is difficult to enter one of these boxesan indefinable author, one of the few who managed to conquer a large audience without creating a character linked to anime or entertainment.

First of all in his drawings he does not use color, the drawings are black and white. Both American and European comics, on the other hand, have made color their trademark, think of the characters Marvel that thanks to the color are iconic (Hulk, Spiderman) or to the direction taken at home Bonelli publisher with the Audace line reinventing an “Italian” use of color based on emotions following a color tagline being revised, for example using cool colors to make scenes more distressing or give suspense.

Nagabe not only draws a manga genre, but unravels itself in various targets maintaining a peculiar trait different from all the other mangaka. It does not draw huge eyes and slender bodies, he does not use a linear stroke on the contrary he loves shadows and often uses black much more in the cartoons, in the stories there are very few references to Japanese culture and looking at one of his drawings it would not seem made by a mangaka. He has an easily recognizable, authorial and style his directorial choices in the narrative development of the tables they are never banal or too simple even if there are no action or adventure scenes.

Her most famous manga is “Girl from the other side” where the protagonists are two: a blond, delicate, ethereal girl drawn with the tip of a pen and a very tall monster with the head almost of a deer, black, mournful.

During the press conference of Lucca Comics and Games Sensei Nagabe he explained how the two characters came about as an illustration. She drew them and posted them online as scattered cartoons in which the two protagonists only had a caption. The white girl and the “teacher”, as the monster is called by the little girl, black. Two opposite colors that in the logic of Sensei do not repel each other, do not attract each other simply understand each other. As he himself says, there was no intention of giving a right or wrong morality depending on the color (black = bad, white = good), simply he was interested in the visual contrast and how the two characters could have interacted with each other, not in conflict, always with a meeting like the Yin and the Eastern Yang.

The Japanese publisher immediately notices these particular designs and encourages Nagabe to make a story of them. The two characters then become part of a world in which there is a contagion and the two cannot touch. The theme becomes very current today, but the Sensei wants to explore the body theme of two people who cannot interact with each other by touch and therefore cannot convey their feelings to each other.

Girl from the other side - Photo by Gloria Rubino
Girl from the other side – Photo by Gloria Rubino

There is no father-daughter relationship between the two characters as it would seem, it was not in his intention as he explains himself this was not a conscious choice. Just as he did not expect so much success from his works of him. In conclusion they are not adventurous or funny stories which many require in Japan, do not follow classic narrative strands.

The characters live almost in a fairytale scenariowere it not for the almost aura of curse that surrounds them, they do not have an adventurous life, in the first volume the most dynamic part is almost at the end, but the scenes are not drawn with dynamisms typical of the manga, rather they are paintings side by side, poetic and almost static.

Nagabe it almost subverts the principles of comics that become more illustration with a story that takes you back to fairy tales: a little girl with a monster in a little house in the woods who must not be found, they cannot touch each other, around them a world that has changed too quickly. Only after several numbers do we understand the scenarios and you orient yourself in an almost magical worldmade of poetry.

The dialogues between the child and the teacher are delicate and moving, when she asks why the grandmother does not arrive and the other does not want to tell him the truth. Nagabe succeeds despite his age (born in 1993) to become a beloved author by both the public and critics.

The longest lines I saw in Lucca were at the J-POP stand who distributes his works in Italy and during his firmcopie I saw great emotion among the audience in the queue, even a boy with his arm tattooed with the drawing of the two protagonists of “Girl from the other side” that Nagabe signed and was surprised to see so much affection. A profound esteem reciprocated by those who follow his works and who will want to see him return to Italy in the future.

Nagabe - Photo by Gloria Rubino
Nagabe – Photo by Gloria Rubino

Since a Pisa the visit to the tower was not the best because he had car sickness problems (the curves from Lucca are very treacherous), as he himself told me, we can’t wait for him to come back, maybe for the next Tuscan event.

This year a Lucca there have been other Japanese authors like Atsushi Ohkubo and Yoshitaka Amano and we hope that in the future there will be other encounters with other protagonists of the oriental world that is increasingly loved not only by the youngest.

Written by Gloria Rubino


Lucca Comics and Games website

Nagabe and poetry in manga: the meeting at Lucca Comics and Games 2022 – OUBLIETTE MAGAZINE