Daily Graphic Novel Recommendation 136

Town Of Evening Calm, Country Of Cherry Blossoms

by Fumiyo Kouno
Genre notes: post-war drama, romance, humanity
104 pages
ISBN: 0867196653 (Amazon)

Kouno crafts a story that is at once full of so many of the facets of our nature that it can be breathtaking to see how flawlessly they’re brought to life in such a short span of pages. Greed, fear, guilt, shame, anger, regret, sorrow, love, laughter, hope, song, and joy. All of these features of the human frame are present in Kouno’s two-part story. Still more, we see the insidious hand of history and the buoyant touch of nostalgia at work throughout the book’s narrative.

Kouno’s book is divided into two related stories: “Town of Evening Calm” and “Country of Cherry Blossoms.” Hence the terrible title for the book as a whole. Each explores the lives of members of a single family who live as survivors of the Hiroshima bombing and struggle to find their place, being caught between a society that quietly fears them and the weight of survivor’s guilt. Alternately heart-warming and gut-wrenching, this brief exploration of the civilian impact of modern warfare is as good as anything I’ve encountered on the subject. Kouno is neither gratuitous nor melodramatic and her simple stories are powerful reminders of both the heroic and villainous ends of the human spectrum.

While Kouno homes her storytelling lens on the individual—a young woman (in the first part) who struggles to accept the possibility of love in the wake of her unfair escape of Hiroshima’s destruction and (in the second part) her brother and his children’s firsthand experience of the unspoken apprehension felt by a society that would not or could not allow themselves to empathize with hibakusha (surviving victims of the Bomb)—her purpose spans much wider territory. She, in fact, aims to confront the human being in its peculiar existence as engine of both horror and beauty. And even while condemning the race, she hints at the wonder of humanity and the good that it can accomplish when it doesn’t allow its nature to get in the way.

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