Ursula

By Fabio Moon and Gabriel Ba
72 pages, black and white
Published by AiT/PlanetLar

Everyone’s familiar with the genre commonly known as the love story. Books, movies, comics, music… there isn’t a form of art that doesn’t have the love story. What that means, though, is that as a creator you’ve got to keep a love story fresh and original or you risk losing a jaded audience. I think that’s what grabbed my attention the most about Ursula—it takes the traditional love story and really tries to do something very different with it.

Growing up, Miro’s father is always away on “business”, leaving him to play with his two friends Ursula and Boris. But as a child, Miro knew that he’d truly found his soulmate in the form of Ursula, imagining fantasy worlds for the two of them to live in. On her eleventh birthday, though, Ursula had to go away… but that won’t stop the grown-up Miro from attempting to find her once more. Once he does, though, his journey has only really begin

Originally published in Brazil as 10 Paezinhos: Meu Coraçao, Nao Sei Por Que, Fabio Moon and Gabriel Ba’s Ursula is a peculiar little book. In terms of writing structure, it reminds me a bit of Hayao Miyazaki’s Spirited Away, with a meandering story that keeps taking detours down different avenues only to eventually bring everything back together by the end. The shift from children to adults works surprisingly well in Ursula, both progressing the story and at the same time keeping my attention just as it was in danger of flagging. In many ways, it’s the portion of Ursula after Miro and Ursula grow up that had the most interest for me, with the interesting encounter between the two characters, as well as the revelations about both characters’s lives that had been kept shrouded up until that point. It’s when they’re children that Ursula hits a rough patch or two, trying to weave back and forth between a story of a fantasy world and reality that just doesn’t quite succeed. The fantasy world descriptions come across as both pretentious and something that children wouldn’t have actually said. Thankfully it’s a small portion of the overall graphic novel, and the latter sections more than makeup for the early missteps.

Just as Moon and Ba’s story in Ursula suddenly shifts from adolescence to adulthood, the art likewise shifts style in the graphic novel as the characters begin to age. As children, the characters of Ursula are drawn in a very loose, cartoonish style by Moon and Ba; it’s loose and free-flowing, just like their spirits. As adults, though, the art is a bit more centered and structured, with serious expressions and stances mapped onto the protagonists’s bodies. Just like how I preferred the “older” parts of Ursula‘s story, the same holds true for the art. While there’s certainly a lot of charm in the early stages, I think Moon and Ba have a much stronger sense of storytelling in the second half of Ursula. It seems to be a more confident art style, easier for the reader to follow from page to page. Even in the section towards the end where we see the characters depicted as children once more, it’s still with that more controlled, deliberate art style that debuted upon the aging of the characters.

Ursula is a charming little book that grows on you the more you read it. After a slightly shaky start, the writing and art strengthens and turns into a really nice story about love and determination. I’m really happy that Ursula was translated into English because something this sweet deserves to be read by as many people as possible.

Purchase Links: Amazon.com

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