Walking Man

By Jiro Taniguchi
160 pages, black and white
Published by Fanfare/Ponent Mon

A few months ago, I finally replaced a book of mine that had gone mysteriously "missing." I say it that way because I am pretty sure I lent it to someone else who then conveniently never returned it. Normally this drives me mad, but when the book is Jiro Taniguchi’s The Walking Man I almost have to understand. After all, when a book this wonderfully good yet simple crosses your path, it’s hard to not instantly fall in love with it. If nothing else, the fact that I ended up buying a new copy says that this is the kind of book that I’ll enjoy re-reading again and again, doesn’t it?

Our main character is a salaryman, one of those numerous white-collar businessmen that live and work in Japan. When he’s not at work, though, one of his favorite things to do is to go for a walk. Around the neighborhood, or perhaps somewhere new, there’s always something lurking around the corner just waiting to be found.

There aren’t many creators out there that I think could take the concept of, "Mostly wordless stories about a nameless businessman walking through his neighborhood" and make it really succeed, but Jiro Taniguchi does just that. If you read The Walking Man and don’t instantly want to go for a walk of your own, I’d be shocked. It’s funny, because most of the walks are hardly full of big events or surprises. A walk up a steep hill, or observing students, perhaps lying under a cherry tree with the petals from its blossoms carpeting the grass. With each story, though, it’s a quiet and almost lyrical sense of peace that permeates the story. You can’t help but want to be with our main character, from getting locked out of his own home, to helping kids with a toy up top a tree, to a furtive skinny dip in a closed pool. Our character clearly revels in enjoying every moment of his day, both alone or with his wife or dog. It’s a great feeling.

If you’ve ever seen Taniguchi’s art before, you won’t be surprised to know that this book is also full of meticulously detailed drawings of anything and everything. Thousands of blades of grass and leaves on trees, individual lines on every house’s roof, carefully detailed wires coming off of telephone poles, it’s all there. In a lesser hand this might come across as distracting, btu it’s anything but the case here. Instead it just adds to the feeling that you’re not reading a comic, but rather watching someone’s life. Every little nuance of our protagonist’s face and movements come across here, and it’s such a natural and well-drawn end result that it’s actually a little surprising at times that Taniguchi isn’t a bigger deal outside of Japan.

The Walking Man can be hard to find at times in North America, but if you walk into a store that has a copy, buy it right away. You absolutely will not regret it, but make sure you have a good set of walking shoes ready. You’ll be itching for a stroll before you know it.

Purchase Links: Amazon.com

6 comments to Walking Man

  • Fantastic blog. It’s great to see another comic review blog that reviews different variety of stuff. I also do book reviews, but specifically on art books.

  • Simon

    itís actually a little surprising at times that Taniguchi isnít a bigger deal outside of Japan.

    Note that Taniguchi isn’t a big deal inside of Japan either: similarly to Tsuge, Tatsumi, or Yokoyama, Taniguchi is a big deal mostly only in France/Belgium/Swiss, probably because his Proustian sensibilities have found fertile soil among the literate.

    Also, The Walking Man is actually among his weakest books (relatively to his body of work, that is): it’s beaten all hollow by short-story collections such as L’Orme du Caucase or Terre de rÍves, graphic novels such as Quartier Lointain or Au temps de Botchan, and genre stories such as Le Sommet des dieux or Seton le naturaliste. Those who’d prefer The Walking Man will find more of the same contemplative short stories in Le Gourmet solitaire and Le Promeneur.

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