Monday, January 19, 2009

Comic Book Review:
Disappearance Diary by Hideo Azuma

Like Ditko & Lee's Amazing Spider-Man and Chris Claremont's Uncanny X-Men, Hideo Azuma's Disappearance Diary is escapist wish fulfillment at its finest. Only, instead of the adolescent power fantasies made by Marvel, Azuma's autobiographical comic is a flee-from-responsibilities fantasy crafted especially for adults.
Chronicling Azuma's various 'vacations' from work-a-day reality, Disappearance Diary follows the author/artist through homelessness, alcoholism, and finally, rehab. If this sounds like yet another depressing memoir, fear not. Disappearance Diary is a pity-free comedy, or as Azuma says in the comic's second square, "This manga has a positive outlook on life, and so it has been made with as much realism removed as possible." And Azuma keeps this promise. No matter how bad things get, he chooses to highlight the absurdity of the situation rather than the tragedy. Foraging for food and alcohol becomes a treasure hunt. Getting arrested is treated as a comedy of manners. Hell, even the violent crime that results in his hospitalization is only given one panel and two goofy sound effects! Of course, this casual approach to autobiography does have its drawbacks. Anything approaching introspection is given the boot, and one can't help but wonder if the comic wouldn't have benefited from a little more emotional depth. For example, the fact that Azuma repeatedly abandons his wife while he's on these misadventures is glossed over completely. Would Disappearance Diary have had more resonance if Azuma delved into the hurt he caused others and/or the guilt he felt in doing so? Probably. But asking such a question isn't reviewing the book for what it is, but for what it isn't. So then, what is Disappearing Diary? It's a delightfully drawn, hilariously scripted account of one man's repeated escapes from society's expectations and requirements. It's a playful reminder that we all have the choice to just walk away from it all. And -- last but not least -- it's an engaging bit of armchair escapism for wage-slaves everywhere.

For a quick peek at a couple of pages, click here.