Red Coloured Elegy
Story and art by Seiichi Hayashi
Original Publisher: Seirindo
Length: 1 Volume
Whenever I experience something abstract, I find myself simultaneously intrigued and disconnected from it. I can be exposed to it, enjoy it, and discuss its meaning, but never feel like its a part of my reality. For example, I may see a piece of art at a gallery, fawn over its uniqueness, but ultimately it remains somewhere far away from me. This, in turn, can affect how engrossed my experience in various creations feel. This was my initial experience with Red coloured Elegy. The first few pages depicted bizarre imagery, using unrelated artwork to explain crucial aspects of our characters. However, what started off quite jarringly soon became a critical and highly enjoyable piece about the struggles of early adulthood, the time between the rigid structure of education and the rigid structure of the workforce, but always absorbed by the rigid structure of society.
Ichiro and Sachiko are young lovers in a time filled with uncertainty and isolation. Their goals in life sometimes seem only achievable through daydreams, yet they continue to struggle in the hopes of attaining a better life. In their early twenties, the pair must juggle unfulfilling work and a failing relationship with their family’s, and society’s demands. As I said before, this piece’s abstraction is its selling point. For the first quarter of this piece, the only information the reader is given about the plot was obtained from the blurb on the back of the book. The reader is expected to understand how this world works, and why our characters act the way they do in order to identify both their contextual goals and morality. This, from a literary standpoint, can seem like poor storytelling, and could ultimately isolate the reader. But that wasn’t my experience with Red Coloured Elegy.
Instead of isolation, I felt like I was given a key to this piece. Gradually, I was welcomed into this terrifying world, filled with pungent imagery and nihilistic inhabitants. What seemed so disconnected from my life soon began to unravel, and behind all the shocking visuals I discovered a world much like my own. The author makes the world seem vile by displaying, well, vile imagery. This may have been done through how he chooses to depict aspects of the environment, or the people who live in it. When substituting these bizarre artworks for their counterparts in reality, you realise that they function almost identically to that of the real world. Or, at least how many people feel they function. In this sense, Hayashi isn’t creating a new world with his drawings, but instead physicalising the emotions many have regarding aspects of them. Our protagonists are at a point in time (early 20s) where feelings are particularly lacerating, and there the world the paint with their feelings is both unlike and identical to the world we live in currently.
What I admired about this manga, and its art, is the way it attempts to depict human feelings. Everything is both simultaneously powerful and vague. The reader is never given any explanation for why the characters act the way the do. On the odd occasion we may be given some semblance of plot, or a character telling us how they feel, but for the most part it was just about how they lived. While this might be off-putting to some, it really affected me. This is because the semantics of their situation don’t matter. How similar their lives are to the reader mean nothing; it’s about how they feel, how they act, which perfectly emulates that of a young adult struggling to find themselves, appease their family and maturely develop a relationship. The storyline isn’t meant to resonate with you, how they FEEL should. Because odds are, at least I found in my case, that a lot of the anguish felt by the characters also resided within me.
When you finally see the piece for what it is, a world painted by a person at a turbulent time in their life, there is no abstraction. Everything makes sense, because its all things we have thought, or more importantly felt, at one point or another. We just never thought of these feelings as physical, Hayashi lets us.
Red Coloured Elegy is just as accurate in portraying young adulthood as its less conceptual counterparts. It just takes a bit of wading through murky waters to discover. While not all parts became clear to me until later reflecting, how I felt the characters felt was exactly how I feel currently. That was a bit wordy, but I think its semi-convoluted appearance resembles that of this piece. Pick up this piece, take your time with it. Hopefully, if you’re lucky, it might show you the glimpses of brilliance I was able to experience through its raw emotion and genuine nature. If you’re luckier, it might suck you in completely.
Art – 9
Story – 8
Writing – 7
Overall – 8/10