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Anywhere But Here
posted March 17, 2005
 

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Creators: Tori Miki
Publishing Info: Fantagraphics, 96 pages, $12.95
Ordering Numbers: 1560976306 (ISBN)

This surprising little book from Fantagraphic and Toren Smith's Studio Proteus consists of approximately 90 gag strips from Tori Miki. Miki's comics are nine-panel grids that star a glowering everyman. Everything in the world, despite its repetitive visual elements, serves the gag of the moment. Unlike most American gag-based comic strip, Miki's work can be extremely obtuse; you either blink and think "very, very clever" or look at it again and think "what the hell?" In fact, part of the fun becomes simply trying to figure out some of the odder offerings. This become less antagonizing when one reads the volume's introduction and finds out that bafflement is the reaction that many Japanese readers have to the individual strips as well.

There's no single approach to the gag work here that a critic can lift from the book, and not even one that dominates. Some of the gags are simply concepts taken to the extreme, say a couple cutting a wedding cake that wander around the country side grasping the knife and cutting other things in half just as easily. Some are plain strips that explode into absurdity with the final panel, such as a man catching a boot while fishing and the last panel shows Ahab pursuing a giant white boot. Others are bizarre fantasies that become grounded in reality with the last panel, such as a man on a long quest who is revealed to have been looking for a pot underneath the sink. My favorite moment isn't even a punchline, it comes in a strip where the protagonist sees a man sitting on one half of a seesaw and, unable to work, he returns to the man and seesaws with him. That you and he both know he has to return to this incredibly stupid scene for his own sanity just kills me. I don't know that the average comics reader might not think Anywhere But Here slight and perhaps even dumb, but there a lot of really clever moments for fans of gag-panel comics in this out-of-left-field publication.