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A Single Match
posted April 4, 2011

imageCreator: Oji Suzuki
Publishing Information: Drawn And Quarterly, hardcover, 240 pages, January 2011, $24.95
Ordering Numbers: 9781770460096 (ISBN13), 1770460098 (ISBN10)

You don't often get to use the word "harrowing" to describe anyone's comics, but I'd say it's the term that comes closest to describing the emotional desolation on display in A Single Match, Drawn And Quarterly's collection of short stories from gekiga-ka Oji Suzuki. The best comics in the collection follow a general outline. We're introduced to a child without the faculties to fully comprehend events swirling around them in which they have some peripheral role. They suffer at first and then slowly -- at times almost imperceptibly -- begin to cope, some by paving over the vast dead spaces of meaning and disconnect with elements of fantasy. What fascinates is how much emotional ground Suzuki covers despite employing a series of repetitive settings and bringing to bear art chops that are generally evocative but at times seem unfinished, even lacking in their ability to express nuance.

Suzuki's primary talent lies in pacing. In "Town Of Song," a sequence early in the story lays out in a few panels and a couple of pages the crushing disappointment a child feels for a mother who returns home from a night out unable to spend time with her. Later on, that girls says goodbye to her younger brother from a better place in a scene that seems to last forever, grinding out every excruciating moment. Suzuki not only manages to convey the emotional high point of each individual set piece, each underlies the gift of time withheld, then gifted. I don't know that I've ever seen a cartoonist employ with greater skill the way that people stretch and compress experience, ordering our worlds in way that only makes sense to ourselves, a meaning greater than any element we might see in the background and something that remains precious no matter how much of it is real.