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MANGA: Akino Kondoh's 'Noodling in New York'
A selection of stories from Kondoh's decade-long manga memoir of life in New York City
Hello all, Christopher here, and Surprise! This week we have a unique new collection of manga short stories for all of our subscribers (free and paid), courtesy of manga-ka Akino Kondoh. Kondoh’s long-running autobiography series Noodling in New York will see a fourth Japanese volume release this week, and on Wednesday, July 5th there will be a large gallery showing of Kondoh’s work from across the series to celebrate the release. The bad news? Well, that gallery showing is in Tokyo, at Mizuma Gallery (until August 12th), and most of our readership is not in Tokyo. The good news? Kondoh-sensei has allowed us to run 10 of her 2-page short manga from across the series here at Mangasplaining, for you to enjoy.
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Akino Kondoh is a really interesting creator; she’s a manga-ka, illustrator, and animator(!), whose work has been exhibited around the world. You can preview some of her animation here on her Youtube channel. The animations contrast somewhat with her grounded autobio series, Noodling in New York, which is untranslated in English but is available in French from Lezard Noir. The French, always getting the good stuff early, eh?
Kondoh’s most prominent published work in English appeared in Top Shelf’s AX Anthology in the mid-2010s, with very little since then for a pretty interesting reason: Kondoh’s work presents unique challenges for translation as Kondoh tends to create their work in a VERY vertical orientation, making word balloons and caption boxes difficult to appropriately letter. As an example, here’s a Japanese page next to the English page that I lettered.
Yup, I lettered this one. I came in to letter some of these pages for their exhibition at the last moment as their regular letterer was not available. It was an interesting and challenging piece of work, but I think it turned out well overall. Still, it flows much differently in Japanese than in English. I wonder if there is an English language publisher up to the task?
What follows are 10 short stories from across the volumes of Noodling in New York. These stories chronicle Kondoh moving to New York and coming to understand living in a very different country to Japan. The series takes us through Trump, Covid, and thankfully beyond both into the present day. All stories are translated by Jocelyne Allen. Following the stories, the complete gallery exhibition information is included for those of you in Tokyo who want to check out the show which runs from July 5th until August 12th (or you can click here to jump right to it).
Thanks again to Akino Kondoh and her publisher Akishobo for allowing us to run these stories here.
Noodling in New York series: Gristedes, July 19, 2012, 2023, Ink on paper, 36.4 x 25.7 cm
Noodling in New York series: One World Trade Center, September 25, 2021, 2023, Ink on paper, 36.4 x 51.5 cm
<Date> Wednesday, 5th July – Saturday, 12th August 2023
<Opening time> 12:00 – 19:00
Closed on Sundays, Mondays, and holidays
<Venue> Mizuma Art Gallery
Opening Reception: Wednesday, 5th July, 6 pm – 8 pm
Mizuma Art Gallery is pleased to present "Noodling in New York," an exhibition by KONDOH Akino starting on Wednesday, 5th July.
Last year marked the 10th anniversary of the serialization of Kondoh's comic essay titled "Noodling in New York" (serialized in Akishobo's web magazine "Akichi"), which recount the artist’s days spent in New York in illustrated anecdotes.
This exhibition will coincide with the release of the fourth volume of the aforementioned comic essay, and will focus on the manga manuscripts that appear in the volume, as well as new drawings that relate to the manga.
The fourth volume, which begins its story from the midst of COVID-19 disaster, includes global events such as Trump's second presidential election, the 10th anniversary of the Great East Japan Earthquake, the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, and the start of the Russian invasion in Ukraine, as well as personal events (the major water leak incident at her home, surgery of her close family member, and the adoption of her new cat) are equivalently depicted in a two-page spread per episode.
“As the word ‘Noodling’ in the title suggest, there is a carefree notion that imbues the narrative, without a need to jump into any conclusions, which I feel brings out the laid-back vibe in this series. I have drawn what I thought about while living, walking the streets, and just sitting in the corner of the city in New York, as if I were recounting to someone close to me about my recent situations." Kondoh recalls.
Kondoh says that through working on the comic essay these past years, it has become a habit to take photographs that could be used as materials for her manga. Her creative process for her drawings in this show involves tracing the photographs for the backdrop, and then drawing herself as a character into the scenes. Tracing is an essential part of the manga production process for Kondoh, who draws her manga by also tracing rough drafts onto manuscript paper. The artist believes that through the process of replacing the photo with lines, she is able to represent both reality and her constant state of contemplation, onto the present.
The single-framed drawings related to "Noodling in New York", that will be exhibited at the show are detailed scenes that depict the aftermath of the events portrayed in the comic essay or gives imagination as to what might occur afterwards. Scribbled in the corner of these sceneries are the actual location and date of when the artist photographed the scene. These drawings have few words in contrast to the rest of the manga, leaving the viewers with no clear conclusion to the artist’s thoughts, and perhaps reminding the viewers of where they themselves were and what they were doing that day. When you look at the drawings altogether, and overlay each viewer's daily life, you might even picture a whole new scenario that have not yet been depicted in the drawings.
In addition, in the small room beside the main exhibition space, there will be image sketches from the new animated film titled "Never Before Named," which was mentioned in the 251st episode of "Noodling in New York.” In contrast to her previous works, which were created in black and white plus maybe one or two colors, sketches full of color will fill out the exhibition space. Kondoh, who has often used the base color of paper or white to express her skin tone, says that after living in New York for a long time, she had begun to feel discomfort in using white as her skin color.
We hope that you will look forward to seeing more of Kondoh's future through her progression of works, which have begun to expand with the addition of colors to the character’s skin. Mizuma Art Gallery is pleased to present the first exhibition in 10 years by Kondoh Akino.
☆Book and Goods Information☆
The fourth volume of "Noodling in New York" and related goods will be released from Akishobo on 7th July.
Mizuma Art Gallery will be selling the book and merchandise from the first day of the exhibition.
Never Before Named drawing series: Torizukin and Stone, 2022, Pencil and acrylic ink on paper, 25.4 x 20.3 cm
All contents © Akino Kondoh. Used with Permission.