Fumio Obata’s comic Just So Happens, reviewed.

An Understated and Lovely Comic About a Londoner’s Return to Japan

An Understated and Lovely Comic About a Londoner’s Return to Japan

Reading between the lines.
May 7 2015 2:45 PM

Coming Home

An understated and lovely comic about a Londoner’s return to Japan.

Panel from Just So Happens.

Illustration courtesy of Fumio Obata and Abrams Comicarts

Many readers know what it’s like to feel out of place. But not everyone understands the emotional tug-of-war of the expatriate: A person who has worked to make a place for herself in a new land, while never quite losing the connection to her old home. Even as she accumulates friends, co-workers, and lovers, she feels the pull of the place where she was born. It’s this tension that the Japanese–British cartoonist Fumio Obata explores in his new comic Just So Happens.

His heroine, Yumiko, runs a design firm in London, but when a single phone call from her brother upends her world, she returns to Japan to confront the life she’s left behind, the cultural modes and strictures she can’t ever quite shake, and the family she’ll always miss. Obata’s book is refreshingly understated; his sparse dialogue leaves lots of rooms for his expressive, water-colored imagery, which can appear cartoony or super-detailed or dreamlike, depending on the storytelling needs. We get to know Yumiko through her eyes, her posture, and her movement through space—a cartooning choice perfectly pitched to a book that explores the way the unspoken can both soothe and torment us.

We’re very pleased to have Fumio Obata illustrating the May issue of the Slate Book Review.

Advertisement

---

Just So Happens by Fumio Obata. Abrams Comicarts.

Dan Kois edits and writes for Slate’s culture department. He is writing a book called How to Be a Family and co-writing, with Isaac Butler, an oral history of Angels in America.