By Hillel Wright
Hillel Wright’s highly entertaining novel details the life and loves of Fumie Akahoshi, a masseuse turned superstar manga artist. Akahoshi, who starts out married to a much older Western writer, known only as the Old Man, achieves fame as the creator of Chibi Hanako, a character with “the curious blending of an innocent elementary school girl – perhaps nine years old – with the grace and power of a ninja crossed with an Amazon.” Akahoshi’s stories become increasingly political, thereby incurring the wrath of Japanese right-wingers. She ultimately becomes the target of a hit man after criticizing the Emperor in her manga. Although it is a bit difficult to imagine a manga artist stirring up political sentiments in modern Japan, realism is not the point here. Readers willing to suspend disbelief are in for a rollicking ride. Fans of Wright’s previously published fiction will recognize some familiar motifs, such as fishing and Jorge Luis Borges. Also, Wiley Moon, Wright’s alter ego and the protagonist of his novel All Worldly Pursuits, makes a cameo as a literary agent. The book includes illustrations by Taeko Onitsuka which do not exactly illustrate the story, but serve to complement its themes. Pay attention, and you’ll get a crash course in underground comics.