Great Graphic Novels: Sazae-San, by Machiko Hasegawa

GreatgraphicnovelsLast month I asked my friends to write about books they loved (you can read all the essays here). This month, I invited them to write about their favorite graphic novels, and they selected some excellent titles. I hope you enjoy them! (Read all the Great Graphic Novel essays here.) -- Mark

Sazae-San, by Machiko Hasegawa

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The Wonderful World of Sazae-San translated into English


  1. It is a testament to the amazingness of Sazae-san that the anime continues to this very day. It’s like the Simpsons of anime. No season will ever be the last season.

  2. This is the only review in this series I managed to read the whole of  – because it was actually enjoyable to read. And I am quite easily bored by text, especially stuffy old reviews. I know other places probably do this sort of thing but I for one would wholeheartedly support it if Boing Boing made reviews and articles in comic form a more regular occurrence? Well. When I say “wholeheartedly support” I mean read them.

     And obviously there is a subtext here that this would save me from having to do an internet search for sites that do reviews in comic form, as it is much better if people do all that work for me. Internet searches are really draining. I want to read Sazae-San now, but my negative synaesthetic reaction to paper is really strong at the moment, so I can’t touch books, so hopefully there will be an online collection somewhere?

    1. I’m with you Luke. I would love *every* post on Boing Boing to be a well-executed comic like this one. (every comment, too!) But it’s just a dream.

      1. I thought flagging comments just marked them for review? Man, if I had known that flagging a comment automatically puts it in the spam filter, I would have been flagging every pro-conservative opinion on this site!

        Woo hoo, power!

        1. It doesn’t. And some people do flag every comment with which they disagree. Which means that I just approve everything that’s been flagged without bothering to read them.

  3. Sazae-san is extremely addictive. I have a friend from Japan who introduced me a to it a few years back and I was hooked. I’d been thinking of collecting the whole series but I don’t think it is available in English in its entirety…  Well worth reading though!

  4. I could not possibly agree more.   Try reading a comic or graphic novel out loud to a kid and you’ll quickly assess it’s true readability.  A lot of comics and graphic novels are exhausting to try to read out loud.  I know reading out loud may not be the primary use case, but nonetheless, the more readable a comic is, the less effort it is to read out loud.

    1. I couldn’t disagree more. The hallmark of a good comic or graphic novel is that the words and pictures add up to more than the sum of their parts. You don’t want a cartoon, you want a script for a storytelling session.

  5. Relevant: Scott McCloud’s theory of Four Tribes, found in “Making Comics”. (his third book on comics theory, following “Understanding” and “Reinventing”)

    Martinson here is pretty thoroughly declaring for what McCloud labels as the “animist” and “iconoclast” camps – he’s interested in the story and in life. (IIRC from his previous appearances, most of his comics are non-fiction?) Which is fine. I do get my hackles rising a bit at him seeming to say that story is THE most important thing in comics, PERIOD. It is for him, but not for everyone – witness the many American comics people who have spent time poring over untranslated Moebius albums, for instance, just to soak in the visuals!

    (On the other hand, yeah, crap drawing and great writing usually goes a lot further than crap writing and great drawing – see XKCD for instance – but I’d generally prefer to read a comic with really amazing art and decent writing to one that’s the other way around. If I want really amazing writing I’d rather turn to a book.)

    YMMV, obviously. De gustibus non est disputandum and all that.

    1. OOH. Now I am imagining a comics blog where all the comments must be in comics form. No text field, just a canvas.

      Would make spamming harder too.

      Although I suppose you would probably want to add boner recognition.

      1. W-w -what… is… b-b-boner recognition?

        (amazing username btw.)
        Sorry. That was juvenile of me. I think if the idea was actually done, which is interesting, part of the charm would be that there would be errors, and most of them would be near unreadable.

        1. My username is the most creative thing I have ever made.

          But yes! Mistakes and scribbles and everything! The best kind of transient, ephemeral art.

          1. Right. Drawable canvas area for comments, no eraser allowed.

            Who’s going to code this? BB will definitely use it. It can’t possibly be worse than Disqus…

  6. Gasoline Alley, the bane of my newspaper comic loving youth, is being rereleased in its entirety and I think it might fit this sort of idea as well.  The comic scripts are usually simple and early on they are pretty poorly drawn, but occasionally there will be these wonderful graphicy/artsy/visually complex pieces that are a lot smarter than anything I see nowadays. 

    I’m completely in love with the reissue, which is called Walt and Skeezix due to trademark issues. 

  7. Chris Ware is very strongly in the favor of readable comics – in fact, he constantly claims the style in “Jimmy Corrigan” and most of his latter work is simple on purpose, so that people will read it rather that look at it.
    But then again, his comics are gorgeous, aren’t they?

  8. False dichotomy is false. Chris Ware has experimented with dazzlingly complex layouts and storytelling techniques in his comics, but as Emojk says above, he also has done some very straightforward narrative in his books, and can even alternate between the two as he sees fit to serve the story. (He also writes some of the best, most natural dialogue in comics.) There are certainly comics artists who are needlessly complex and especially those that cram in endless distracting detail (the original artists who formed Image were especially guilty of this, as well as numerous other artistic sins), but there are also comics writers who overwrite badly; Chris Claremont is one of the worst all-time offenders in this regard, but Robert Kirkman and Garth Ennis, as well as Warren Ellis when one of his characters is being excessively expositional, can also be pretty bad in this regard. A nice, simple, clean style can be refreshing, and effective in the right hands, but it also describes the endless banality of most American newspaper cartoon strips that have long since run out of anything funny or meaningful to say, and isn’t necessarily preferable to the gorgeous style of, say, J.H. Williams III on Promethea.

  9. Sazae really resonates with a lot of people for a lot of reasons. 
    It starts off during the end of WW2 if I remember right – a young girl getting up early to go fetch rations for her family… leading through Japan’s rebuilding era of the 50s, it’s pride for the Olympics in the 60s, it’s economic rise of the 70s and 80s,… there is a warm familiarity that surrounds the family through the duration of the strip.Nice pickup Lars! It really is one of the greats. 

  10. Who was it that said Cathy Guisewite’s art was like dropping string on paper, but she still produced a compelling strip because she wrote so well? And the opposite example is Mallard Fillmore, a beautifully drawn piece of crap. And for the whole spectrum, there’s that inverse relationship between better art and worse writing that Doonesbury exemplifies.

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