What is A Journal of My Father about
Yoichi received word that his father just died. He was never close to his father. In fact, the last time he visited his hometown was when he got married 15 years ago. Ever since his mother left the family when he was a child, he always kept his distance from his father.
But now, unbeknownst to him, he will finally get to see his father’s side of the story. He will encounter adults who were there and know what had truly happened. And now he will be able to judge the past with a new perspective and see who his parents truly were.
The story of A Journal of My Father
Premise. The promise is deceptively simple but the execution is exceedingly complex and full of nuances. I honestly don’t expect much from the premise alone. I read it just because it is Jiro Taniguchi’s work. But man, I was blown away.
Character development. The character development is two fold in this manga. On one hand we get the whole playback of Yoichi’s life from his childhood all the way to adulthood, along with his parents. And we also get the development during the few days he spent in his hometown. And both are exceptionally done.
World building. The world building is surprisingly great. Though the story predominantly happened in the past, Jiro Taniguchi managed to fully explore the settings. From how the people live and think at the time, to the great events that shape not only the region but also the whole country. We get to see them all.
Pacing. This is a slow story. The story demands delicate moments and nuances in order to implicitly tell what happened and what the characters feel. That’s why despite it being just one volume long, it will take you some time to actually finish reading this book.
Story progression. By framing the story as reminiscent of the past, we get to enjoy a non linear story that goes back and forth between the past and the present. This makes the story way more interesting than if it was simply told in a linear fashion.
The art of A Journal of My Father
Landscape & building. There are lots of buildings and landscapes in this manga. The dense row of old houses in the urban neighborhood, a panoramic view of the beach and mountain range, bits of scenery across the city, and the rubbles of wrecked houses and buildings. All of them are beautifully drawn.
Expression & movement. The slow and deliberate pace dictate everything in this story, including the expression and the movements. You’d rarely find fast movements or intense expressions here. What you’ll see instead are subtle facial expressions and walking. Lots of walking.
Vehicles & items. Vehicle is not a major part of the story. You’d see cars and there are also moments where the characters ride a train. But that’s about it. And since this is a slice-of-life story, the design of the clothes and vehicles are highly realistic and appropriate with the time as well.
Panel flow & usage. There are no major innovations in panel usage here. At least nothing that stands out to me. All the panels are drawn and used in the conventional way. And each panel flows nicely to the next. But there are occasional splash and double spreads here and there, which is nice.
Art style & originality. The one thing that would always stand out to me in every Jiro Taniguchi’s manga is the character design. There is always something unique about his character design. Most of them are everyday people living in the real world, but his delicate use of facial expression to convey the heavy emotions is simply uniquely his.
Where to get A Journal of My Father
A Journal of My Father was actually one of Jiro Taniguchi’s early works. It was originally published in Japan in 1994. And it is finally published in English in 2021. I don’t know why it took so long, but hey, at least it’s finally here.
Just like every other works of Jiro Taniguchi, the one that published this book in English is Ponent Mon. And they give it the handsome hardcover treatment. So be sure to get one for yourself through the links below.
By the way, if you’re interested in getting a copy, please consider using those links. If you do, I’d get a small commission from Amazon, which in turn will help this site grow. Thanks.
Manga similar to A Journal of My Father
A distant neighborhood by Jiro Taniguchi
We started off with another manga from Jiro Taniguchi called A Distant Neighborhood. Similar to A Journal of My Father, this manga also focuses on the theme of family, parenting, love and regrets.
This is the story of a 48 years old man who suddenly transports back into his 14 years old body. To the time when his family was still whole. And this time, he’ll make sure it will remain so. Even if it means he has to change the future that he already lived in. Read more.
Town of Evening Calm, Country of Cherry Blossoms by Fumiyo Kouno
Just like A Journal of My Father, this manga also deals with a family struggling to survive in the aftermath of a catastrophic event. But if A Journal of My Father involves a huge fire, this manga deals with something called the atomic bomb.
There are two different stories in Town of Evening Calm and Country of Cherry Blossoms. The first one is about a girl and her family who tries their best to leave among the rubbles of the atomic blast. The other one is about a daughter who finds out about his father’s past through his secret visit to the Hiroshima memorial.
Sweetness and Lightning by Gido Amagakure
There are several manga dealing with the theme of single fathers out there. But I believe Sweetness and Lightning perfectly showcase the difficulty of juggling between work and providing your child with enough care and love. What’s more, this manga still manages to give you various wholesome moments while at it.
The story centers around food. Since Tsumugi’s mother died, his father could only give her store-bought foods. But when she finally says how much she wants to eat foods like the ones that her mother used to make, her Father decided to learn how to cook despite being overwhelmed with work and life.
Have you ever watched those videos on YouTube where they show clips of children cartoons and all the adult jokes and references within it. We’ve all watched it when we were kids but only when we’ve become adults can we see things beneath the surface. We basically gain the ability to take a deeper look into things.
In a way, as we get older, we get more information that makes our eyes and brain have so many filters installed. This is what enabled us to see new things that we previously didn’t even realize ever existed.
Just like with cartoons, our real life works in the same manner. When we were just a kid, we saw how our parents act around us and made a judgement about what happened without even realizing any of the nuances. Why they said what they said. Why they did what they did.
But as you get older, as you enter the same state of life as they were at the time, try to look back. Try to remember what happened then. Maybe you’ll see things differently.
That’s what happened to the main character of this story. And that’s what happened to me.
My father passed away in 2016. These days, the more I try to revisit the time we spent together, the things that he tried to say to me, the things that he tried to teach me, the more I feel like an ungrateful little shit.
But in my defense, I didn’t understand what he meant at the time. But I do now and it makes me feel terrible. Yet regrets won’t do me any good. Just like Yoichi at the end of the story, all I can do now is move forward and learn to appreciate everything and everybody that I have with me right now.
Isn’t it amazing how a manga can make you think so deeply about your own life? This is an amazing read. Thank you very much Jiro Taniguchi-sensei.