Having just completed the Barefoot Gen series, I thought to myself, “the one thing I need now is a graphic novel about Hiroshima.” Lo and behold, Fumiyo Kouno's Town of Evening Calm, Country of Cherry Blossoms.
Essentially two stories, loosely connected, that take place years after the bombing. It's not obvious how these stories are connected initially, but it becomes clear by the end. The first story, “Town of Evening Calm,” is gorgeous. I was nearly moved to tears. In a very short space, the author creates a beautiful portrait of a person and makes a story that is heartbreaking. The way she uses illustrations (and sometimes the lack of illustrations) effectively tugs at the heart and really paints a void that becomes real once the story is over. I was truly moved.
“Country of Cherry Blossoms” didn't have the same effect on me. It is a bit confusing, and I often had to turn back and forth to follow its logic. Ultimately, it ties together nicely with the first, but it does not have the same impact.
In both stories, the art is fairly minimal, but effective. When the artist needs more detail, she is certainly capable, but the focus seems to be on conveying a message of hope within the emptiness. She succeeded.