From the Stars Back to Our Cities, Where We’ve Never Felt So Small: Kakukaku Shikajika

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Autobiographical effort of Higashimura Akiko, a mangaka celebrated for her sassy and stylish romps about the modern girl, caught many off guard through turning her gaze inward with the profoundly cathartic Kakukaku Shikajika. It is a work far removed from the effortless extravagance of Higashimura’s usual fare starring models flitting about sipping cocktails and quirky mavericks living on the fringes of society, instead introducing Hayashi Akiko, a slovenly teenager ambling through the sleepy coastal village of Miyazaki in the early ’90s. Head firmly in the clouds and elevated beyond by shoujo whimsies, what drags her back down to earth with a resounding crash is Hidaka Kenzou – an eccentric art teacher in the community. Hidaka openly criticizes Hayashi’s skills as soon as she steps into his classroom, appalled that such an amateurish individual could possibly have their sights set on attending an arts university the following year. As Hayashi quickly comes to learn Hidaka is quite the character, whacking students with a bamboo sword like it’s going out of style, unleashing mercilessly caustic jibes on young and old alike. It’s chaotic, and you’d never think that someone as frivolous like Hayashi would stay…

Kakukaku isn’t merely a charming origin story documenting the rise of one of the most prolific female mangaka in contemporary times, instead an achingly remorseful reflection on lived experiences and deep regrets harboured. Every time she purchases a beer after fighting against a deadline, every time she sees fruit in the supermarket, every time she returns to her childhood home and sees a vase, regret’s shadow lies long and heavy.

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