Tuesday, December 24, 2013
Reader's Diary #1071- Mariko Tamaki (writer) and Steve Rolston (Art): Emiko Superstar
Back in September when I compiled my list of 13 essential Canadian graphic novels, Perogyo commented that she'd add Mariko Tamaki's Emiko Superstar to the list. I wasn't able to respond with agreement or disagreement at the time, as I hadn't read it, however now I've remedied that. I can definitely see why Perogyo made this suggestion (spoiler: I loved it!), but I don't think I'll be updating the list. I actually liked Emiko Superstar more than Julie Doucet's My New York Diary (i.e., number 13 on the list) but I was trying to spread the love around as much as possible and I'd already included Tamaki's Skim (which I'd still put above Emiko Superstar). (Likewise, I'd probably have put Jeff Lemire's Sweet Tooth series above My New York Diaries, too, except I'd already put Essex County on the list.)
In any case, all the above books are damn fine books, subjective rankings or not. Emiko Superstar is a coming of age story, in which the teenaged Emiko starts to discover herself through artistic expression. It's not a heavy-handed tale, it doesn't try too hard to be hip or cool (though it is), and at the end, Emiko is still coming of age, i.e., some conclusions are still left to be made. She also makes some mistakes. I was reminded a little of Paul Zindel's The Pigman (which was a shock to recall a book from my junior high years— more than 20 years ago). In both books, likeable characters make a really shitty decision at someone else's expense. And it's so cringe-inducing because the authors have made the central characters so insanely likeable. More problematic with Emiko Superstar is that she actually benefits from her poor choice (spoiler #2: she publicly reads someone else's diary) and the person whom she's betrayed (i.e., the woman who wrote the journal) is none the wiser, nor adversely affected by it. Emiko still learns a lesson at the end but I still felt like she got off lucky. (If I seem as if I'm talking about a real person, that's just how well written she is.)
Rolston's artwork, while somewhat simple, still manages to convey the subtleties of each character's emotions and complements Tamaki's story quite well.