This post originally appeared at The California Journal of Women Writers
LA-based zine and comic book artist Yumi Sakugawa’s world, though similar to ours, is unmistakably her own. Though there are bus schedules and dreams, birds’ nests and ramen, there also are elephants in striped shirts and lovers exchanging eyeballs. She read the latter story, an excerpt from Mundane Fortunes for the Next Ten Billion Years out loud at Giant Robot 2 on Sawtelle Boulevard this Valentine’s Day in a soothing voice not unlike one you’d hear on a guided meditation soundtrack. Hers is a meditated quirk, a prophetic sweetness that invites the reader to step just one foot to the side of reality and contemplate the history of a lost strand of hair, or a world wherein we might see through each other’s eyes—literally.
Her work turns up in the places you’d most like to be in Los Angeles: on a display at Skylight Books in Los Feliz, in a warehouse full of zinesters in Culver City. I boughtMundane Fortunes at LA Zine Fest and have been savoring the peaceful moments it provides, like sips of green tea, ever since. The zine’s comfort lies not only in its illustrations, the lines of which transport you to a hand-animated film, but in the first person narration that returns the moment you think it is gone to remind you that this little book is a person-to-person commune, a confession of what it feels like to live sensitively. “Ten billion years from now,” the voice assures on a page blackened with Sakugawa’s portrayal of outer space, “a molecule of you will collide with a molecule of me.”
This promise refers to the book’s emphasis on happenstance and its inherent magical realism. Sakugawa takes the coincidence of life—a bird building a nest outside your window with your own lost hair—and expands it into being just a shade more absurd, a shade too coincidental with visual referents to each preceding fortune in the following frames with echoes of birds throughout the book’s final chapter. Sakugawa loves to lead the reader down this path, one wherein the recurrences of certain images are treated casually so as to fly by unnoticed, and yet their subtlety cultivates a magical atmosphere that waits quietly to be acknowledged. In a similar vein, she places a couple facing a long-distance, inter-planetary relationship in the position of casually trading eyes. Love drugged, the two giggle about the prospect of seeing earth with one eye and “the luminous swirl of distant galaxies” with the other.
Of course an exploration of life’s stranger side could lead the reader to feel more alienated by the modern world than she does already. Instead, Mundane Fortunes pulls her close into a literary hug, saying not only is fantasy more common than you would think, but it is a force that can bind you closer to others. With her tender drawings and gentle words, Sakugawa shows us that fantasy and an illustrator’s gaze upon the world can make everything seem tender and special: from picking persimmons to envying one’s sleeping self, there is a gentle beauty to all of it that deserves not only to be documented, but savored.