Creator: Lars Martinson
Publishing Information: Pliant Press, hardcover, 2-color, 160pp, $19.95 (US)
Ordering Numbers: ISBN: 978-9801023-3-8 (ISBN-13)
Tōnoharu is a graphic novel series written and illustrated by Lars Martinson. The series follows the adventures of Daniel “Dan” Wells, a young American college graduate who moves to rural Japan to work as an assistant English teacher. Although there are other “foreigners” in the village of Tōnoharu, where Dan lives and works at the local school, he has a difficult time connecting with this expatriate community. Dan eventually meets Constance, a young American woman he likes very much, but she teaches in another town and seems to already have a boyfriend.
As Tōnoharu: Part Two opens, Dan has settled into his life as an assistant junior high school teacher. However, language and cultural barriers have isolated Dan from those around him, and his hopes for a relationship with Constance are dashed when he meets her boyfriend (of sorts), John Darley. Dan’s social life gets a big shakeup when he befriends Steven, an American working in Japan as an accountant. Steven is something of a Casanova, but with his encouragement, Dan does begin a relationship with another woman. Are these new relationships beneficial or detrimental?
While his narrative seems, on the surface, to be a quiet, sedate drama, Martinson makes sure that Tōnoharu burns on the fuel of relationship drama. Scenes that begin quietly suddenly pop with conflict and confrontation or even the exaltations of lovemaking. Martin finds energy simply in the humanity of his characters.
Martinson tells this story in graphics that he composes with tight crosshatching, art that can be compared to woodblock prints. It creates a texture that accentuates this narrative’s subdued emotional power. Tōnoharu’s unabashed love of human drama and relations, however, isn’t subdued, which is why Tōnoharu: Part Two, like the first book, is both a unique and engaging read.
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