Comics Are Trying to Break Your Heart #108 by Drew Barth
A One-Shot Look
I’ve written about my appreciation for shorter comics. I appreciate how a two page story by Junji Ito contain more horror than most full-length films. Another master of the short story art, Hirohiko Araki, had his series of shorts, Thus Spoke Kishibie Rohan, animated last year and they will be released on Netflix this month. But there’s a slight problem here: these short manga have never been released in English officially. So, what to do? Luckily, Araki’s output is massive and he does have one short story out to enjoy while waiting for the others to be released: Rohan at the Louvre.
Even with Araki’s penchant for the bizarre, Rohan at the Louvre is one of his oddest works. The manga artist, Kishibie Rohan, travels to the Louvre to view a painting mentioned by a woman while living with his grandmother as a teenager. The woman had found the painting when she was just a young girl, but remembers the horror of it clearly. Painted with the blackest ink from a 1000 year-old tree, the painter was executed for cutting down the tree and it is believed the rage of his undue death is still imbued within the painting. As such, the painting was obtained by the Louvre and has been sitting in an abandoned vault deep beneath the museum for decades. So of course when people look at it for the first time ghosts erupt from the vault that had been holding it and the museum workers that had been accompanying Rohan meet a variety of grim fates. It’s that Araki brand of fun, you know?
What makes Rohan at the Louvreeven more interesting is that it is the first in a series of manga and comics commissioned by the Louvre itself to showcase the museum. Creators like Enki Bilal, Jirō Taniguchi, Marc-Antoine Mathieu, and others crafted stories centered in and around the Louvre and its collection. But Araki’s story really elevated what you could do with a story about a museum. The ways in which he utilizes color to imply time and motion are almost unseen in many of his other works, but here he was able to experiment like he had in his Thus Spoke Kishibie Rohan shorts. Araki manages to create a museum story that barely spends any time in the museum proper and instead focuses on the passage of time through the museum’s catacombs and the character of Rohan.
While it will be fun to see some more of Araki’s work animated, it’s also nice to appreciate just how good he is at creating short bursts of manga. It’s works like Rohan at the Louvrethat only excite me for the potential release of of more short works in the future with the success of the animated adaptations. From there, I can only hope for more short works from Araki as his latest series, Jojolion, begins to wind down.
Get excited. Get Bizarre.
Drew Barth (Episode 331) is a writer residing in Winter Park, FL. He received his MFA from the University of Central Florida. Right now, he’s worrying about his cat.