Seiichi Hayashi produced Red Colored Elegy between 1970 and 1971, in the aftermath of a politically turbulent and culturally vibrant decade that promised but failed to deliver new possibilities. With a combination of sparse line work and visual codes borrowed from animation and film, the quiet, melancholy lives of a young couple struggling to make ends meet are beautifully captured in this poetic masterpiece. Uninvolved with the political movements of the time, Ichiro and Sachiko hope for something better, but they’re no revolutionaries; their spare time is spent drinking, smoking, daydreaming, and sleeping—together and at times with others. While Ichiro attempts to make a living from his comics, Sachiko’s parents are eager to arrange a marriage for her, but Ichiro doesn’t seem interested. Both in their relationship and at work, Ichiro and Sachiko are unable to say the things they need to say, and like any couple, at times say things to each other that they do not mean, ultimately communicating as much with their body language and what remains unsaid as with words.Red Colored Elegy is informed as much by underground Japanese comics of the time as it is by the French nouvelle vague, and its cultural referents range from James Dean to Ken Takakura. Its influence in Japan was so great that Morio Agata, a prominent Japanese folk musician and singer/songwriter, debuted with a love song written and named after it.
“I wanted to live like Sachiko and Ichiro; to have aspirations even while living stoically and humbly.”—Morio Agata (from obi)“An underground Japanese comic from the 1970s, Red Colored Elegy tells the breakup story of two young animators. Hayashi uses animation techniques and an experimental style to beautifully lament Ichiro and Sachiko's failed relationship. Traced photographs, blank word balloons and nearly cubist sex scenes are effective in telling a surprisingly narrative story in a minimalist style. Ichiro was trained as a painter and began work in animation for the money, but now he wants to draw manga. Part-time animator Sachiko runs from her arranged marriage and moves in with Ichiro instead. The two lovers drink heavily and risk being ripped off by animation companies in the shadow of politically volatile student protest movements. Feminist ideals and talk of labor unions take a backseat to a personal and painful story of everyday life. Although a brief introduction explains the historical context, more information on such story elements as the avant-garde Garo magazine would have been welcome. Readers unfamiliar with Japan might not understand the cultural pressure Sachiko faces or expenses for a Buddhist funeral that Ichiro cannot afford to pay. Yet the book, presented left-to-right, is completely accessible for an experimental work, and the story is heartbreakingly universal.”—Publishers Weekly
Seiichi Hayashi was born in Manchuria in 1945 and has published his first comics work in Japan’s influential underground magazine Garo. A prolific artist, he is also a film and commercial director, a children’s book author, an animator, and an illustrator.