Thursday, June 05, 2008

Hotel Africa, vol. 1

By Hee Jung Park
Released in the US by TokyoPop

Slugline: Is it a memory or a dream?

Elvis is living with two friends, in the post college uncertainty that so many graduates face. But so much of their interaction with each other and theworld triggers Elvis's memories of growing up in the Utah desert. As the half black child of an unmarried white mother, many of his memories are of the time when his mother Addie turned their large home in bed and breakfast called the Hotel Africa. One of their first guests was named Geo, who decided within a day that he will marry Addie. But that is not the first bit of oddity, as strange folks come through Hotel, and there is Elvis and his friends own activities in the present.

Oddity here is the sort of human oddity that you can believe in, the sort of everyday strangeness that can happen, not that it is likely too. It does feel like a slice of life, but there is an undercurrent of something more, that bit of magical realism touch. Considering that Elvis and his friends are involved in the film industry (on the very outskirts) the feeling of superrealism , more real than real, permeates the stories. At the end of the volume, I am left feeling unsure about what the volume is really about, but it is an interesting meandering journey getting, umm, nowhere in particular. And the format, larger than the typical manga format, does help it stand out.

Hotel Africa, vol. 1 is also available from Right Stuf, Intl., an online retailer specializing in anime and manga.


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