Thursday, September 12, 2013

Everyday Hiro

"Going out in New York is never easy. It always involves construction on the 2/3 line or a samurai attack."  At least it does for Johnny Hiro, who is just the kind of guy things happen to, whether he likes it or not.

Johnny Hiro: Half Asian, All Hero, by Fred Chao, is the story of Hiro and his girlfriend Mayumi, and the ups and downs of their life in New York City.  Hiro is the busboy and right hand man of a cranky but good-hearted sushi chef and Mayumi works at a publishing house.  Their relationship is loving and supportive, even in the face of their constant struggle to make ends meet and keep from getting kidnapped by giant lizards or platoons of angry sushi chefs.

Each issue is a romp, with an over-the-top adventure, punctuated by great little cameos (Mayor Bloomberg saves the day in more than one story; Judge Judy teams up with the cast of Night Court to bring justice to New York; Alton Brown brings you the finer points of sushi fish; various hip hop artists muse on life and what's really important).

But what really makes this amazing is the depth of the characters, the sadness behind the cheer and the love behind the blustering.  When Mayumi and Hiro fight the drag of being poor in a great city by going to discount night at the opera, it's part of this lovely balance of bitter and sweet that makes this more than a Wile E. Coyote cartoon.

Mayumi is my favorite character, by far.  She's so sweet and charming, and there's so much more to her than you think there is at first.  I can't say anything about her better than Aarti already has, though, so I'll leave my admiration there.  But I'll say that it's not just Mayumi--every single character here, including the mob of angry sushi chefs and the rogue samurai and Mayor Bloomberg--has a rich internal life.  As Neil Gaiman says, "Everybody has a secret world inside of them."  Chao knows this and he shows it off beautifully.

This was a sweet one, though.  If you want a laugh and love New York, and if maybe you struggle sometimes, you should pick up Johnny Hiro.  And the second volume is out in October!

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