Shoujo Gateway Book: X-Day
by Dash Shaw
Thursday, November 26, 2009
1. The layouts are relatively comprehensible/normal for people new to the shoujo collage-y reading. It’s always clear where you’re supposed to read next. It’s always clear where you are in a scene; but it doesn’t sacrifice any of the enjoyable, airy reading of most shojo comics. Everything flows horizontally—across the pages like a scroll—as opposed to the top to bottom, top to bottom feeling of most comics. This is how a lot of shoujo are, but if you’re new to it and start reading Clamp’s X/1999 it looks pretty fucking confusing. “What’s going on? Why are there birds flying around indoors? Ha ha.” X-Day is clearer. X-Day also doesn’t have all of the flower pattern stuff that seems to turn people off. Personally, I like all the “flower patterns = love” stuff; it’s high school; it’s pop. Blankets is secretly a shoujo comic, I’m just not sure it knows it. If you aren’t into melodrama and “flower patterns = love,” you probably aren’t going to want to read most shoujo anyway. Your loss.
2. It’s short. It can be intimidating if you want to start reading shoujo and it’s a twenty-volume, thousands-of-pages investment; even when it takes ten minutes to read a volume and public libraries are ridiculously well-stocked in shoujo (kids read them; libraries want kids to read.) Anyway, X-Day is only two volumes long. It’s a low-level commitment. Both volumes are probably sitting in a “five-dollar box” at the comic shop.
3. It’s good. Rika, a senior former track star, stumbles upon an online chat room where she meets two other students and a teacher who are all frustrated with the school and their lives. Rika’s ex-boyfriend is now dating her best friend. An injury made it so she can’t play track anymore. They all plot to blow the school up—that’s the titular “X-day.” I think it’s an accurate depiction of high school life. All of the characters are plagued by feelings of isolation: “I’m smiling and … acting like everything is normal.” None of the characters understand why the other characters would also feel the way they feel about the school. Conversations move quickly for a page and a half and then a moment is frozen and broken down. After talking to her ex-boyfriend, the panels are divided into quiet moments where Rika just lowers her head. Rika walks down the school hallways in large panels, repeating, “it doesn’t matter… it doesn’t matter.” After one character says, “At least I … like you,” it’s repeated over and over. It’s all an internal landscape. “What kind of girl … am I?” It can be intensely moving or a laugh riot depending on what you bring to the book. Either way, it’s entertaining. Give it a chance.