Offshore Lightning by Saito Nazuna, translated by Alexa Frank / 250-page paperback, 6.25 x 8.35 inches, published in 2023 by Drawn & Quarterly / ISBN 9781770465053
Anxiety and longing suffuse incisive portraits of postwar Japan.
Nazuna Saito began making comics late. She was in her forties when she submitted a story to a major Japanese publishing house and won an award for newcomers. She continued to work through the 1990s, until she stopped drawing to take care of her ailing parents. In her sixties, she took a job teaching drawing at Kyoto Seika University and became inspired by her talented students. When she returned to teaching, her storytelling interests had shifted. Before suffering a stroke, she drew In Captivity (2012) and Solitary Death Building (2015)―both focused on aging and death. Offshore Lightning collects Saito’s early work as well as these two recent graphic novellas.
Stories like “Buy Dog Food and Go Home” and “Offshore Lightning” focus on middle-aged men caught in a cycle of self-pity and self-reflection. Saito gently pokes fun at their anguish and self-involvement while capturing the pathos of these men as they revisit childhood friendships and lost loves. By contrast, In Captivity follows three siblings visiting their ailing mother, who is succumbing to dementia and resentful at her loss of agency. The siblings take a drive as they reckon with balancing the painful legacy of her caustic personality with attempting to honor this woman at the end of her life. Solitary Death Building documents an eccentric cast of elderly gossips as death descends upon the housing complex where they live.