Last week two books arrived that I’ve wanted to get my hands on for a while: Wrecked Ship by Valentin Seiche, and MGCL_GRL by Mathilde Kitteh. Here’s my short review of both.
First observation: they came with lovely stickers that are completely impossible to peel the backs off of.
One is the sombre tale of a ‘Finder’ who salvages items from long-deserted spacecraft, while the other is a lifestyle and fashion magazine targeted at magical girls (slice-of-life superheroines e.g. Sailor Moon).
PEOW! Studio, the publishing collective responsible for printing both have done a great job: the immediate impression is one of fine quality, with both of the books printed with a risograph to good paper stock. Passing them around to friends at a get-together resulted in much stroking of paper and holding pages up to faces to see the riso printing details up close (and with the exception of a paragraph of text being rendered unreadable, the slight misalignments and misregistrations do add a human touch I was skeptical about at first).
Let’s start with MGCL_GRL: I think it’s hysterical. Even with my limited exposure to magical girl lore (I once saw an episode of Cardcaptor Sakura), there’s enough charm and humour present to make me happily complete the “WHICH TYPE OF MAGICAL GIRL ARE YOU?” quiz.*
With a lot of zines, you get the sense that someone was looking for an excuse to do some cool layouts and illustrations and make an object, but the wryly humorous activities and flavour text save MGCL_GRL from being what could have been a merely very stylish looking zine of magical girls and their supernatural accessories. It’s an intensely graphic book swimming in characters, patterns and vogue-esque spreads, but Mathilde Kitteh’s sensibility and writing (“Prediction: You will shine at your powerpoint presentation this morning, but then you’ll find dirt on the floor”) lends the book a deeply funny voice that kept me interested in (and laughing with) this world I admittedly know nothing about. So I’m looking forward to more of these.
On the complete other end of the spectrum is Wrecked Ship. It’s a beautiful book staged in (mostly) deep-space shades of blue, with a reflective story told in a refreshingly compact manner.
The prose is first person, informal, sometimes funny and always sincere. The protagonist is sometimes gruff, sometimes existential — an archetypal jaded professional — but it never feels like you’re reading through derivative faff. This is especially true of the final portion of the story which could have easily sunk into well-trodden ground but remains totally genuine throughout.
Wrecked Ship packs a lot of story and ambience into very little space, and this has much to do with the text and illustrations’ layout being divorced, with pages following the storybook division of pictures-up-here and text-down-there. It gives the book a lot of room to breathe, and some of the spreads do great work with the afforded space.
One last thing on my mind: like MGCL_GRL, there’s obviously a lot of Japanese inspiration going on — but there’s an unmistakable Europeanness in it that both Mathilde and Valentin have both just owned. In both cases it’s a style that lends visual clarity and a certain cool punchiness — it feels like a great integration of visual cultures.
You can buy both from the PEOW! Studio shop.
- For future reference, I am a ‘Cupcake’ type magical girl.
Sam’s review of “MGCL_GRL” and “Wrecked Ship” comics.