Graphic Novel Review: Shadow Life by Hiromi Goto and Ann Xu
Posted on October 14, 2021 at 6:42 am by Gene Ambaum
Shadow Life by Hiromi Goto and Ann Xu. First Second, 2021. 9781626723566. 368 pp. including a few early sketches and an author’s note at the end.
Kumiko is an old woman living on her own. She seems content with a quiet life, salvaging what she can for her apartment. But her daughters are worried about her, and have been since she fled the care home where she was living. They go into overdrive when she doesn’t answer their email. It may have something to do with the fact that Kumiko hasn’t told them where she lives because she wants to live on her own terms, independently. And that’s where she is, in her apartment, in the bath, when death’s shadow comes fo her. She’s not ready to die yet, though, and so using salt and her vacuum cleaner, she traps the spirit. That seems to give her the ability to see ghosts both friendly and lost. Kumiko tries to soothe her daughters a bit, and reconnects with her former lover, Alice. Everything is tense when her daughters finally arrive, meddle, and end up setting death’s shadow free.
This is a great story that had my full attention in one of the opening pages, when, after a swim at the community pool, Kumiko is in a shower with a bunch of ajumas speaking Korean (which I don’ think she can understand). Xu’s black and white art is first rate, from the characters to the friendly little spirits to the freaky black shadow of death. This is another book that reminds me of Miyazaki’s work in all the right ways but is entirely its own thing. It has a great ending, too.