Current Reviews


Johnny Hiro #3

Posted: Thursday, January 24, 2008
By: Matthew McLean

Fred Chao
Fred Chao
Adhouse Books
One of the best things about issue #3 of Johnny Hiro is that you don't need to have picked up the previous two issues in order to enjoy this delightful independent title. It brings to the page the same elements that made the earlier books fun, but it doesn't require their presence in your long box.

Johnny Hiro is an odd combination of Pacific Rim culture, the immigrant experience and other older stories, like what it's like to be in love, young and poor. Mr. Chao manages to deliver all of this in a weird, funny and oddly touching way. The first two issues incorporated Pacific Rim imports into America such as giant lizards and kung-fu movies. In this issue, the book brings us the classic Japanese tale of 47 Ronin. Much like the previous two issues, it does this in one of the most preposterous ways possible, making it hilarious. On the other hand, the modern juxtaposition of the hard realities of corporate competition and defeat make the most ludicrous players in the book seem oddly sympathetic.

But I'm getting ahead of myself. To sum up, Johnny Hiro takes his lovely girlfriend out on the town in attempt to raise their mutual spirits. Being new to New York, they are (not surprisingly) having money troubles. The lack of money is only emphasized when, while at the opera of the above mentioned 47 Ronin, Hiro runs into an old friend (Toshi) who is now an extremely successful entrepreneur. And has a crush on Mayumi, Hiro's girlfriend.

Mayumi is a difficult character not to like; patient, insightful, and funny (in an odd way). It's certainly understandable why Toshi wants her and why Hiro is afraid of losing her. Of course, readers will start to figure this part out when the 47 ronin-businessmen jump out of the toilet, seeking revenge against Toshi for putting their boss out of business.

Yes, a group of salarymen dressed as medieval Japanese swordsmen jump out of the toilet and make chase in the middle of the New York Opera House. It's ridiculous and funny and what makes Johnny Hiro work. Somewhere in there, it also touches on themes of the struggle for acceptance, poverty, family and love. It also fits in a rather surreal encounter with David Byrne.

Yes, Johnny Hiro is all that with some fine art to boot. Given the plethora of adjectives used in this review to describe the book thus far, perhaps the best one to sum it up is charming. Or fun. Heck, man, I don't know – go buy the book and decide for yourself.

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