Sumo


By Thien Pham (First Second)
ISBN: 978-1-59643-581-0 (PB)

This book is about looking.

The magically multi and cross-cultural nature of pictures mixed with words continually generates a wealth of absolutely fantastic and improbable gems for readers with eyes and minds wide open. Back in 2012, this deliciously absorbing visual poem instantly became one of my favourite tomes: an elegiac and gently enthralling visual experiences of a kind I’ve seldom encountered in many a year, and one I often return to.

It’s all about pasts and futures…

The tale begins in a Japanese Dojo as another rikishi in training greets the dawn. He carries out his assigned chores and exercises with the other jonokuchi in the heya training stable. Despite his superior strength, size and speed, he is again knocked out. The supervising oyakata is in despair and doubts the spirit and determination of his latest find…

Scott once thought he was a big man in every sense of the term, but the glory days of High School Football never turned into the glittering, lucrative Pro career he dreamed of. Somehow, he ended up in his small town of Campbell with his best buddies, drinking beer and wasting his days.

When adored girlfriend Gwen dumped him, even that shallow, pointless life needed to end. They had been together since grade school…

Years ago, a visiting Japanese Sumo trainer had watched the boy play and never forgotten the warrior spirit he saw displayed in that sports arena. When the venerable gentleman offered a chance for fame and glory, Scott thought long and hard…

With nothing to lose, Scott accepted a bizarre offer: move to Japan and try out as a junior wrestler in the decidedly un-All-American enterprise known as Sumo…

This is a hard look at expectations and second chances…

The transition hasn’t been what he expected or hoped for. They dyed his hair and changed his name since all Sumo have professional shikona stage-names and looks. Only now “Hakugei” is failing again. If it wasn’t for the trainer’s daughter Asami and the idyllic occasional break spent fishing, this new life would be as intolerable as his old one…

This story is about striving…

With time fast running out, Hakugei must decide what he really wants and has to do it before the last match of the mae-zumo tournament. He has to win at least one bout or be sent home in disgrace …and he’s just lost the fourth one in a row…

It’s all about the build-up towards tension’s inevitable release…

This surprisingly contemplative and lyrical exploration of love, hope, honour and gigantic nearly-naked men bitch-slapping each other in truly explosive manner effortlessly blends and intercuts flashbacks and real time to craft a sublimely skilful and colourfully emotive experience. Cartoonist and teacher Thien Pham (Level Up) hypnotically and enthrallingly marries two wildly disparate worlds to produce an enchanting and thoughtful story that will delight and astound. This is a graphic novel you too will read over and over again.
© 2012 Thien Pham. All rights reserved.

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