What Did I Learn?
Today’s review is on Odori Park by Chris Watkins. The basic description is that Arisa and Colin are the parents of a toddler named Sprout and own a used bookstore which lets them experience the trials and triumphs of daily life together. It’s actually described a little more entertainingly on the About page but what lets this comic be something a little different is in the artwork and the tagline: A tale of east marries west. First, though, we have to talk about the artwork.
See the definite style, slight exaggeration and strong shading? It’s eye catching, looks unique and yet comfortable. The trouble with black and white artwork is you need some mid tones to help things stand out. So now look at this:
The color adds that little pop by adding visual splash to the background in this comic. Other times it’s the foreground but the point is that it provides strong visual variety as you read the archive. Moreover, the comic uses some uncommon angles and locations. While many comics could show the characters (say) walking up or down stairs instead of just standing around, how many do?
Odori Park also does some interesting visuals. For example, how can you improve on having a narrator in your comic? And it’s always fun to work in visual puns, too. And this one had me wondering if I could find a comic that was written in haiku. (A quick search shows a few exist, but let’s not digress.) There are also little easter-egg sorts of details sprinkled thoughout. You may, if you observe closely, see the Spider Bug shirt or World’s Most Adequate Slacker mug – among others. You can also see changes in the art style to accomplish certain storytelling in different ways.
Typically, the comic is largely in black and white but do you want to see what Odori Park looks like in full color? Try here and later, here. Notice the second example has strong but subdued colors? I happen to like the less vibrant colors for this particular comic and its tone. Somewhere along the way, there was a reddish-grey tone added to the comic which works nicely; it adds some warmth and energy and contrasts against the green site backgrounds (of the current site design, anway.)
I suppose now would be the time to talk about the east marries west concept which gives Odori Park a good twist. Specifically, it’s about something. It’s not just about a family, it’s about a bicultural family with differing customs and expectations. Not every comic slaves to that theme but it’s a nice recurring beat. It certainly stands above most other family-life comics in terms of engagement because of it.
What Did I Learn?
I have a larger appreciation for the kinds and amount of variety a comic can have and still remain associated with a theme. And how important having the right kind of concept is to making all of it work. Odori Park has a great mix of concept, art and variety worth enjoying.