Friday, June 07, 2013

Sato Masaaki, An Appreciation

All the major newspapers have their editorial cartoonists. Some are better draughtsmen than others, with a great or lesser grasp of the tradeoff between image and caricature.

Almost all, however, are unfunny, or what is worse, unclever.

The exception is Sato Masaaki, the cartoonist for the Tokyo Shimbun. He foregoes artistry or style, choosing instead crude drawings with a bite. He has willingness to use all shared knowledge, including his readership's much derided but still considerable understanding of the English language, in order to charm and incite.

Here is his cartoon of Tuesday, "Through the ABC Song," where he use the letters of the Roman alphabet to draw a picture:


Click on image to see in a larger view.

In the last panel, the caption reads, "The image of all alone in the Pacific."

Children are taught the use of kana to draw faces, such as the simple face below composed of two he for eyebrows, two no for eyes, a mo for a nose, a he for a mouth and a ji for the jaw line and a tuft of hair.



In this the digital age the tradition of constructing faces out of characters has been extended in the profusion of multi-line emoticons and the massive stroke drawings of the list-serves.

But to use all the letters in the alphabet to draw a picture of a Hinomaru-flaunting Abe Shinzo making a go of it all alone on a tiny island in the middle of a Pacific -- in this there is a precious madness.

The kicker?

For once, I have no idea what Sato is driving at.

And I know there has to be an allusion or pun in this. Because with Sato, there are always multiple levels of meaning.

Recall the New Year's Eve song contest cartoon from last year? Where Abe is singing "Here Comes The Sun" not only because it offers an apt description of his return to office but because it is the signature song from the album...wait for it...Abe Road?

As Elaine Lies and her co-authors recently explained, "Abe Road" is not just a groan-and-grin inducing pun on the PM's name and the name of the last Beatles studio album. The "Abbey Road Group" is indeed what the quartet of pragmatists Abe, Watanabe Yoshimi, Suga Yoshihide and Shiozaki Yoshihisa called themselves last year. (Link)

So any guesses as to what Sato's ABC song is really about?

Image courtesy: Tokyo Shimbun

3 comments:

Michael Camilleri said...

Presumably part of the joke is Abe's recent calls for improved English education as a means of increasing Japan's international competitiveness. And I would have guessed the flag waving was about nationalist rhetoric isolating Japan in North East Asia but perhaps there's a further allusion?

MTC said...

Mr. Camillieri -

The English language skills expostulations...naruhodo.

Thanks.

Michael Camilleri said...

No worries :) And Michael is fine -- Mr Camilleri sounds much too formal!

Thanks for all your work on this blog. I discovered it via Tobias Harris and very much appreciate the insights!