Geisha: Artificial Artist

Guest Post

Geisha is a fun little book. Just take a look at the dimensions: five and three-quarters inches long, eight and one-quarter inches wide and a scant one-quarter of an inch thick. I suppose this makes it manga-sized and manga-styled since it’s in black and white and maybe even manga-fun but since I’ve never read any, I don’t really know how fun manga is. I have, however, seen it in the wild so I know the size is correct. Well, that and Matt Wagner helped me out by referring to the Japanese-originated genre in the introduction.

Geisha centers around an android, Jomi Sohodo, a starving artist who lacks credibility with a critic based on her artificial origin. Her lifelong passion is to become successful at painting and to avoid having to get a humdrum day job, which in her case would be defined as working for her adoptive human family that owns a personal security business run mainly by her three brothers and her father. Though the freedom limitations for androids are not clearly defined, there are certain moments that strongly suggest animosity toward artificial humans. These include the opening scene, in which Jomi is attempting to enter a club where one of her brothers, nicknamed Cherry for the cherry blossom tattoos on his arms, is playing with his very rockabilly-looking band. The monstrous bouncer harshly informs her that there is no room for her kind at the club. And when Jomi is paid for her work, it is in cash because it is difficult for her to get a bank account. More than once she is referred to as the spoof,which I found particularly demeaning.

Reflecting the sometimes glum nature of the book, the artwork is very enjoyable; brushed outlines combine with sparse brushed accents, and most of the shading done in grays. It often reminded me of the Max Fleischer Studios Superman and Bruce Timm and Mike Allred’s respective works. The story came off as a bit noir-ish, with the colors and organized crime being featured so heavily in the plot. Because Geisha is not very long (as it only combines the four-issue miniseries), I can’t give away any other plot points for fear of ruining the story. Be prepared for surprises and be ready to pay attention to every scene. I often caught myself going back and rereading panels to see what I had missed due to my inattentiveness.

Pick this book up, the story is deeper than it appears on the surface, and Watson constructs an entertaining and endearing tale of a girl who struggles with both her validity living among humans and as an artist in a world that strongly attempts to discredit both. As a minority, the discrimination parts rang particularly strong with me. What you may miss the first time through is made up by the short-length, which begs for a quick re-read.