Friday at the Atelier Volume 1: Saury



This world is full of all sorts of weird ideas and stories, loaded with indecipherable minds and meanings. After all, before you appears a manga about an office worker wanting to die- but not before she gets a taste of some fresh saury. Friday at the Atelier volume 1 is about as weird as you can get without fully stepping into the domain of oddity, toeing the line of the most random and distinct chapters you could think of for a slice of life crossed with a romance. There’s really no other way to explain it than that, but if you need more of a reason to check it out, it’s in the same magazine as Delicious In Dungeon (Harta).

As a simple warning though, nudity is rather heavily featured in the volume. No, not in the erotic sense. Rather, it blends in naturally as a facet of the sort of surrealism that extends from fish-obsessed artist Shunsui Ishihara. I think what I personally like about that whole sort of gimmick, is how Sakura Hamada plays into Ishihara’s interests. It’s only once Emiko Tamaki (the office worker) is coated with Ishihara’s desires that he begins to fall for her. I suppose you could call it love at first…. saury? Absolutely brutal jokes aside though, Ishihara’s vision does sort of dominate this story. Though Tamaki is touted as the lead character, Ishihara remains the closest to a protagonist. It’s a very interesting dynamic, largely thanks to the passive nature of Tamaki, that sees Tamaki as the default perspective for readers- but has Ishihara drive the story forward. It works really well for how mismatched their thought processes are, and allows that age-old trope of speaking past one another to find solid ground here.

Aside from that, the motions of the story remain rather close to “average”. Not that it’s a tiresome process to take in, but that it doesn’t attempt to stray from the beaten path until Tamaki wills it to be. And truthfully, that’s all the more credit to the pervasiveness of the theme of surrealism. Certainly, it’s a far cry from what many consider surrealist, but the approach undoubtedly delivers on the core tenets and undertones of the movement- though most frequently through narrative rather than through visual. Because of that, I can very easily see people not connecting with Friday at the Atelier volume 1 all that strongly. It doesn’t go to extremes to capture readers, but neither does it deliver anything typical with much strength or passion. It’s a very light and delicate first volume that really doesn’t intend on giving too much to the reader as a literal experience. At the surface, it’s purely a romance manga between an artist and a woman that really likes fish. It couldn’t get more simple than that, but there remains a very palpable charm that makes it surprisingly soothing to read.

That charm, I’d argue, comes in part from the art. It’s not high quality or “pretty” or anything in the conventional sense. Still though, I really do appreciate the simplicity of the style and how Hamada wields it with such intense restrictions. No, really, they express this story with only a handful of page layouts that are repeated throughout the first volume. Plenty of people will certainly be bothered by that repetition, but Hamada does a solid job of staving off that annoyance by working with a healthy handful of creativity within the panels. It’s really interesting because, much like many of the other aspects, it encourages readers to look past the initial layer of Friday at the Atelier volume 1, and peer a little deeper into the work. It sounds silly to continually relay that, but I really do mean it. Not in the “high school English teacher way”, but more towards something casual and genuine. There’s no second or greater world within Friday at the Atelier, but it similarly doesn’t force itself into a single dimension for the sake of the reader.

All of that means that writing a review about it is… somewhat of a challenge. Not that it’s hard to talk about, but just that it’s a challenge to pick what to discuss. So much of it is very literal, squarely avoiding any point in talking about it, but the other bits are very loose and disjointed. I could talk about the odd perceptiveness Tamaki expresses every so often, but what to tie it to next? It’s all pieces of information floating about aimlessly within the story, and pulling them together into something with meaning outside of the story isn’t exactly the easiest thing ever. Either way, Friday at the Atelier volume 1 exists, and I’d say it’s rather good. I’m quite hesitant to openly recommend it, but I would rather easily say that if it seems interesting to you, it’s probably worth reading (at least the first volume).

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.