Sketchy Volume 2: The First in Japan



Sometimes it’s hard to find a way to effectively start a review, and Sketchy volume 2 is a good example of that. It’s by and large a massive departure from the focal point of volume 1, but it remains in the same thematic niche- making it hard to isolate in simple terms. The struggle for individual expression when surrounded by suffocating societal and gender norms exists, but it’s been inverted to look at the more positive nature of removing yourself from those comparisons (even if they still exist). Ako, Shiho, and Takehana still remain under the microscope in regards to those norms, but their characters extend further past that alongside new characters taking up time outside of that scrutiny.

I think one of the best ways to explain how that works is with the inclusion of male characters in Sketchy volume 2. They’re not “just” benign and sources of negativity in this volume. In more than a few cases we see the positive influence that they can have on people- almost exclusively through skating. Take a look at Takehana, for example. Her obsession with skating via videos and movies keeps her glued to some work that was introduced by two older guys at a skate park late at night. Or Kawasumi, and how her relationship with Rei has improved after picking up skating. If there was something Makihirochi is saying with these moments, it’s that passion improves life. Rei’s been distant towards Ako for quite some time, and with the contents of this volume, it seems sensible that the distance was induced by Ako’s lack of interest (though that’s largely just speculation). Or take Takehana’s case, where her coworkers show interest in her hobby after she talks about it. In both cases, their interest in something has (somewhat) improved their lives in a tangible fashion.

Though, not all that glitters is gold. In both cases, a struggle still does exist in the form of social isolation. Neither of these women can be the social butterfly that Shiho is, and so they still struggle in some areas- alongside their friends and coworkers approaching them with varying degrees of honesty good faith. For Takehana, that comes from the lack of familiarity her coworkers have with her, making for a sort of awkward social dynamic that doesn’t quite fit thanks to her personality. In Ako’s case however, it’s far more malicious. Her friends continue to poke and prod at her while remaining hopelessly derogatory- resulting in a great reveal at the end of this volume (both for Ako and the character doing the reveal).

But let’s talk fun stuff, as that’s what Sketchy volume 2 is largely about. The cross-section of skater culture on display is really wonderful to follow. From things like Takehana’s love of bands like Smashing Pumpkins, the streetwear on display, the Sony VX, or Makihirochi’s wonderful pages and panelling- all of it has a perfect grasp on skating that echoes the tones of the golden era for the sport and hobby. In particular, I love Makihirochi’s use of fish-eye perspective to mimic the VX’s FoV and their spot-on character posing. That more loose but full of intent posing that skaters always display is brought to life on the pages with slack arms and hunched backs.

Of course, that great focus on the highs of skating wouldn’t be possible without the introduction of new(ish) characters. It’s here that we get introduced (in proper) to the group of girl that Ako stumbled across in the first volume. Within them, we focus on Maririn, the cinematographer of the crew. Devoid of the “typical” social influences exerted upon our main trio, Maririn sports a bit of a more tragic backstory centered around the passion radiating off of an old friend of hers. It’s a bittersweet story that sees Maririn and her friend succeed, but within context delivers a bittersweet blow to the girl that, all the same, isolates her much like Ako and Takehana have been. It’s a great move from Makihirochi, bringing in a new character to play opposite to our growing trio of women. A struggle exists, but in the form of putting everything into your passion to the point that it collapses on top of you- a very strong inverse in comparison to Takehana’s origins. And I should add that seems very intentional given Takehana’s interest in skate videos.

When you put it all together, Sketchy volume 2 paints a very different picture than the first volume despite only swapping out a handful of brushes. The sexism and social struggle still exists (and is even internalized) but plays a very strong back seat to the largely positive nature of skate culture with women. The battle for a work-life balance is traded for the sheer excitement and interest of a new hobby. Things are kept fresh with new characters, but their dynamics and purpose act opposite to what was established in volume 1. It’s a very interesting mix that makes it feel like a totally different volume, but very much still the same series. With volume 2 done and dusted, Sketchy feels like it fills a very vague gap in my heart. Something that’s hard to put into words, but something that’s been missing from my experience with media for some time. Maybe it’s the innocence and excitement of a new hobby, or maybe it’s a reminder of my summer days (failing to) learn how to skateboard and indulging in (far too much) Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater in the evening. All the same, it’s been really scratching that itch with these two volumes, so I’m incredibly interested to see where things go with the third.

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