Recently, I got my hands on a copy of Guardians of the Louvre by acclaimed manga artist and storyteller Jiro Taniguchi. This English language edition of the graphic novel was released through NBM Publishing and is a part of their Louvre collection, a series consisting of over a half dozen graphic novels from other acclaimed artists commissioned by the Louvre itself. It's the kind of new and interesting approach to this graphic medium that deserves attention.
Guardians of the Louvre is my first outing in this collection. An important note to anyone wishing to try these graphic novels from NBM is they are all self contained. Each artist seems to have been given free reign to tell the kind of story they want. There is no order to read any of these books. If any of them stand out to you or seem interesting enough, don't be shy, give it a try. You can see the different titles available so far over at NBM's website.
Now to get into the specifics on this title. Jiro Taniguchi is an award winning manga artist with decades of work and experience behind him. Prior to my reading this graphic novel, I was unfamiliar with his work. Manga is an area in my comics reading that is not as well developed as I'd like it to be. My experience with manga doesn't go too far beyond titles like Akira, Sailor V, and 20th Century Boys. Now I can add Guardians of the Louvre to my still embarrassingly short list.
The tale Jiro Taniguchi crafts here is about a young Japanese artist who is visiting Paris. While there, he decides he wants to see the museums, but mostly the Louvre. Though he's feeling under the weather, he goes to the Louvre and is overwhelmed by the crowds. Soon, and without notice, the crowds are gone. A mysterious woman stands before him. He's entered into a world that's not quite a dream and not quite reality.
Using the plot device of a fever causing him to jump between reality and fantasy gives this tale a fairy tale feel that benefits the overall story. Jiro Taniguchi's artwork builds on this further by blending realistic backgrounds with excruciating detail from large crowds of distinct people to original art recreations throughout the story.
What really brings it all together are the colors. Jiro's skillful watercolor work gives the story a soft, almost ethereal feel that makes it warm, engaging, and entrancing. Great detail in the backgrounds get broken up by panels or pure soft colors helping to bring the reader in and out of the fantasy elements of the story. Ultimately, it is a loving tribute to not only the Louvre, but to art, history, and humanity.
I highly recommend Guardians of the Louvre. It's a warm, engaging story perfect for a quick read outside on a nice day. It's a particularly good choice for people looking for great graphics novels without sex and violence, and it's appropriate and satisfying for readers young and old. Heads up though, if you are unfamiliar with most manga, it is printed to be read right to left, not left to right.
We need more easily accessible graphic novels like this. NBM is doing good work with the Louvre Collection and I look forward to checking out more of that collection soon.