MariNaomi’s latest comic is a fascinating story of friendship spanning decades. Published by the consistently excellent publisher Retrofit Comics, I Thought YOU Hated ME retraces the friendship of Mirabai and Mari and moves from their initial meeting in a schoolyard in 1981 to today. Told in slice of life style, never running longer than a page, allows MariNaomi to briskly move through time and focus on specific events that marked the friendship. From the seemingly inconsequential moments, all the way to the heavier moments, I Thought YOU Hated ME is a fantastic portrait of how friendships are born, how they blossom and eventually wither.
One of the most interesting elements of this comic might be how real these events feel. Part of it comes from the tone of the story. She’s able to maintain a bittersweet tone throughout the story, a major feat considering the lightness of many childhood woes, such as not agreeing on whether a colour is pretty or not, compared to the seriousness of adulthood’s trials. By focusing on specific events of her life, she’s able to draw a compelling narrative. I particularly enjoyed how it focused the story on Mari and only provided her limited perspective on the relationship. She shies away from providing the other character’s perspective and this works to the story’s advantage. It allows to reader to extrapolate and piece together the other stories from what we can imagine. It’s engaging.
I Thought YOU Hated ME is surprisingly sparse, with very little background details, only what you need to place the action of a particular scene. Yet it is all that is ever truly needed. The absence of background details allows a complete focus on the characters. The strength of this books lies in the characters, their interaction and their relationship. MariNaomi is able to convey a wide range range of emotions, paces her story perfectly and makes a compelling narrative by narrowing on a handful of life moments. I wasn’t familiar with MariNaomi’s work before. I have yet to read Dragon’s Breath and Turning Japanese is on my hold list at the library, but has yet to come in. I Thought YOU Hated ME was my introduction to her comics work and it was extremely satisfying. It’s always nice to see work that seems to effortlessly demonstrate such control and enthusiasm for the craft.
I think everyone can relate to this story. Reading how these two friends lost each other only to periodically find their way back to each other in their adult life reminded me of my own path with my childhood friends. Over the years, I’ve moved away to a different city; I got married; I have a kid. We connect every once in a while. I remember how disappointed I was when one of them couldn’t attend my wedding. There was a trajectory to the story of our lives and friendship, how we connect, intertwine and eventually drift apart. I Thought YOU Hated ME is a poignant portrait of the enduring bonds of friendship, whether it be lost, or simply hidden away.
I Thought YOU Hated me