Guardians of the Louvre by Jirô Taniguchi, translated by Kumar Sivasubramanian
A Japanese manga artist lies feverish in a hotel bed, having arrived in Paris after attending an international comics festival in Spain. His plans to spend five days in the City of Lights before returning to Tokyo are temporarily waylaid, haunted by “alarming thoughts … like maybe I’ll just die here like this.” By morning, thankfully, our artist has improved enough to venture out, nosh in a café, and head to the Louvre. He’s surprised by the lines, the crowds, the hordes that make him dizzy all over again. He drifts off in the Denon Wing, only to awaken completely alone – except for a single mysterious presence, who explains he’s arrived in “the space-time of your reveries. A plane far closer to reality than a dream” … and, most importantly, home to the titular “Guardians of the Louvre.”
Over the few days he has left, our artist will get up close and personal to the Mona Lisa and meet painter Jean-Baptiste Camille Corot. His personal Guardian-guide will reveal herself to be the Winged Victory of Samothrace, who through “[t]he whims of fate” will lead him back to a Tokyo gallery of another century to listen to Japanese novelist Natsume Sōseki extol the works of western-influenced Chu Asai. He will take a detour beyond the city to meet Vincent Van Gogh and witness some of his most famous paintings in progress. He’ll enter the Louvre a final time – in 1939 – to witness the evacuation – and salvation – of the museum’s treasures just before the onslaught of the Second World War. As his reveries approach closing time, the person he most wants to see turns out not to be the most talented or famous, but the most beloved …
The latest in the NBM Louvre Collection of graphic titles – works commissioned from prominent French and international artists to create stories inspired by the renowned museum – Jirô Taniguchi’s addition is a visual spectacle of intricate details and stupendous imagery. Printed in full-color, every pane is a mini-canvas of precision and depth, effortlessly adapting to various styles, from minutely architectural renderings to photographic landscapes to impressionistic homages and more.
That the story must fit a prescribed narrative might limit Taniguchi’s creativity in text, but his illustrations are so breathtakingly superb as to negate any possible criticism. Indie graphic publisher NBM’s decision to present the volume in a larger hardcover package amplifies Taniguchi’s artistry – making readers ever so thankful for publishing guardians still willing and able to invest in contemporary masterpieces on the page.
Get ready to enter this magical realm. The Guardians await.
Readers: Young Adult, Adult
Published: 2016 (United States)