Food, Fantasy and Fusion gets fantastically mixed up in Zao Dao’s Cuisine Chinoise. Two worlds collide in this graphic novel, which is not always a fable, but perhaps a farce to laugh at. It’s tough to say exactly what genre this collection of illustrated works fits into.
This artist uses the avant-garde–mixing traditional brush art with modern styles (and also using digital)–to give life to the supernatural narratives at hand. The watercolours can be transparent or heavy. Her visuals and use of textures are zen-like, and the narrative can just as equally reveal a state of mind of not only her creative consciousness but also of the characters she creates. One of them is Yuzi, a white-haired cook of an unusual caliber that few gourmet eaters can appreciate.
When the undead meet him, he’s a five Michelin star chef.
In the other tales, consumption takes on other meanings. Some are rooted in spirituality and others make up a similar discourse from Bram Stoker’s Dracula. The meanings differ from one narrative to another, but to understand what Dao was thinking when crafting that particular tale requires reading the endnotes too.
Very few translations of graphic novels are rarely this complete. Brendan Kander and Diana Schutz only had access to the French edition than Chinese to translate. Not only were there cultural rewordings but also their desire to stay faithful to the author’s vision. Thankfully, the pair had help, including an agent to speak for Dao, to give this English edition the character it so deserves. Yuzi’s ego would not have come through had it not been for these translator’s added work.
I’m glad Dark Horse Comics is up to bringing international talents to new audiences. This storyteller has a few published works that’s available in limited markets. I’d love to see this company bring Song of Sylvan and The Breath of The Wind in the Pines to the English speaking market. The latter is available in France.
Postscript: Dao’s work on par with Yoshitaka Amano‘s own and would love to see the pair work together. Their understanding of the supernatural world is unique, and only wonderful things can come from it!