Rieko Saibara is a catoonist known for her work that has both a lyrical and “rebellious” side to it. While regarded as a rebel in the cartoonist world, at times shocking her readers with indecent expressions, she also brings them to tears by her portrayal of hopeless poverty, affection to her children and descriptions of separation with her husband. The cartoons introduced here are from her series “Mainichi Kasan”, which three books so far sold 500,000 copies and won several prizes – including the Cultural Affairs Agency’s media art festival award in 2004 and Osamu Tezuka Cultural prize in 2005.
CARTOONS COURTESY OF RIEKO SAIBARA AND MAINICHI SHIMBUN.
- It’s a dream I’ve had since childhood, where I’m lying head up in the bottom of a deep, deep sea.
- The lights on the water surface are soft and I’m opening and closing my eyes.
- I start hearing a faint sound of waves, which makes me rock even more.
- When I wake up, I realize the sound was the breathing of my two young children.
- Hi. My name is Rieko Saibara. You won’t believe it with a picture like this, but I’m a cartoonist.
- My family structure is as follows: my husband, who is drinking from daytime and who is viewed as quite a dangerous adult by children in the neighborhood, my son and my daughter. Oh, and also my mother, who was asked to baby sit for me for just one month, but who is since then not permitted to return to her own home for four years. (She says: “I’m fond of my grandchildren but my strength is at the limit.”)
- Thank you.
- I hear tiny whispers behind me. When I look back, I see two small pairs of hands sticking out from under my workroom door.
Gulp, gulp. Bah
- Well, on rainy days or windy days,
- Even when with high fever from influenza, I really really must drink at the end of a day, and I have never missed that habit a single day. (gulp, gulp)
- When I became a mother though, I obviously had to give up drinking during the day (“I need fuel!” “What’s wrong, mama?” in front of a drink stand)
- Drinks with evening meals also became difficult. After I drank with my meal, I almost fainted when I took my children in bath.
- AND, my kids never sleep if I don’t go in bed with them (“We’ll wait until 2 or 3 a.m. until you come.”)
- When in bed, they are not satisfied until I read them some picture books. (“Read us this and this.” “We want a lot.” “I’m not gonna read you dictionaries, ok?”)
- But mom wants to get drunk. So, as a result,
- The bed, picture book, and sake came together. And as I can drink quite a bit and also drink it straight, (Gulp gulp. “And Suho’s white horse..”)
- The cake of Guri and Gura (Japanese picture book) turns into the smell of a distilled potato spirit, and The Very Hungry Caterpillar gets buried under the choking smell of sake. (“Delicious cake is ready!”, Bah.)
- My kids’ bed with crispy clean linen and their favorite stuffed animals, tonight again smells like a cheap Japanese pub with squid legs mom took to nibble with the liquor.
- At the daycare where my son attends, it’s a trend for kids to scribble drawings on their bodies, and the teachers, while telling them not to do it, wondered how such strange vogue was set.
- When seen closely, the pictures are surrounded by square frames with the characters seeming to talk.
- Inspired, a teacher calls one of the kids, and looking at his stomach, she finds a full four-panel comic strip which was clearly drawn by an adult.
- It thus came to light at once that the incident was caused by this child’s cartoonist mother. (“These drawings must be by her. And oh, there’s even a character on the back of his foot!”)
- Upon picking him up, I was especially called by my son’s teacher to be scolded.(“Please don’t do these things because the other children imitate.”)
Portrait of a family
- As we took a walk in a park, a young painter was selling his work.
- “We are a family of three. Can you paint us?”
- A month later, we receive a cute family portrait.
- Sometimes, I let go my hands.
- And sometimes, I hold them tight again.
- I write,
- We walk,
- We eat (her favorite crabs)..
- No matter now many times I live, I want to be a mother again.
- The nice thing since I started this job is that at different places,(“Are you Saibara san? I’m always reading your comics.”)
- I get talked to by many mothers.
- “The other day, my son ate dog shit, out of everything! Why does he do such things when he’s in 5th year elementary school? Hahaha.”
- “Haha! I wonder.” (They both cannot do anything but to laugh off the situation.)
- “In my case, it was our home.”
- “The second floor of our home was destroyed! What should I do if they also destroy the first floor? I was just told it’s nice to have many children..”
- Haha” (Again, Saibara can only laugh.)
- “My son is still a mama’s boy, and yesterday in the bath with me,”
- He cried: “Mom! You haven’t got a penis!”
- “What have you been looking at until fourth grade? I’ve given you a bath everyday for the last 10 years!” “Mom, don’t pinch me!”
- “Haha, nice weather!” (Saibara again can only laugh).
- “Look, there’s the mother of a girl!”
- “Wow, she’s wearing make-up and high-heels.”
- “Look at her bag, so small! Where does she fit all the changes for dirty clothing?”
- “I heard when you have a daughter, you can actually go in a cafe. Apparently, you don’t have to scold them in public.”
- “That can’t be true!”
- All the mothers that talk to me after I started my series, are mothers of boys.
- “Mom! Don’t go!,”(a child cries).
- “His fever just fell yesterday.” “Alright.”
- I’m so sorry but I can’t take off from work today.” (the child keeps crying).
- “You can do it, right? Ma-kun?”
- “See you later!” “Mama, please come back soon!”
- Mornings at daycare are a real hustle.
- (Sound of hurrying high heels)
- “Let’s discuss that at tomorrow’s meeting,” (says one mom on the mobile phone) “Ma-kun!” “Mama!”
- “Mom, you are late!” (cries a small girl) “I’ll cook immediately. Let’s rush home.”
- “Mama-a,” calls another child.
- Pick-ups in the evenings are also a hustle.
- (A boy waves goodbye to the teachers, as he is being carried by a mom who is also carrying a business bag and lots of groceries.)
- Men can’t make such efforts, morons!
- Life is so much more fun for women.
- This is my son’s best friend Ma-kun. For him, playing with my son currently seems to have the utmost importance in his life, according to his mother.
- “Hello! Let’s play, let’s play! Open the door!”
- “Ok, ok.”
- But while playing with my son, he carries a heavy-looking backpack the whole time.
- Opening the bag by force, I discover loads of potatoes his mother must have handed him to bring to our place.
- “Didn’t your mother say anything?” “Nope!”
- “But your mother must have put it in. Didn’t she say it was for us?” “Dunno.” (he pants because of the potatoes’ weight.)
- The other day there was heavy rain at going-home time from school.
- “Whose is that umbrella?”
- “Ma-kun rent it to me. He said he’ll pick it up later.”
- Ma-kun walked home totally soaked,
- And as soon as he put down his school bag at home, immediately came to our place, a huge detour.
- ..to pick up his umbrella while getting totally soaked.
- “Can we play a bit?”
- “When I realize, his bag was at the entrance of the house totally wet,” said his mom.
- “Can we play a bit?” “Why are you so wet, Ma-kun?” “For me..”
- “Let’s go to the park!” “Ok!!”
- “It’s pouring outside!” “For me, stupid boys like you guys are really dear!”
- At the park after the heavy rain, the two boys lie under the slide and have a chitchat.
- The sky they see from there must have a special color.
See related story:
CLOSE-UP — RIEKO SAIBARA
Drawing on experience