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Derek Rodenbeck

Conveying the Second

A great story has the power to transcend our sensory experience of perception and conscious awareness of the physical world. When you can escape your perceived surroundings, you know the story’s universe has welcomed you as a visitor. My thesis project explored these concepts through the visual medium of a comic. My visual element consists of the first 50 pages of what I intend to be a 250 page comic when completed.

The comic’s story centers around a young Japanese girl named Juki. For the majority of the story, and what the readers primarily believe, is that Juki lives in 19th century, Edo Japan. Juki’s experience of her life as a young girl living in a lush, prosperous 19th century Japan is actually an augmented reality. It is projected by the world’s true controllers and they seek to find her and kill her so others will not become aware of the final Anthropocene. Juki was given one of two manuscripts that describe the true nature of the world and is frequently encountered by monsters, spirits, and demons throughout her trip from Edo to Kyoto. 

A main aim of this project was to utilize the visual and narrative components of the comic to explore concepts in Visual Studies. I specifically explore concepts such as the biological plausibility of the augmented reality, the artist’s manipulation of perception, a self-created theory that contemplates how the brain fills in gaps from reality, and the idea that something can simultaneously be a reality and non-reality. 

Like stories often do, the project took on a life of its own. What was once a twenty-page short story has grown into a Tale of Genji or Nausicaä and the Valley of the Wind sized endeavor. I can say the comic itself will be significantly long because it follows Hiroshige’s fifty-three stations of the Tōkaidō road. Many of the stations are represented as each chapter in the story and a chapter is about 25 pages long. I see this story continuing to respond to my personal experiences and global tension in politics, nationalism, disease, and human rights. There is no place on the map that I can point to that will tell where the project is going exactly. But the processes are happening, nonetheless. And, I hope that the work will be entertaining and possibly change my audience’s position of how they see the world. I have created a comic book that, I believe, addresses concepts of perception in true spirit of the interdisciplinary nature program of Visual Studies.

Sector C

Advisors: Julie Nelson Davis (ARTH), Gregory Vershbow (VLST)