To those brave men who play cliched Mexican music in sombreros and bolero jackets who know they’re bothering you at the restaurant on your birthday because your friends are assholes…I salute you! Truly you are soldiers for a higher calling, slaves to the very music you love because all that matters is the music. ALL THAT MATTERS IS THE MUSIC! We in the present do not appreciate the fine art you constantly put forth. We mere mortals truly do not understand the ability of your music to entice and entrance based purely on the joy and copious amounts of balls you have to play it in front of us. Only a culture as rich and appreciative as Feudal Japan could value such heavenly orchestrations.
So, if you’ve ever wondered what the bastard child of Scott Pilgrim, manga, and fine Mexican dining would look like, then look no further than Mariachi-Dachi by Kevin and Kyle Merriman. And if you thought the opening paragraph was a bit hyperbolic, I assure you that it pales in comparison to the sheer epicness that is this comic! The story, simply stated, involves a mariachi band mysteriously appearing at a shrine that inadvertently offends an old musician who happens to be of the Monzaemon Clan – an “ancient family line of traveling street musicians.” A bunch of kids, hearing the new and foreign music, finds that they like it and manage to get the mariachi band to perform in their school talent show, sharing their music for all to hear and enjoy. And enjoy it they do. Well, everyone except that Monzaemon Clan guy. What started off as your average school talent show quickly becomes a battle of the bands the likes of which history books or paper scrolls will laud throughout the ages! Behind the scenes, however, something nefarious is afoot!
If we go deeper, however, the story is about music and its ability to serve as language, bridging the cultural barrier when nothing else can. Though no explanation is given for the sudden appearance of the mariachi band – and really, it’s not that important – their first instinct upon seeing the old man of the Monzaemon Clan set up his shamisen is to join him in his music. It doesn’t even seem to register with them that he’s ”hate-playing” to prove his superiority while they do what no other musician in Japan has been able to do. They push him to his limit. Music is also a potent weapon as the emotional state of the musician creates energy powerful enough to leave craters in its wake and create avatars of musical embodiment. The Merriman brothers clearly love music and they manage to infuse that love into every aspect of this book. The Japanese villagers, especially the kids, are eager to get their hands on the next wall scroll by their favorite band, even if their last hit wasn’t as good. Much like the youth of today, music and the love of music is culturally transcendent. What I love most about this volume is its incessant joy. The mariachi band just wants to play. It doesn’t matter where they are or what time period they inhabit. There’s usually a smile on their faces, except when a drumming duo play for about two hours too long. Oy!
The art almost eclipses the story because you could practically take out all of the dialogue and still know what’s happening. The pages are filled with bold, vibrant colors that change depending on the mood of a particular character or the music being played. When the mariachi band performs, the world becomes a warm and welcoming orange. The striking of a chord can greenify a panel. And the elderly member of the Monzaemon Clan channels the power of deep purples and magentas to combat his self-imposed foes. The cartoonish style actually reminds me of Shaolin Showdown, a cartoon that ran on the WB before it merged with UPN to become the CW. The styles are similar and I mean that as a compliment. I dare you not to smile after reading this book. The back material of sketches and variants provides some insight into the evolution of the artwork and how the characters eventually found their final forms. You’ll never guess who the little black guy is based on, and the mystery of why the mariachi band plays without wearing sombreros will shock and amaze you! So if you want to read a really fun and colorful book that will definitely provide you or younger readers with endless amounts of entertainment, please go pick up Mariachi-Dachi.