Live and Let Live: Terka in...Missing Pieces / by Erik Sugay

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Terka: Missing Pieces is a cerebral experience. It’s a brief personal journey that both Terka and the reader share. The Missing Pieces subtitle refers to a concise tale of a character trying to complete himself (literally), while hinting that things tend to work themselves out in the end. The latter element ties directly into the overall theme. Whereas Andrea Tsurumi’s Yakitori depicted how people deal with the unknown through confusion and panic, her work in Missing Pieces shows how one can adjust to the mysterious by attempting to comprehend it. This short story eschews the inky, smudgy texture of Yakitori in favor of a deliberately scratchier feel. Terka is supposedly the last human residing in a world composed completely of wonderfully weird monsters (though you’ll come to realize that “monster” is perhaps a fairly disparaging term here), and the detail in these bizarre settings is brought to life through plenty of cross-hatching. Traditional panels are utilized to establish a sense of order, since the story is filled with spectacularly untraditional creatures and architecture of various shapes and scales. The character and setting design is simultaneously charming and, if only for it being completely foreign to the main character and reader, slightly menacing. Whimsical in feel, with plenty of dark undertones, Missing Pieces at its best is not unlike a Tim Burton work.

As Terka walks through the streets, plenty of random non-sequiturs fill the panels. You aren’t going to know what any of the monsters are speaking to each other about (even though they’re nice enough to use English!), and that reader estrangement is intentional. Though Terka seems to be doing very well in her unenviable circumstances, as the only human remaining, she is still trying to come to grips with this unfamiliar world. Much like the reader, Terka is still learning her surreal surroundings, and it’s refreshing to be able to relate to a character in that sense.

Missing Pieces actually provides some extremely brief character biography at the outset. It’s just enough to get you acquainted with the proceedings, but not enough to take away from the essence of her story, and thus, your experience. Even though some are a bit disgruntled and others border on speciesism against humans, most of the appealingly odd creatures are surprisingly amicable. Both Terka and her best friend exude a dry sarcastic humor.

These creatures are just trying to go about their lives and that’s the essence of the story. Confronted with unusual circumstances, rather than reacting through fear of the unknown, Terka takes the opposite tack. She attempts to comprehend her conditions and extraordinarily adapts to change, turning what could have been an exceedingly negative situation into one full of promise.

TL;DR  Rather than letting fear rule her, Terka tries to learn her way out of an uncomfortable situation. Adaptation is key and it’s a stimulating change of pace to share these brief experiences with her.

Andrea Tsurumi is an illustrator, cartoonist, and graphic designer who self-published Terka: Missing Pieces. You can read it here, purchase it here, and make inquiries about freelance work here.

A review copy of Terka: Missing Pieces was graciously provided to Spandexless by Tsurumi.