Chinaza Eziaghighala | Comic book review | September 1, 2020
DAFE, FRIENDS AND ALL OF MIMISHA
Premise: Dafe and his friends try to ride out 6 years of boarding school.
Art/Story: Seun Okwoju.
Dafe, Friends and all of Mimisha, Vol. 1
Note how Dafe and his friends look like sitting ducks against the looming backdrop of their nemeses.
Crazy ass whipping, bullying seniors, tuck shops, sneaking out, soaking garri and much more! If you’re Nigerian who went to a Nigerian boarding school, I emphasise Nigerian e get why, then Dafe will speak to you. Dafe comes to us with a fresh and hilarious perspective of our secondary school lives. These are things that we would ordinarily have wept about while in school of course, and we did. Now, we experience it with a new set of eyes and sigh, relieved. For those of us still in such an environment, however, we send our condolences. It’s only a matter of time, nothing lasts forever.
I appreciate the artist’s chosen cartoon style. It helps strengthen the overall message of the graphic novel: It’s not that serious. This shows in how the characters look native with parts of their bodies emboldened compared to others. Some good examples will be Osayi and Edet’s jumbo heads. Another example is how the wide eyes and small lips of the students contrast against the small eyes and full lips of their teachers.
I read the comics on Instagram, so it was more like scrolling through splash pages than a reading a grid. The drawings were initially just pencil sketches, but have since evolved to include colouring. I hope it evolves to encompass more detail. I would love to see more lettering, inkling and even better colouring (Wait, maybe it’s in the published issue?). Currently, the online comics are bereft of these elements because, in some scenes, we cannot differentiate between teachers, prefects and other students even. This is due to the lack of variety in subtle expressions. Sometimes, the characters look the same.
I really applaud the artist’s direction; the areas of emphasis were well established. An example is certain exaggerations like when Dafe cries or when the characters give each other a knowing look. The side-eyes and blank stares only did so much without the necessary lettering required for sound effects which I hope will improve moving forward.
The word/thought balloons were easily discernible and seemed to arise from the right places, but at some point, I couldn’t tell what purpose the dotted word balloons served. Overall, the art and words really worked together to tell the story with each picture in each frame expressing the characters intent and making us bawl over with laughter until the very end.
This comic is a satirical representation of a reality most of us are aware of at best and have lived in at worst. I think that the plot fulfils the promise of the premise in almost every imaginable way. The plot is non-linear so every issue is a stand-alone story. The pacing is exquisite because we are plopped right in the middle of all the shenanigans and can connect to our story without necessarily having a back story.
It takes us back to when we were students in boarding school and helps us relive some very realistically horrific moments with a sense of comedic entrapment. Instead of mulling over these moments we commune with Dafe in self-pity, we rejoice at his triumphs and commend his coping strategies all with one sentence at the back of our minds. Dafe, no worry, you go dey all right.
I think that I must also commend the story writer/author on this one because I see how he gives each character a distinct persona. Dafe is not a strong protagonist, but he makes up for it with the other characters he surrounds himself with like Omax, Edet, Osayi, Aisosa, and Ife.
Something I took note of, which seemed very disappointing to me, was the lack of strong female characters. Ife seems to be the only written female character and yet, we only see her story from Dafe’s perspective. The story does not delve into what makes her and the other girls tick. I recommend a female-only episode with actual speaking characters. Although the artist attempted this with his “Lights out” issues, I really think that it could be fleshed out better by creating living breathing characters that have their own goals, wants and needs.
From my own projection, I think Dafe’s journey will be one that moves from a place of naivety to one of awareness and adaptation with the help of his friends. The antagonist in this comic seems to be the school system itself which I believe is a very formidable one. I love how the story spreads out the force of evil amongst prefects, teachers, the school nurse, the Principal and even in some cases, the school environs itself. I noticed some character development with Dafe but I wish to see more as he continues to overcome his many obstacles.
The overall theme dwells on surviving boarding school. Which is something we can all identify with at some level. So far, some interesting subthemes such as “Names of Noisemakers”, “Last to come out”, “Brutal school punishments”, have been handled and beautifully so. We wish to see more and laugh out lough.
I hope to see more interesting subthemes especially those that I felt were not really handled well like the use of games to hoodwink classmates. Overall, the theme was executed fairly well and I hope to see the comic deal with more engaging subthemes in the future.
Dafe, Friends and all of Mimisha Vol 2. I particularly love the colour choices for their school uniforms here. Up Naija!
For the dialogue, I would speak on two matters, the first is that of the comic, while the second is that of the SIP skit.
Comic: The comic dialogue is believable, but I wonder how many people actually speak that way. There were some parts where Dafe had inconsistencies in dialogue especially when there were thought captions. The way his mind worked seemed different from how he spoke and this seems to give Dafe a form of dual personality. But. Overall, the dialogue is really commendable. Each character has their own distinct voice and way about their world and we just follow through believing that they mean what they say.
Sip: Sip is the skit of the Mimisha Principal which contains 3 splashes arranged in sequence with differing dialogue at each release. The point, to me, is to emphasise the cruelty of the Principal through his major superpower. Ass whipping! I find it hard to believe the dialogue talk less of being entertained by it. I dare say that the dialogue is even cringeworthy. It really irks me because he has so much potential and I initially thought it would be improved upon, but since it has not, I will say this here and now. SIP is flat. It’s neither funny nor is it engaging. It actually tries too hard to amuse us yet, it forgets that we as the audience partake in the storytelling and refuse to be fooled. I love the concept, but more work needs to be put in to ensure the dialogue is delivered in more effective, creative and, lest I forget, humorous way. We don’t ask much. Please just make it funny. Abeg.
If you are in for a good laugh, I beg of you, read Dafe, friends and all of Mimisha! It is worth every minute you spend on it. You will be teleported into a world similar to yours but much less grave and very relatable. There is not one person who attended boarding school in Nigeria who will not relate to the travails of Dafe and all of his friends. I might even say that they will enjoy them.