Review: Eva, Kopi and Matcha
Did you know that there are vending machines, ramen stalls and bento boxes sold conveniently inside train stations in Japan? Yet in Singapore, we will be fined for eating and drinking inside trains.
And banks in Japan are closed by 3pm on weekdays and not opened on weekends unlike ours, which tend to close later in the evening.
You can pick up such interesting trivia especially in the cultural comparisons between Singapore and Japan from author-cartoonist Evangeline Neo’s new book, Eva, Kopi and Matcha.
Light-hearted and humorous with a dose of exaggeration, Eva, Kopi and Matcha illustrates the typical lifestyles of Singapore and of Japan, often contrasting the largely different cultures. In fact, it was the very same series comics that shot Neo to fame.
Neo has been drawing web comics for 7 years. Despite failing to clinch a deal with Japanese and Taiwanese publishers, Neo kept drawing, and turned to publishing her comics on her blog and Facebook. Neo was pursuing her Masters in Business Administration in Tokyo when her comics went viral. Henceforth, she concentrated on drawing web comics based on her experiences. This is her first book, yet she is already a comic artist in her own company and has more than 50,000 likes on her Facebook page.
It’s strangely easy to relate to the comics. Neo drew herself as the main character Eva, passing off as a typical bargain loving, constantly complaining Singaporean. You can’t help but relate with her character. For instance, Eva is seen negotiating with the salesperson for a discount while Eva’s Japanese friend, Mari, buys a necklace without hesitation.
Do take the jokes with a pinch of salt though, as certain situations may seem odd at the first glance. A comic strip illustrates the sociological behavior of Japanese and Singaporeans alike when it comes to queuing – the former queues for food at restaurants in a rational manner while the latter queues for Hello kitty plushies without sense and sensibilities.
In addition to addressing the cultural differences between Singapore and Japan, Eva, Kopi and Matcha ends off the volume with additional bonus content documenting her different experiences elsewhere such as her road trip to Penang, Malaysia.
Although Neo has worked on 3D game prototypes and also taught life drawing, her book is illustrated with chibi [Japanese slang term for small person, most commonly used by anime and manga fans to describe characters with disproportional head to body scale] characters. Most of the stories take 2 to 4 panels, but there are some strips that are 5 or 6 panels’ worth of goodness.
At $19.90, the book was such a quick read that it actually left us quite discontented. It is also pricier than most bestsellers and paperbacks on the shelves, and even more than comic books and manga, which is one of the few downsides of buying the book. However, if you put it into perspective, the comic is about twice the size of a small novel and a massive 127-page compilation of comics from a local artist.
Another reason to purchase this is to support local talent, which is probably a Singaporean trait worth celebrating in Evangeline’s next book.