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Decoding the Absurd with Woshibai’s ’20 KM/H’

Last Updated on 2023/05/16

Life, Absurdity and Everything In-Between: The Narrative Spectrum of ’20 KM/H’

“20 KM/H”, crafted by the Shanghai-based illustrator and cartoonist Woshibai, serves as a fascinating commentary on the absurdities found within the realms of our modern existence. The comic anthology, composed of a plethora of surrealist vignettes, pairs silent humor and minimalistic artistry with reflective existential thought. This amalgamation creates an enthralling experience for readers, each dive into the book promising a new, intriguing interpretation.


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The minimalist style of Woshibai seems to contradict its depth, generating existential reflections placed within simple but carefully constructed frames. His narratives revolve around nameless figures navigating through a world that mirrors reality yet is tinged with surrealism. These figures interact with commonplace elements, but Woshibai’s creative touch transforms these elements, bending the rules of perspective and logic. The result is an array of poetic snapshots that tease the boundary of the absurd, an uncanny world that resonates with readers.


The illustrator displays a keen knack for narrative construction, alternating between single illustrations and multi-panel sequences. This flexibility in the storytelling, which echoes the traditional comic strip format, allows Woshibai to express himself freely, escaping rules and conventions. The stories encapsulated within “20 KM/H” straddle the line between the ordinary and the fantastical, eliciting thought and reflection within their brevity. As readers traverse these narratives, they are subtly invited to delve beneath the surface and ponder the hidden depths of meaning within each tale.

Woshibai's '20 KM_H
Woshibai’s 20 KM/H

Published by Drawn & Quarterly, “20 KM/H” is an intriguing window into Woshibai’s creative journey. The transition from video game design to full-time illustration and cartooning has allowed the author to carve a distinctive niche within the world of underground Chinese comics.

20 KM_H
20 KM_H

As he recounts, his exploration into the world of illustration and comics was a product of dissatisfaction with his college major, industrial design. Preferring the freedom of his dorm room sketches, which he would later share online, Woshibai found himself frequently missing classes. Over time, his distinct style garnered the attention of magazine editors and art directors, who commissioned him for various illustration projects, including comics. This experience was pivotal for Woshibai, leading him to recognize the compatibility of the comic medium with his personal style of expression.


As one of the most prolific and recognizable artists of his generation, Woshibai’s work is poised to leave a lasting impression on both fans and newcomers to the world of surrealist comics.

Woshibai's '20 KM_H
Woshibai’s 20 KM/H

“20 KM/H” offers an intriguing exploration of the interplay between the surreal and the mundane, providing a novel perspective on life. Despite its minimalist style, it is imbued with philosophical undertones that engage and challenge the reader. As a piece of surrealist comics, Woshibai’s work is a compelling contribution, and anticipation is high to see how his creative journey unfolds in the future. Its appeal may be subjective, resonating differently with each reader, but therein lies the beauty of this unique exploration.

Woshibai's '20 KM_H
Woshibai’s 20 KM/H

Topics: Review of Woshibai’s 20 KM/H, Chinese surrealist comics, exploration of modern absurdities, Woshibai’s minimalist art style, philosophical undertones in 20 KM/H, silent humor in comics, existential contemplation in comics, underground Chinese comics, Woshibai’s unique artistic style, surreal and mundane in 20 KM/H

Images courtesy of Woshibai and Drawn & Quarterly

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