Tales of Mere Existence

I was about to put Levni ‘Lev’ Yilmaz up on a pedestal as a new poster boy for alienation, but the guy has too many dating stories to displace Caulfield. For Yilmaz, girlfriend experiences seem to come relatively easy. Social situations do not.

This much Yilmaz conveys as he successfully taps into an array of universal truths in Tales of Mere Existence – a series that tracks the strains of our zeitgeist popularized by Larry David.

Yilmaz creates spot on, two-minute meditations on procrastination, how to craft an appropriate email asking a girl out, and having an ongoing exchange with mom in which you’re never quite fully heard.

Yilmaz has an ideal voice with which to convert his comics to animation. It’s deep enough, but relatable and completely unintimidating, and – with an often melancholic tone – gives him the ability to squeeze far more angst from the moving pictures than he likely achieves in the comics. Plus, of course, the traffic he’s getting via YouTube (58k+ subscribers) dramatically increases his fan base. Even Sunny Side Down, his recently released book of Tales of Mere Existence cartoons, comes with a DVD with 20 of his animated shorts.

The simplicity of Yilmaz’s drawing style is reminiscent of that of Don Hertzfeld – without the violence or quite as much nihilism – and the wavier lines, particularly of the narrator’s own hair, has a whiff of Matt Groening’s Life in Hell.

Without getting too to personal, Yilmaz gives us multiple glimpses into worries and insecurities of a more-or-less typical modern urban hipster artist, and while our takes on reality and making it through day-to-day life don’t always intersect in terms of identification, there’s a lot here that’s more than familiar.

The uncomplicated form of storytelling – which usually entails an animation technique that allows us to see Yilmaz drawing his lines from the other side of the paper as he narrates his story – makes for a certain kind of immediacy. It delivers us directly into a familiar version of the modern psyche, and even allows us to chuckle about some of our own imperfect tendencies.

Check it out at IngredientX.com

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