Empire State: A Love Story (Or Not)
is a 2011 graphic novel written and drawn by Jason Shiga
(with colors by John Pham). In contrast with Shiga's prior high-concept or puzzle-driven comics, this is a semi-autobiographical, character-driven story.
Jimmy Yee is a geek working in the Oakland branch library. He's in a rut, but he's not in any particular hurry to get out of it, either. At least, not until Sara, his best friend and first crush, leaves Oakland for greener pastures—an apartment in Brooklyn and an internship with a publisher. Jimmy becomes lonely, and then desperate—enough to confess his feelings to Sara via a letter and then buy a bus ticket to New York.
From there, nothing goes as Jimmy expects.
Provides examples of:
- Anachronic Order: The comic alternates between red and blue sections. The blue sections are mostly in chronological order, while the red sections are in no particular order other than occurring chronologically before the blue ones.
- Conversational Troping / Discussed Trope: Jimmy faults Kate and Leopold for failing to resolve the Grandfather Paradox. He and Sara also have an ongoing debate over the realism of the ending of Sleepless In Seattle.
- Comically Missing the Point: Sara tells a horror story about a bad date she met through Craigslist. Jimmy thinks her story is inspiring—he identifies with Sara's date, and realizes he can meet attractive girls through Craigslist if he words his personal ads right.
- Did Not Get the Girl: Although if you tilt your head and squint, you could interpret it as Maybe Ever After instead.
Sara: You were right about the annoying hipsters here, too. The worst are the ones who complain about all the other annoying hipsters while not realizing that they themselves are the annoying hipsters.
- I Want Grandkids:
Mom: I'm fifty-five already. I just want to see the face of my grandson before I die.
Jimmy: Geez, Ma.
- Man Child: Jimmy signs all his paychecks over to his mom and receives an allowance from her. He's 25. When Sara calls him out on this, Jimmy insists "it's an Asian thing". Elsewhere, he admits that in spite of his age, he doesn't feel grown-up or understand half the grown-up things he thinks he should.
- Pity Makeout: Sara describes a date with a very unattractive man that ended with them making out, partly because she felt sorry for him and partly because she didn't want him to think she was shallow.
- Race for Your Love: Invoked. After debating about the ending of Sleepless In Seattle with Sara, Jimmy deliberately tries to reenact it. He figures that even if he fails and makes a fool of himself, it beats spending the rest of his life wondering what would have happened.
- Reality Ensues:
- Jimmy thinks a cross-country bus trip will be just like The Incredible Hulk TV series—seeing the country and solving mysteries in small towns. The ex-con in the next seat is quick to point out that Jimmy actually signed up for a week of gas station food, terrible restrooms, and no bathing opportunities.
- The aforementioned Race for Your Love scene ends with Jimmy phoning Sara and discovering that she never received his letter, and thus has no idea that he's in New York City.
- Sidetracked by the Analogy: Jimmy, several times. In his letter to Sara, he manages to sidetrack himself, and starts writing about random tangents before catching himself and crossing out the passage.
- Screams Like a Little Girl:
Jimmy: Sara, I was so scared I wanted to scream like a girl.
Sara: What did you do?
Jimmy: I screamed like a girl.
- Splash Panel: A desert panorama during Jimmy's bus trip; Jimmy's arrival the New York bus station.