I’m not sure how I wound up not talking about this one. I bought this immediately after I finished Tekkon Kinkreet and realized that Taiyo Matsumoto was a genius. His other work available in English, No. 5, is unfinished, so I don’t really want to go through the bother of tracking it down. Actually, I don’t even need to bother since my roommate has it and I could go grab it since it’s about ten feet away, but it’s unfinished, so I just don’t want to.
I was pretty disappointed in Blue Spring, actually. It’s a series of short stories about yakuza and rough-around-the-edges school boys. I did like a lot of the stories. Two in particular stand out. The first one, “If You’re Happy and You Know it, Clap Your Hands,” is a story with kind of a hopeless atmosphere where the delinquent school boys stick to their heierarchy, and one of the upstarts tries to compete in one of their games to try and best the boys at the top of the pecking order. The game involves hanging from the top of the school and clapping your hands, hence the title of the story. Another story later in the volume is about three friends who suddenly find themselves possible heirs to a yakuza, and they have to decide which one of them gets the spot. This one was one of my favorites, because it was much less bleak than most of the other stories in the volume. One or two of the stories also featured what may have been characters used later in Tekkon Kinkreet, notably the Rat. I remember also being pretty impressed with the end notes in the back of the volume, but I don’t remember why. Oh well.
You could definitely tell it was an ambitious early work, though. A lot of the stories seemed to be without a definite… point, I suppose. Either that, or the point was so buried that it flew over my head. Or they were meant to be without a point, which is a possibility. I wasn’t sure what to think about several of them, though. The art is also much less polished than in Tekkon Kinkreet, but I still really liked it, and it’s still a lot better than most people’s rookie efforts. I was disappointed that there were less people smiling than I saw in Tekkon Kinkreet, though.
One thing which also broke the deal for me was the amount of graffiti peppered throughout all the stories. Some stories had graffiti in EVERY SINGLE PANEL. I think this is sort of amazing, and it does look awesome. However, at the bottom of every single panel are copious translation notes about what the graffiti says. In most cases, it doesn’t seem to matter what it says, but the combination of the graffiti with these notes made for a hell of a lot of clutter, especially in the first chapter, and it left a bad taste in my mouth. Without the notes, I probably would have been left wondering what it said and have been angry, but with the notes, it just made every page a chore to read. I really appreciate all the effort that went into the translation, though. It’s hard to say what would have been best in that situation.
I didn’t really like this volume, but on the other hand, I’m not it’s target audience. Perhaps this was meant for manlier people than I. I still want to read Taiyo Matsumoto’s other series, though, and I would totally read No. 5 if the rest of it came out.