October 26, 2008

This was WEIRD.  I had actually meant to get Tappenshu when I ordered this (this has happened before; I wound up with Bastard instead of Berserk that time).  I had been thinking of reading Blade of the Immortal, and this had me worried about it… I had a hard time reading this.  The style seems to be much less manic in BotI though, which is an important plus.

It was extremely… well, noisy?  I know it was supposed to be, but I had a hard time getting into it at first.  It’s one of those types of stories that jumps around a bit and will have one-panel cutaways to show nonsequitors about what the characters are imagining, plus there’s a lot going on in every page.  Samura has a very sketchy style and uses a lot of lines, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing (I kind of like his style, actually), but the loose technique combined with the number of panels and the fact that initially the characters are sort of shouting everythign at one another made it hard to follow.  At least for me.  I’ve heard mostly good things about this, so I may be the only one having trouble.

The plot is basically about this group of friends at college.  There’s the main character, his childhood friend, her boyfriend, and her best friend, along with another friend.  The main character loves the best friend, who already has a boyfriend she loves, and the childhood friend loves the main character.  There’s a sad lack of resolution to the main story, and it was… well, really weird.  I liked that it sort of subverted all the expectations of this type of story, though.  The squabbling couple doesn’t get together (which is something he points out himself), the childhood friends aren’t together, and the boy who wears his heart on his sleeve isn’t a shoe-in as a boyfriend for the girl he loves.  I liked that part of it.

The humor was what made it weird.  After I got used to it, I kind of liked the one-panel cutaways, which made visual gags on whatever situation was happening.  For example, at one point, a character complains about the heat, and in the next panel, the person he was with has turned into a little kid and started running away since the heat has addled them.  It’s funny in context.  There’s a subplot involving the Italian lovechild of a Ramen businessman, who comes to Japan to take out his mother’s frustrations on Japanese women.  You know, weird stuff like that.  There’s a lot of jokes thrown into the dialogue too, many which have notes in the back since they frequently reference Japanese culture.  While these jokes mostly missed for me, I did like that this was the only manga I’ve ever read that referenced Female Convict Scorpion.  By the time the story finished, I did like the sense of humor a lot, and I was surprised it had grown on me so much.

There were two unrelated short stories in the back.  One is kind of a throwaway about a trip Samura and his editor went on.  The other is a really bizarre one about a young female manga artist who initially fails, then goes on to live a life full of experiences that she then turns back into a successful manga.  I can’t figure out if it’s serious or not.  I think it is.  It’s a great story anyway, but not knowing whether or not a joke is being made makes it that much better.

Talking about it here makes me realize how much stuff it had going for it, and I may have actually liked it in the end, but somehow I really didn’t enjoy reading it.  Take that as you will.