This is seriously one of the most beautiful manga publications in my collection. It has a full color cardboard sleeve, a full color wrap-around image, and the page edges are painted red with further designs. It’s gorgeous. And, for that alone, I think it’s worth collecting.
But, then you have the story… and “my god!” my brain feels like it’s melting. (that’s a good thing) Like most of Matsumoto’s works the protagonists are children working out their reality/trying to figure out their place in the world. It primarily surrounds two boys.
The first has been going to this school for a long time. He’s a loner. And has been ostracized by the entire class because of his strange behaviour and talk of the supernatural. His only friend is the school caretaker who listens quietly and intently in his stories, but rarely comments or encourages the behaviour. Throughout the story the boy begins to get agitated as the voices he’s been relying on have started to go quiet.
The second boy is new to the school. And as much as he’s been warned to stay away from the first boy, he finds his behaviour intriguing, if not bewildering, and makes friends with him. He also asks questions and listens to the stories, but is of course doubtful as to their validity.
The whole thing feels like a metaphor for growing up. There is constant concern over the other side, of adulthood, of breaking the rules, of death… all of these discussions between the characters seem to be markers of that pivotal moment in a child’s life when they’re no longer a child. They take a step into a limbo where they’re still children, but not children at the same time.
It’s a brilliant reading experience – delving deep into the psyche of children. But, I think is best understood intrinsically. I think if you’re trying to figure out what is going on during every panel, you’ll only wind yourself into knots.
I’ve been pretty hyped to read this after hearing so many great things about the anime; many people touting this story as a “masterpiece”.
I’m less enthused after reading it than I was expecting. It has one major flaw in my eyes and that is it is written by a yaoi author. i.e. she brings with it a lack of character development. Because most yaoi series tend to be on the shorter side (at least what has been released here) authors have to develop their characters quickly. And they can do this because they are working with stock characters. The uke and seme are the most common character types complete with defining relationship roles, personality (both private and public), and even artistic design. If you’re a regular reader of the genre, you will instantly pick out which character belongs to which static character type and can enjoy the quick-ride which is the story.
But this is not yaoi (it might have some gay characters, but that doesn’t define the genre). So, it’s quick character development isn’t enough to engender an emotional response from readers. It falls flat. And this is my primary issue with this story.
It could make a recovery though. The way the story is structured could indicate that the two male character’s will get more focus throughout the story as Kumota unveils their intentions and feelings. But other characters, like the lead female character doesn’t have much left to give. Her character has been laid bare, and her intentions/motivations clear.
But the story! The story! The story could save this for me. It is one of the most unique subjects I’ve read about. It’s about a young man recently released from prison. While he was in prison he heard the comedic storytelling (rakugo) of the legendary master Yakumo Yurakutei and decided to become his apprentice. He persuades Yakumo to take him on, and is eager to get started to learn the art of rakugo.
This is the first time I’ve read anything about rakugo. I’ve had a little exposure to it through watching Japanese television. But, this purely Japanese art-form is fascinating to me to read about.
Now all Kumota needs is to develop her characters a bit more and this will be a great manga…I’ll wait!