Man of the Moment

Sean William Scott

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Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Scary Manga 

Well, not really.

Death Note Vol. 1 by Tsugumi Ohba and Takeshi Obata

Light Yagami is a bored teen genius who finds a notebook on the street. According to the instructions on the notebook, if he writes a person's name in the book, they will die. Out of boredom, he decides to test it. And thus begins a very strange contest of wills.
I'm almost surprised at how much I enjoyed this. I expected a darkly comic teen angst story, and what I got was surprisingly sophisticated given its subject matter. On the one hand, there is the surface level story here of Light's attempts to make the world a better place by killing off those he considers undesirable, and the conflict that results between the equally brilliant and unseen detective L, who is determined to bring the mysterious mass murderer to justice. There's also, I detect, a mind-boggingly subtle satire of how teens view the world and their place in it. Light, it must be said, may be a genius, but he's also an egotistical megalmomaniac with a God complex and a sociopath. I almost can't help but read him as an indictment of the narcissim and self-centeredness of your average teenager. Which is one of the places where the "horror" element of the story comes in; the realization that anyone else in Light's position would almost certainly end up using the notebook for themselves as well.
The other horror element is the inclusion of Ryuk, the shinigami (or, death god) who dropped the notebook in the first place. As drawn by Obata, artist on the popular amongst bloggers Hikaru No Go, he looks a bit like a figure from the cover art for a heavy-metal album, but he's surprisingly likeable and appealing a personality. Like Light, his primary motivation was boredom. He deliberately dropped his notebook into the human world to see what would happen. It's curious that the inhuman monster is more personable and likeable, and less monstrous, than Light, the supposed "hero" of the book.

Ghost Hunt Vol. 1 by Shiho Inada, from the novel by Fuyumi Ono

This was a very light read. The art was appealing, and it would make a good horror manga for a younger reader, lacking some of the more extreme art and relationships that tend to pop up in many other horror manga titles. The lead heroine, Mai, suffers a bit from "shojo manga girl syndrome" in that she keeps falling for the "bad boy" who doesn't treat her very well. And the male lead Kazuya Shibuya is a by the numbers "bad boy" lead. There is a large supporting cast, but they don't much rise above their stereotypical personality traits. In short, it's an inoffensive manga title, but nothing exceptional. If Del Rey hadn't released it so close to Halloween, I expect it would very quietly disappear without much comment.

The Wallflower Vol. 5 by Tomoko Hayakawa

The prior volume had a fun little Halloween themed story in it, but I just didn't want to miss mentioning this title had a new volume out, as it's one of my favorites and it doesn't seem to get much attention. In this volume, goth-girl Sunako's father comes by for a visit, anxious over this rumor he's been hearing about his little girl dating the violence-prone Kyohei. We also get a flash-back story detailing the days when the boys first come to the manor, and learn that Sunako isn't the only resident being groomed into a more socially presentable form.

And, of course, a new volume of Yotsuba was released. But you shouldn't need me to tell you how good it is.


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