MANGA MONDAY: Saint Young Men

For today’s #MangaMonday I chose a re-released old classic that is so full of joy, you can’t help but smile while reading it.

Saint Young Men by Nakamura Hikaru is the story of Jesus and Buddha as roommates in Tokyo while they take a vacation from their godly duties to explore Earth. Each chapter is a snippet of the adventures they go on together and the hilarious mishaps two gods find themselves getting into while trying to function as regular humans.

I remember loving this series in high school because I thought the concept alone was hilarious. I saw snippets of the anime and laughed when I heard about the trailer for a live action film just a year or two ago. For anyone concerned about the religious content, I am not a religious person in the least but I can respect those who are and I feel Nakamura was sure to be respectful when putting out this series. The jokes are hilarious but never distasteful, even when addressing the Crucifixion or Buddha’s death.

This manga is definitely a feel-good, slice-of-life comedy that makes the perfect read for this time of year when keeping upbeat can be difficult. If you’re looking for a bit of fun with wonderful artwork and a loveable character duo, I highly recommend picking up the newest edition of Saint Young Men.

(LATE) MANGA MONDAY: No Longer Human

On Monday, I mentioned I was swapping things around and doing a regular book review so that I could share my review of the manga adaptation today.

The book in question is Dazai Osamu’s novel, No Longer Human, but adapted to the manga format by Japanese body horror king, Junji Ito.

Before I continue, this review contains trigger warnings for suicide, infanticide, violent imagery, and sexual assault.

So similarly to the novel (the review of which you can read here), this was a difficult one to get through. While I am very familiar with the content and the story of No Longer Human, Ito took this one to a whole other dimension. The story, itself, is heavily inspired by Dazai’s own life and there were certainly more elements of truth in the manga as well as far more fantastical horrors.

Unlike Ito’s other major works, his adaptation of No Longer Human was less focused on body horror and far more tuned into the psychological trauma that comes with the tortures Yozo faces. What was merely implied in the source material, was presented without apologies in the manga, and I’m not entirely sure if that’s a good thing or not. The sexual assault in the beginning and even throughout the story was intense and felt like it was too much given the format of the storytelling, however the ways Yozo is consistently taken advantage of is still so important to his story arc and the way his relationships (or lack thereof) are formed.

On top of that, there was far more death, far more suicide, and a lot heavier darkness. Dazai was not a happy man, and it can be seen throughout his short life by reading his novels and his stories. But the way that Ito really needles out the underlying sadness and turns it into something so solid and real it’s impossible to ignore as he beats you to death with it. Again, I’m conflicted by the emotions this manga drew from me because on the one hand it was a lot to process and manage, but on the other hand, it felt so real when it comes to how dangerous unchecked mental illness can be. It shows how important it is to really care for those who are suffering.

I loved the inclusions of Dazai himself as a character. I loved Ito’s artwork as I always do. But this was a rough one. Junji Ito is one of those mangakas who I rarely recommend because of how tricky it can be to navigate horror tolerance thresholds, but if you’re already familiar (and unbothered) with his work this is one to check out for sure.

 

MANGA MONDAY: Jujutsu Kaisen

A new series I want to do here is Manga Monday, a day dedicated to manga reviews to introduce new readers to some good series as well as keep up to date on titles for current readers. I’m hoping to talk about old and new series and look forward to spreading the love for manga of all kinds!

For this first Manga Monday, I decided to read a brand new title that was just released in English in December 2019. The series opening volume of Jujutsu Kaisen follows Itadori Yuji after the death of his grandfather as he and a mysterious student from Jujutsu High School seak out a cursed talisman before it can cause mass destruction. While trying to save his friends, Yuji takes an incredibly dangerous risk and becomes a vessel for the hyper-powerful being known as Sukuna, and ends up tangled in a bigger mess than he originally signed up for.

I really loved the key idea of this series focusing on fear and loss and how those negative and worrying emotions are typically the route causes of supernatural activity around Japan. The way the curses (depicted as slimy or hairy monsters) manifest was really neat as the different levels – both in terms of danger ranking and general intelligence – are determined by how the curse was originally formed. Volume 1 is definitely an introductory volume, but what I will say about it is that while I really appreciated that it wasn’t full of info-dumping, I would have loved a little more background about the Jujutsu Sorcerers and how the academy scouts their students or how the students even get their abilities in the first place.

That being said, for a debut manga, mangaka Akutami Gege’s style is wonderful. The character designs are reminiscent of early Kubo Tite (best known for Bleach) in a way that is both wonderfully nostalgic and yet still very new. I really am excited to see this series grow in both content and style and would recommend it to fans of BleachParasyte and maybe even Tokyo Ghoul.

I give this volume a solid 4.5 out of 5, with points only docked for my want of more background information on the characters and the rules of their powers, but I’m sure all will be revealed in the next volume or two.

MANGA REVIEW: Monster (Perfect Edition) Volume 1

I’ve once again fallen victim to a reading slump, but a number of people said that I should try reading a volume of manga or a graphic novel to break it. While I think the slump is still in effect, it does feel lighter.

The manga I chose to read was Naoki Urasawa’s hit Monster, an intense drama that crosses several genres. It’s a series I’ve wanted to read for a long time and I’m so happy I finally have!

Dr. Kenma Tenzo is a prodigy of a neurosurgeon from Japan that is on the up-and-up at a hospital in Germany. With a beautiful fiance and the potential of reaching Cheif Surgeon, Kenma is living the dream life. But when his job as a doctor is being corrupted by the politics of the hospital, he loses it all. Feeling better at the bottom, Kenma has realized his job is about the patients’ success, not his own and has been going about his business. When there’s a triple murder at the hospital, Kenma’s life is flipped around as he is dragged into the crimes as he is the one who has the most to gain from it. But the rabbit hole goes deeper than that, and Kenma has very real choices to make if he has any hopes of keeping anyone alive.

When I was in high school, I was under the impression that this series was a paranormal-hospital drama and oh boy was I wrong. Monster is a hospital drama that morphs into a political drama (given that the setting is in Germany in the 1980s when the Berlin Wall was still up) and then changes again into a serial killer story. The twists are intense and the way the story unfolds is wild, with a ten-year time skip after the first few chapters. I think Kenma is a sweetheart thrust into a horrible situation and I wonder if – with the title of the series – we will get to see him unravel into someone similar to the very monster he is hunting.

The edition of the manga that I read was the Perfect Edition, which I think is a combination edition of the first two volumes and I’m looking forward to reading the rest. The editions feature the proper colour pages and are just gorgeous. Urasawa’s art is so classic and wonderful and his story-telling abilities are on point.

I would recommend this series to fans of Deathnote, Hannibal, or Doubt and Judge. It’s definitely worth checking out.