Vaughan & Chiang's "Paper Girls" Builds a Familiar Yet Disconcerting World
Welcome again to Say It With Manga. This week, I once again cover three manga series in three different genres in brief. A trip to the mountains, the classroom, and a crazed city are in order this week, I think.
HISTORICAL: A Bride’s Story – Kaoru Mori
The most distinctive thing about this series is its setting, which is a group of rural areas and small towns in central Asia during the 19th century. Mori has done a great deal of research concerning the culture of the nomadic people that inhabit the area, and she brings the people and villages to life through gorgeously detailed art and short chapter-length stories that focus on minutiae of daily routine. The main plot focuses on a woman named Amir and her move to a different village to be with her new husband, a young family head named Karluk. What starts as an awkward situation between Amir and Karluk’s family turns into an enjoyable story about the couple growing closer very slowly, and the things that make Amir different from the other villagers. Later, the plot leaves the town and follows a British researcher who had been staying there as he travels to another place. The narrative is important, but is always broken up with stories about daily life and routine, and it always takes its time in the telling. It’s a wonderful read, and there aren’t very many comics like it.
ROMANCE: A Devil and Her Love Song – Miyoshi Tomori
Again, I’m a huge fan of girls’ comics, so I can always find something to like about most of them. A Devil and Her Love Song is a recent favorite, and one that took me by surprise. The main character is a girl named Maria Kawai, a beautiful but misunderstood girl who often gets herself in trouble by offering blunt opinions. What would normally be a comedy about Maria frequently landing in awkward situations by putting her foot in her mouth takes on a sadder tone here, as Maria has an uncanny ability to detect weakness in others and doesn’t understand why people don’t like being told to their faces. Her classmates believe she is being hostile, and react negatively in turn, while Maria is only trying her best to make friends with them. She isn’t cruel, and the story does a good job of balancing her good intentions with what would normally be glossed over as bad behavior in any other series. There’s a romance angle, of course, as Maria quickly falls for a sulky outcast boy and the most charismatic boy in class falls for her. It can be overly melodramatic at times, but I like it for being a slightly different flavor from most of the bubbly, happy romance comics that sit on the shelf next to it. It’s also not very long, at only 13 volumes.
ACTION: MAOH: Juvenile Remix – Kotaro Isaka & Megumi Osuga
I always go into action series like this expecting school kids that fight with special powers, but Maoh: Juvenile Remix surprised me with its strange and distinct flavor. The setting is a small town falling victim to massive urban renewal, and a local movement named Grasshopper is trying to stop it. The spokesman for this group, Inukai, is a shockingly charismatic individual that seems able to convince people to do whatever he asks. The main character, Ando, begins to realize that a strange madness is gripping the townspeople as a result of Inukai’s attempts to drive the corporations out, and regular people are getting downright murderous. So it’s up to Ando to try and unmask Inukai for the terrorist that he is, with the only weapon at his disposal being old-fashioned research, logic, and his power to make people nearby say what he’s thinking out loud. The whole thing reads like a thriller, with Ando trying to stay a step ahead of Inukai while dodging both real assassins and an unusual form of crowd madness. It’s a unique series, and at 10 volumes, isn’t too much of a commitment.
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