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Welcome to another Manga in Minutes! Not a ton of news this week, but there were a few pieces out of Japan that caught my eye!
With that out of the way, it’s on to this week’s review of Countdown 7 Days, Vols. 1 – 3!
Kemuri Karakara’s Countdown 7 Days tells a tale of two worlds. The world of the living and Sheol, the world of the dead. Oddly enough they’re not that different from each other and even the dead souls never stop learning. Enter Mitamura, a teacher at the Sheol academy for the departed. On a supervised field trip he looses a student and is forced to recruit the recently deceased Hanasuke to help him find her. From there the duo’s paths seem entwined and they quickly find themselves sucked into conspiracy that threatens the existence of both worlds!
I initially encountered Countdown 7 Days several years ago when DMP first rolled the series out. At the time I couldn’t help but notice it’s strong focus on the relationship between Mitamura and Hanasuke. Mitamura’s a quiet young man who has a problem connecting with people, meanwhile Hanasuke is a loud, brash and outspoken fellow. Through Hanasuke, Mitamura slowly comes out of his shell and learns how to connect and care for people. The interplay between the two is pretty solid and the comedy bits are usually entertaining without feeling horribly forced. That said the characters aren’t without their downsides, particularly Mitamura. I get that the story seems heavily driven by his learning to relate and care and be open to others and that he needs to start out fairly isolated and aloof, but Kemuri Karakara doesn’t seem to think that’s enough and includes a bit of backstory for Mitamura that makes him seem like a budding serial killer! It’s a moment that comes off as so heartless and cruel, that it made caring about or relating to him very difficult. Thankfully they never really revisit this, and his character manages to come a long way over these three volumes. While there is action scattered throughout the series, it’s really about the relationships, and Karakara sets up a relationship among the series antagonists, Shiba and his guardian spirit Yatsuomi, which is a dark parallel of Mitamura and Hanasuke’s. These relationships are really where the book shines, and the plot, something about Shiba and Yatsuomi attempting to open gates to a lost hell dimension, at times almost feels intrusive to what would be a rather entertaining relationship drama.
If this main story wasn’t enough, the second half of the volume one has a one off story called “Soothead”. “Soothead” is an interesting tale of a near perfect kingdom plagued by a boogeyman, evil genius, supervillan known as, surprise, Soothead. It’s a bit of a political tale involving the manufacturing of a common villain for the purpose of preserving a country’s peace. It’s an interesting concept and one that has it’s roots in real world political situations, not to mention how it vaguely echoes part of Alan Moore and Dave Gibbon’s superhero tale Watchman. Unlike many pieces of fiction which deal with a similar premise, here it’s done for benevolent purposes rather than sinister ones. That said the idea does present a bit of a problem since I’m not really sure why the kingdom isn’t rife with paranoia regarding Soothead and why and how he’s capable of being behind all the countries’ ills while continuing to evade the law. Despite these flaws it’s an interesting tale and I’d actually like to see more done with the concept and the characters.
Visually there aren’t too many surprises here. Countdown 7 Days looks good and Kemuri Karakara does a good job at depicting the emotions of everyone involved. The odd foray into the more comedic overreactions scattered throughout don’t feel horribly intrusive and Karakara seems to know when they’ll detract from the seriousness of the plot and when they’re an acceptable way to release some tension or break away from the emotionally heavy material which dominates the series. The lively back and forth between Mitamura and Hanasuke also does quite a bit at keeping them from feeling out of place or at odds with the rest of the story. The few fight scenes that appear in the series are short and easy to follow, but don’t really stand out as terribly memorable or amazing. “Soothead” is a bit of a treat with a fantastic design for the titular character, one that echoes the classic doughboy look of DC’s superhero, The Sandman, with some nice modern tweaks to it. The action sequences in the tale are probably the best I’ve seen from Kemuri Karakara and were energetic, humorous and engaging to look at.
Countdown 7 Days was a pleasant surprise. I hadn’t read it in years and wasn’t expecting much, but it ended up being fairly entertaining and enjoyable despite a few bumps here and there. The short story, “Soothead,” showed some real potential and I’d love it if Kemuri Karakara ever saw fit to revisit and expand upon it! All in all, Countdown 7 Days, Vols. 1 – 3 ended up being an unexpected, enjoyable read!
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