Posts Tagged ‘manga’

girl-who-leapt-through-time-bandai-us

Comic adaptations from films are always a mixed bag as the different forms of storytelling don’t always work with a certain story. ‘The Girl Who Leapt Through Time’ is interesting in the fact that the film it is based on, is in itself based on a 1967 novel of the same name meaning that this is essentially the third iteration of the story. It’s also interesting as it’s one of those instances when a successful Japanese animated film is turned into a manga/comic to allow a wider audience to experience the story (as well as making more money).  The book follows the same basic story, but as usually happens, strips quite a few of the side elements to try an create a more streamlined piece.
The film is one of the most heart-wrenchingly beautiful pieces of fiction that I have had the pleasure of watching many times, leading me to wonder how or if the book would do it justice. I wondered how the raw and powerful emotion would translate to a static medium without the aid of music or audible vocal emotion. Now I’m not saying that books can’t have the same level of power as film, because they can and in some ways can achieve it on a far more intense level. This is usually down to the fact that we have been introduced to the story/ characters through description and clever use of written language. When it comes to comics though, I find emotion translates far worse due to the fact that the description is generally no longer written as we have fallen into the ‘show, don’t tell’ mentality of the more visual medium. It doesn’t mean that a comic can’t achieve the same draw of the heart, it just means that the writers and artists need to work closely and try much harder to try and evoke the same kind of level of power as they have none of the liberties of sound and moving image.
They say that ‘a picture is worth a thousand words’ and this is a statement that is generally true of stand-alone imagery, but when you have a book made up of hundreds of images it generally becomes much harder to find the statement true. Most of the images, if stripped back, work as a kind of filler, easing the reader into new environments or allowing the reader to see character movement. There is the odd occasion where an image stands out above the rest and lingers in the mind long after you finish the story. This is how you know that they’ve achieved the power.
Throughout ‘The Girl Who Leapt Through Time’ there are around 6 images that truly stand out with such emotional intensity that they hit the heart hard. Even though I knew what to expect of the story and I knew what was going to happen, I still found myself pulled left and right on an unexpected emotional rollercoaster ride. It’s amazing that fiction can manipulate ones emotions in such a real way as to bring about true feelings and here they’ve achieved it. I found myself audibly gasping at numerous points during the story and can even say that I felt a tear welling in the corner of my eye.
For those who have never heard of ‘The Girl Who Leapt Through Time’, It concerns Makoto Konno, a junior in high school who’s life suddenly takes a turn for the peculiar when she comes across a device that allows her to ‘time leap’. This sets about a series of events that will change her past, present and future forever. At its heart it is a coming of age story about acceptance and love but it is told in a truly interesting way.
Time travel is a plot device that is often used in science fiction as an easier way of telling a basic story in a slightly more interesting way. It’s hard to find a story that truly justifies the use of time travel as story telling device, but here is one of those exceptions. Here the time travelling element is more a visual means of explaining how Konno’s mind is working and where she is in her mental state, rather than showing the effects on the much wider world. It does look at some of the external effects of her new found powers, but these are still shown within her tight unit of friends. With all that’s said and done, ‘The Girl Who Leapt Through Time’ is a beautiful coming of age story that is told in a powerful yet very careful way.
I don’t want to explain much more about the story itself as I don’t want to spoil it for any potential readers, but I can say that it is a story with very little in the way of action but lots of emotional drama that’s far deeper then it first seems.  It’s a nice change from the usual comics that I tend to read and has more akin to fiction like the book ‘Norwegian Wood’ by Haruki Murakami then anything superhero related.
The characters in the story may be few, but each has a deep personality that makes them truly individual from one another. There are only four main characters in the story including Makoto Konno. Each of them work at pushing Konno on her path through the story and help her realise what she wants in life. Her friends Kousuke Tsuda and Chiaki Mamiya both show the contrasts of personality with one being more about studying while the other is more about fun. They work as a visual split in Konno’s mind. We also have Konno’s Auntie who acts as the voice of reason and I Konno’s main guide through the story.  The writer has dialled back some of the other side characters in the story which I was a little sad about as they further pushed emotional buttons in the film, but I guess it does mean that the story is far more streamlined with more focus on an end point. What we do have works brilliantly though and if I hadn’t seen the film I wouldn’t have thought I’d have questioned any of these gripes.
The art throughout is truly fantastic and helps the story flow forwards at a natural pace without ever rushing it. Some of the individual panel images contain so much in the way of emotion, that it’s truly quite a remarkable feat. It’s amazing how an image of a completely fictitious character’s eyes can evoke so much and at the same time feel so real. The character design is just as brilliant, even if they are taken straight out of the film. Everyone is individual making the story easy to follow and means that the artwork never gets confusing. In the art department side of things there is very little, if nothing at all to fault.
‘The Girl Who Leapt Through Time’ is a remarkable story on almost every level, from base enjoyment all the way through to being an emotional rollercoaster.  It really is a truly beautiful masterpiece of storytelling. A good story will take you on a journey, one that will make you forget about the real world until you’ve finished reading. This is one of those stories. How can something so entirely fictitious contain the ability to manipulate real emotions? It’s a question that can be applied to so many stories and can be applied to almost any visual or written medium, but it’s one that can never truly be answered. Why one person feels something while another doesn’t will always be one of those special subjective things that makes each one of us individual and ultimately is one of the things that can be linked to what makes us human.
So how does the adaptation hold up to the film and is it a worthwhile read?
I’d say that the manga holds up remarkably well and works well by itself or as a companion piece to the film. It’s a story that really should be experienced in any of its various mediums. Whichever you choose you’re in for a treat. As an emotional rollercoaster I’d say that the film version may work slightly better due to the added emotional pull that sound can have, but to deny the book of any emotion would be to do it a massive injustice. I have not felt like this after reading a comic in a long time and would argue never to the level.
I’d highly recommend the book and/or film to everyone who doesn’t just look for action in their storytelling and actually wants some truly raw feelings coming out of the words the characters say and the movement of the story. It’s a true masterpiece in any medium and a story that deserves to be experienced by everyone.

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urot

First things first. This is definitely not a title for children or anyone who’s squeamish. It features graphic violence and many very adult situations and themes.  As such some of the items I may touch on may talk about said

So…..

This is a little different in the fact that many have probably heard of this title (or the subsequent anime film) but have probably never read it. Some wouldn’t have read it on the basis that they can’t find a copy; others may be put off by the fairly adult nature of the subject matter. But it’s a lot deeper than you would expect.

The story isn’t explained much in the first volume but it does begin to build up to the events that happen in future volumes. The first volume works very much as an introduction piece to the main characters Tatsuo Nagumo, Akemi Itō and the demon Amano Jyaku. The former two are the more innocent parties of the story and are for all intents and purposes the heroes of this story. Amano on the other hand sits very much in the grey area of the spectrum. He does do good deeds but at the same time he commits an atrocious act right at the beginning of the story. But this is what I quite like about the craftsmanship of the story. Pretty much everyone has a dark side that really is quite deep. No one is perfect in it. The whole world created is quite grim and seedy. It’s unnerving and starts to get under your skin. It shows the underbelly that many try to ignore.  ‘Toshio Maeda’ is very open about what he wants to express throughout his writing and a fair chunk of it is to shock and make people take notice.

The art is magnificent while also being horrifying and disturbing the majority of the time. Everything has this grim layer to it that really helps emphasise the grittiness of the subject matter. The detail in the characters and the world is incredible (even the more questionable things still are amazingly well rendered.)  I will say though that at times there is so much going on in each panel that it can get confusing. Sometimes I found myself having to go back a few panels to realise what was going on. It’s not the end of the world but it does take you out of the story. It’s also worth noting that ‘Toshio Maeda’ also did the artwork for this book, which means that everything we see and read is his vision. There is no one else interoperating his ideas. It is just straight out of his fascinating mind and onto the paper.

Now…. Onto the copious amounts of sex and violence that fill the pages. Is it too graphic? Yes and no. The sex portrayed is never what one would call ‘erotic’. It is grim and most of the time, quite vile. It makes you feel on edge and that what you are seeing is some twisted voyeuristic fantasy of some outside party spying in on the characters. This works perfectly though as it helps create the atmosphere and the overall look of the piece. The violence is much the same in the fact that it is bloody and graphic, but at the same time is realistic and has almost ‘crime-scene photography’ feel to it. Maeda is clever in how much he shows and what he shows. It’s worth noting that the sex isn’t censored in the slightest and at times is highly graphic.

This brings us to the art or filth argument that has echoed through films and printed material for many years. Is there a true justification for all the sex? Yes! Unlike a lot of adult material, this actually has a deep story that the sex and violence is simply used as an aid to express.  Yes, it is also intended to shock, but is also intended to make people think and question what they are seeing. It also questions the reader into looking inside themselves and seeing the darkness that dwells within.  There is a reason why this and the film became so massive in Japan that they spawned sequels and spin-offs and it’s not simply because of the ‘adult images’ on view. It’s one of the few titles that sits on the delicate line between ‘Hentai’ or dark ‘manga’. For me it isn’t important what you judge it as. A story is simply what it is and should be enjoyed/read for what it is not under the label someone slips it beneath.

It is at no point a happy read and for this reason for me it instantly stands out from almost all ‘Western’ publications. It’s pretty much jet black in terms of the emotions it expresses. Its more lust over love; more death over life. It’s a fascinating journey through realms very rarely explored and one of the most realistically dark portrayals of the world I’ve seen in comic form (even if there are demons and such like within)

So would I recommend it?

It’s a toughie. For one it’s getting harder and harder to actually find a copy as it’s something that I doubt will be allowed in print again due to the graphic nature of it. It also focuses on subjects that many would like to ignore or pass off as ‘taboo’. It’s not ‘nice’ in the slightest and will not leave the reader with that happy sense of accomplishment they may get from reading some superhero story. It’s dark and dingy and makes you feel dirty afterwards. While reading you get sucked deeper into this dark pit and every time you try to escape you just get drawn further into the darkness.  It’s an amazing experience for people who know what they are getting into and for people who like to experience something almost entirely unlike anything else.

For me this is a true masterpiece of storytelling and is just so ‘different’. Toshio Maeda established his name with this series (as well as la blue girl) and is known for his twisted mind and the twisted imagery it pumps out. He is one of the greatest comic creators I have ever had the fortune of both reading his work and meeting him in person.

So I would recommend this, but only to those who can handle it and look past the sex and violence to see the deep story and intelligently written characters beneath.  It’s a deeply challenging and at times deeply repulsive journey, but one that is truly worth going on.