Tuesday, August 11, 2009

That's Seizon - Life

I used to like all the titles Alan Class Comics reprinted over here. They were all really Tales to Astonish or Bewilder or Astound the reader, that is those filling the gaps between the adventures of Mandrake the Magician, and T-Bolt, and the Phantom, were. Those were the stories I liked best, the filler stories. The comics that had no big comic book star, but were made up of a bunch of disparate short stories, were by far my favourites - not simply because they often contained little gems by Ditko and Kirby, they did, but because there was more substance to the stories, or at least it seemed that way to me, back then.

In retrospect, reading them today, as I sometimes do, a lot of these filler stories were a little hackneyed. You kind of new what to expect, a slightly supernatural twist in the tale that was anything but unexpected. Occasionally though, there was a thoughtful piece of writing in there, and those stories really did make a lasting impact on this young reader.

Hindsight is a great tool for any reviewer, and I realise now that the type of story that really resonated with me was likely to be based, however loosely, on urban-mythology. You know the stuff, the claw on the door handle, the banging on the car-roof outside the lunatic asylum, the strange woman with the hairy wrists, and variations on these tales. One story that really excited me was a story about a stranger accepting a lift in a car from a driver who gets increasingly paranoid that the person he has picked up is an escaped mental patient. The twist in the tale is that it is the driver of the car himself who is actually the lunatic at large; not the person he has picked-up. I remember thinking of this story recently, when I was rereading Locas in Love, where an increasingly paranoid Maggie starts to worry that a car is stalking her car. Another favourite was the against all odds tale, that often featured a character who after being diagnosed with a deadly illnes, goes off in search of a final adventure, and ends up being, somewhat mysteriously, cured.

I'll be honest, if you ask me what other stories are in that Alan Class Comic, the one with the paranoid driver, I'd struggle to tell you. And if you asked me which superhero the filler stories frame in the publication, I just wouldn't be able to say. The truth is, I wanted more stories like the paranoid driver, or I wanted the paranoid driver story to stretch for an entire comic book. Perhaps I was already starting to outgrow superheroes. The trouble was, of course, that there really wasn't a lot out there, other than superhero comics, that combined words and pictures for me to read. It is different today, thankfully, there is much more choice now, although it is still in many ways a limited choice if one considers all the autobiographical publications as one genre.

Growing up back then, I would have loved a comic like Seizon - Life. Oh, I admit that today, the adult me thinks the third volume of the series falls a bit flat, and that the story is a tad melodramatic, but the teenage me would have really loved it, and if I'd read it in my early twenties, then I might have started producing work like it.

Seizon, a collaborative effort by Nobuyuki Fukumoto, a previous winner of the Kodansha Manga Award, and fellow Kodansha Manga Award winner, Kaiji Kawaguchi, is a twenty three chapter story, spread over three volumes. It is first and foremost an action thriller, that tells the story of Takeda, a desperate and dying man determined to bring his daughter's killer to justice, before he himself is eaten away by cancer.

Scanlated first by Kotonoha, and finished (finally) by Hox, Seizon, is a classic who-done-it, but with a very modern denouement. The protagonist, Takeda, has suffered the loss of his wife, who died not knowing whether their daughter, Sawako, missing for the past fourteen years, was alive or dead, to cancer. When Takeda learns that his own terminal cancer is in an advanced state, he decides to end his life. However, just when he is about to hang himself, the phone rings and we hear the message from the police that they have found his missing daughter's corpse.

His short remaining life given new purpose, Takeda resolves to remain alive long enough to bring his daughter's killer or killers to justice. But he must move quickly, under Japanese law, the statute of limitations for murder lasts for 15 years, and Takeda has only six months left to live, and six months left to bring his daughter's killer to justice.

Drawn in typical Seinen style, Seizon looks terrific, and in the main the story captivates and keeps the reader interested in what happens next. It does flag a little toward the end, but when it does the cinematic switches of POV, illustrated well in the final page above, pick up the pace. I'd love to see some work like Seizon or Soil (we'll do a Soil blog later), created here in the UK and maybe in the US, but I'm only too painfully aware that there are limited opportunities to showcase such work.

1 comment:

Jack Ruttan said...

I love the extreme drama in Manga. Want to try to echo it in my own stuff, without seeming derivative.