Story/Art: Satoshi Kon
Translation: Yota Okutani
What They Say
A collection of 15 short stories by the late Satoshi Kon. These stories, serialized in a variety of magazines in the 1980’s, give a rare glimpse into the early stages of Kon’s uniquely compelling style of storytelling. The buds of dream-like themes and imaginative worldviews that would blossom in his later animated works are also readily apparent. Yet the flights of fancy are anchored by knowing, empathetic portrayals of the very human nature of each story.
The cover here is a charming image of a child in free fall surrounded by toys. It has a nice painted look to it and really helps to sell the book. The back cover is a bit more quirky, with a close-up on a girl’s face with clowns floating overhead. Interestingly enough it’s free of everything but pretty much the barcode, presumably because that information is instead on the inside flaps. As an extra, an interview with Susumu Hirasawa is included, which is quite nice. Paper quality feels solid, sound effects are left in their original form and translated, text reads smoothly, and honorifics are not used.
The art used here may not be the most inherently impressive, but it’s quite solid and really draws you in, even if it doesn’t use flashy visuals to do so. Obviously the art varies a bit as this is a collection of short stories, but for the most part characters are fairly basic and nothing too detailed, though certainly not bad either. Backgrounds appear constantly, helping to create a real sense of place. Emotion and, perhaps most importantly, action, are captured brilliantly, as can be seen especially well in the story “Beyond the Sun”, which has an amazing sense of movement and moment about it. At first glance this book may not seem an amazing looker, but when you dig a little deeper you see that it really is something masterful that demands appreciation. It’s also worth noting that one short story is presented entirely in color, while a few others appear a tad washed out (though certainly not enough to ruin anything) as their original manuscripts couldn’t be located.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers):
In the first story, we join a group living in the abandoned city of Tokyo, outcast “Specials” with ESP abilities who are hated by the “Normals”. People start to go missing, eventually including the hero of the tale, inevitably leading to a tragic yet touching ending. This isn’t a bad start to the collection, though it feels a tad underbaked, perhaps because it tries to cram so much into a limited number of pages. Next up, we get the first of two stories focused on baseball. This one is more about a team that was able to make it to Koshien, and the efforts to keep from getting in trouble hit a ridiculous pace by the end that’s just plain fun to watch. The next story is focused on children playing baseball, and is probably the most generic in the collection, though it definitely has some heart and doesn’t overstay its welcome. This is followed by one of the best of the group, a simple story of a boy and his bicycle getting into trouble over a girl that just perfectly encapsulates what a short story should be. It’s a blast from beginning to end and doesn’t waste a single page, managing to draw you in despite not being especially long.
The story that follows is a more relaxed entry about some high school boys fooling around. Next up, a car thief gets more than he bargained for when he gets wrapped up in a kidnapping, resulting in a charming little tale. Another great one involving ghosts is next, which evolves in an unexpected but entirely fantastic manner. We actually get a change of pace next with a tale of ancient Japan that feels completely different from the rest of the book. After a short but pretty story presented in color, we get an amazing short involving a grandmother that’s bursting with energy and is an absolute blast.
A Christmas tale bursting with heart and charm comes next, and manages to be both unique and absolutely touching. We then get two very short stories that aren’t really much worth mentioning before finally hitting Kon’s premier work. Though it’s a little on the rough side, this tale of youth in a dystopian future still packs a punch, as well as having an ending that is played very well.
Though not every story contained within may be perfect, this is an absolutely amazing collection. It’s packed to the brim with energy, and it’s hard to put it down. Though the stories may be short, they almost never feel lacking and honestly feel like a perfect example of what short stories should be. It’s an amazing feat to draw readers in with such a limited number of pages, but it’s something that these stories do over and over. In no uncertain terms, this book is a masterpiece, and one that absolutely belongs on the shelf of any fan of the medium.
Content Grade: A+
Art Grade: A
Package Rating: A-
Text/Translation Rating: A-
Released by: Vertical
Release Date: May 19th, 2015