Review by Ian Keogh
Much changed in volume 5, not least the erasing of Goto’s confidence and sense of purpose. As if being imprisoned for ten years wasn’t enough, he’s involved in a game of life and death, and while he now at least knows his foe, what generated his hatred remains unknown. Goto isn’t the only person being trailed from pillar to post. His grade six school teacher’s previously contented existence has been re-aligned.
There’s a lot of philosophical jousting in a three way conversation occupying half of this book and occurring over several locations. It’s remarkably constructed by Garon Tsuchiya, featuring incredible calculated cruelty designed to undermine the residual shreds of self-esteem the protagonists possess. Consider the often glib and smug material that passes for conversation in most Western graphic novels. This bears no similarity. It’s a carefully chosen blend of hints, provocation and malice that compels throughout while adding a further plummet for Goto, and translator Kumar Sivasubramanian deserves to be acknowledged for ensuring the complexity survives intact.
This, though, is a book of two halves, and the mantle of resilience once Goto’s province now transfers. Eri, entirely absent in volume 5, returns, and is emblematic of a newfound resolve to shift the parameters of the game beyond the tormentor’s control.
It’s likely that anyone who’s seen his work over the previous volumes wouldn’t believe Nobuaki Minegishi’s elegant realism could actually step up a notch, but it does here. Keeping a conversation interesting is a tricky task for an artist over a few pages. To sustain that interest over several chapters is extremely difficult, yet doesn’t seem so to Minegishi. His emotional characterisation is superbly restrained, taking its influences from film noir and Western crime material rather than the longstanding traditions of manga. There is the catharsis of a prolonged action sequence thereafter, and he’s already displayed himself as a master of that.
Questions remain unanswered, but it would seem at the conclusion that a fundamental query is on the verge of a breakthrough. The only way to be sure is to head for volume 7.