Friday, September 16, 2011

House of Five Leaves, Vol. 4 (Manga) Arrives September 20th

In preparation for my Intervention interview tomorrow, I am re-reading House of Five Leaves - one of my favorite Japanese manga. I was introduced to the English version of the series last year during a trip to Japan. Upon my return, I learned that Viz Media had licensed it and was distributing the series in the U.S. I immediately ran out, purchased Volume 1 and 2, and read both in one sitting.

Re-reading the series reminds me just how big of a disconnect there is between Volume 1 and 2. Written and illustrated by Natsume Ono, the series tells the story of a ronin who flirts with joining a kidnapping syndicate after failing as a samurai. A largely character story driven series, Volume 1 masterfully blends Ono’s tact for not over-writing character lines; thereby forcing readers to immerse themselves in the main character’s childlike incomprehension at his new reality.

Unfortunately, in Volume 2, the incoherence of the main character, Masa, slowly shifts onto the reader as the plot line blurs under disconnected storytelling. As other critics have commented, the main issue with Volume 2 is that Ono places far too much onus on the reader to extrapolate a complex story with little background and context.

The first time that I read those volumes, I was bitterly disappointed with the series for a few months; questioning whether it was the manga version of Matrix Reloaded. However, I was pleasantly surprised when Volume 3 returned the series to its original magnificence. Not only did it remind the reader of Ono’s immense talent and skill at writing character driven narrative but also made it easy to forget the shortcomings of Volume 2.

Now that the fourth installment of House of Five Leaves has arrived (on Amazon), I for one am eagerly awaiting some downtime to sit back with an ochoko of sake and walk the streets of Edo with Ono once again ...

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