Sunday, October 25, 2009
The Name of the Flower, vol. 1
The story: Chouko's parents died when she started high school. The tragedy of her parents' death left her despondent and mute, and she was shuffled from home to home among her relatives. She ends up with a cousin of her father's, Kei, who also happens to be a self-loathing, if reclusive, author. After living with him for two years, she's coming upon her high school graduation and facing the freedom of college. What will Chouko choose for her future?
Reaction: This is a slow, but deliberate story. Mangaka Ken Saito has created a sweetly fragile and tragic character in Chouko, with Kei as the angsty and deeply lonely curmudgeon she's grown to love. There's a quiet desperation throughout this story that is much more endearing than one would suspect. It quietly builds upon you, like an ocean's tide, pulling you unconsciously deeper and deeper into the bittersweet world that Chouko inhabits.
Deep thoughts: When Chouko graduates from high school, Kei releases a book about a mentally troubled man and a girl who has lost the ability to speak, or aphasia. Of course, Chouko is the model for the main character in Kei's book, although she chose to be mute. People with aphasia often experience total loss of language, including written and spoken skills, due to a lesion on the brain.
Artwork: Saito's artwork is understated, yet perfectly detailed. He uses a mostly conventional form of paneling to tell the story, and fills each frame with Kei's and Chouko's subtle emotions. And while I didn't notice it until a second reading, the age difference between Kei and Chouko is very obvious at the beginning, with Chouko maturing slowly as the story goes on. There's also a balanced use of screentone and quite a few blushing cheeks throughout, marking its shojo categorization.
The verdict: If only... I really did like this book quite a bit, but I couldn't help but think it was plodding along at some points. I also wished there were more than flashbacks to Chouko's first few days with Kei; it leaves out a crucial component of their relationship development. However, this is still a mellow and worth-the-wait shojo story that I'm looking forward to reading more of soon. The Name of the Flower is available in the U.S. from CMX.
Review copy provided by CMX.