Sunday, April 11, 2010

not simple

The story: Ian has a troubled past and the only thing he wants to do is find his sister. Traveling across Australia, England and America to find her, he’s trailed by a reporter, Jim, who is recording Ian's travels for his book. As a lonely young man, Jim is the closest thing Ian has to a friend. Will Ian find his sister, or will his tragic life continue?

Reaction: To say this story is a tragedy is an understatement. Reading it was somewhat akin to a watching a train wreck—you simply cannot look away.

But, the problem is that this story is nothing but tragedy. There’s no hope, optimism or redemption; it’s a grim story, plain and simple. His emotions, his family and his life are all within his always-eluded grasp, but he never displays passion, or makes a grab for it. The only exception is his sought-after sister, who seems oddly detached despite her promise to meet him again.

I kept hoping for a light at the end of this dark tunnel of a story, to no avail. While I hoped side characters would provide some sort of comedic relief, even they fell short, especially Jim’s neighbor, Rick.

Deep thoughts: Unlike a traditional narrative, not simple starts at the end, with the completion of Ian's journey. While I don’t loathe the non-linear narrative structure—my favorite film is Pulp Fiction—it doesn’t work well here as there's no "aha!" moment revealing something worth caring about.

There’s flashes to Ian’s childhood, interspersed with his interviews with Jim and the storyline based in the present. It’s disconcerting and muddles the spiraling uncontrolled trajectory of Ian’s life.

Artwork: Unlike some other reviewers, I actually like Natsume Ono’s art style here. It gives a decidedly contemporary, post-modern edge to this story. As precarious as the lines may seem in their unfinished state, they perfectly mirror the razor’s edge that Ian lives on. While the distorted eyes, dimensions and perspectives in not simple may be disconcerting to others, I thought it a fitting pair with this dark tale.

The verdict: Meh. As much as I wanted to like this story—and you do when you see the kind of life Ian has lived—I couldn’t bring myself to do it. There’s a sense of masochism afoot as there are few happy moments in Ian’s life and just when he seems in reach of some semblance of happiness, it’s taken away not only from him, but also any reader seeking any kind of redemption in this melancholy single-volume manga. not simple is available in the U.S. from Viz.