A businessman discovers how his childhood memories can brighten his day. An art student finds inspiration. An archer hits a surprising bullís eye. A housewife rediscovers romance. A teenager discovers his true self in the pages of a manga magazine. Welcome to Kingyo Used Books, a place where people find their dreams in manga...
My first title to read on VIZ's newest online venture, SIGIKKI, Kingyo Used Books is also a great example of why I like to read and enjoy manga. While on the surface it's nothing more than the goings on at a used book store, it's more about the power of the characters stories and their journey's then anything else. Natsuki Kaburagi runs the book shop for her grandfather, Seitaro, who at the start of the story is in hospital, and has the manga freak Shiba to help her. As each day unfolds they encounter various people who find their way into the shop, either by accident or their need to find that one special book. You have no idea what the next story will be about or who will be the centre character but that doesn't matter. As Bones would say "What's important is that you have a good time!"
Some of the stories have just throw away aspects to them like the story about the archer who wants to be more focused and who meets Shiba and Seitaro and gets waylaid by the two misfits. Others like Fujiomi-kun are sweet innocence tales that hark back to when a person had unspoilt views on the world. It's not so much that these are deep, thoughtful prose on the nature of humanity. Just that if you just stop and look around you once in a while, you will notice things happening around you that you had never considered before. The stories are a little contrived, in that every story is about someone discovering the value of the bookstore. But since Goku had a fight in nearly volume of Dragonball then really the words "Kettle", "Pot" and "black" are coming to mind.
VIZ's SIGIKKI service was geo-locked last year but stumbling into the site again last week I've found that most titles (of the ones I read) are available for me to read (so presumably, people in Europe can read them too). This is a great for all of you to find out if you like the titles on offer from VIZ without having to go and buy something you not going to finish buying later.
Of all the stories so far posted online, I'd have to say my favourite has to be Chapter 5: "A Country Without Manga". In it, Shiba and the gang who frequent the store notice a older man hanging around with Natsuki and decide to see what package he left with her at the store. It turns out to be a book by the French artist Mobieus. After tailing the man back to a book publisher, the gang learn the mans's identity. It's really funny and I enjoyed the whole thing. It does lead into another "Manga is the key to happiness!" story but by now you figure out that that's the road the book is taking. Another thing that intrigued me about this title is that each chapter focuses on a different manga and author which VIZ kindly reprints on the last page of each chapter. Titles such as Sarusuberi and Billy Puck (which I'd never heard of) and mangaka's such as Tezuka and Yukiko Kai (had never heard of her either) get covered and while some can be found in English, the vast majority of the titles covered are never been licensed here or in America. More's the pity because some of them, even from their description sound interesting.
Yoshizaki's art style is very reminiscent of Kiyohiko Azuma and Yotsuba&! Not that anything remotely zany or off beat happens in Kingyo but the regular pace of the artwork is similar. The lines are clear, the characters have their own look to them and the panels have a quick, even and structured look to them.
I would recommend this to people who like titles such as Yokohama Kaidashi Kiko or ARIA. It doesn't have the sci-fi aspects of them but it has the technique "Mono no aware". Roughly translated it means "awareness of the impermanence of things", and deals with the transient nature of life. Both the above titles use this as well but to greater effect. In Kingyo, the author brings it into play with when dealing with the bookstore itself and for my two cent, I think the author is right to use it as judiciously as she does as the title could get overloaded with sentiment. But so far, it's looking good.
I like this story and was delighted to hear that VIZ have scheduled the first two volumes for release in the second quarter of 2010. I've preordered them. Why haven't you?
With thanks to Caleb Dunaway from Otaku USA and Scott Green from the AICNAnime desk for help with this review.