A battle ensues over life and death, machines or clones, create synthetic hearts or grow them? Two boys, Sei and Oishi, fall madly in love for Yuko. Her loss wreaks havoc in their young lives as relentless memories cease to fade. As a result their tender hearts are dedicated to a dream that no one will ever suffer their excruciating pain again. But, is what they had thought been a lie? Is there still a chance that their suffering may end? Will mercy and love prevail?
This exhilarating masterpiece of graphic fiction begs readers to forget what they know about manga. Within this volume lies a new frontier for in story telling.
Doton Yamaaki is the name for a husband and wife story telling team. Together they have won numerous awards for graphic fiction, including the Chiba Tetsuya Young Dept. Award and the Manga Open s Watase Seizou Award. Their work has been serialized in numerous magazines, such as Mister Magazine, Morning, and Kindai Mahjong Gold. This is their first work to be translated into English.
When One Peace Books first sent me the press release for Breathe Deeply, I admit I was excited. The title sounded bold and refreshingly different. When the review copy arrived I was impressed at how well it's presented. The cover is matt black card, with Yuko on the cover in a darker glossier black. However you're not supposed to judge a book by its cover. It's the content that counts.
Going with Otaku News tradition and keeping the review spoiler free, story revolves around two boys Sei and Oishi, who both fall madly in love with Yuko. Yuko has heart problems and needs a transplant, sadly she doesn't get one and dies. Fifteen years later the two boys grow up to become doctors researching cures for heart patients like Yuko. Sei is hoping to produce an artificial heart based around polymers. While rival Oishi is hoping to grow a heart based on stem cells. The story covers the ethics of both approaches and while flashing back to their final days with Yuko. Drama ensues in both the present and the past.
On the face of it, the premise is excellent. You've got an intelligent medical drama executed in the near future, with the emotional drama of two rivals in love and profession. However the execution is clumsy. There's nothing endearing about the main characters. It seems they live a life of perpetual misery. Reading the manga, you should want to cheer on Sei or Oishi, but you don't because they're not really likable, rounded creations. As a result they're hard to get attached to.
With the exception of Yuko and Sei's friend Ryo everyone in Breathe Deeply seems to be bitter and hateful or pompous. This leaves you with the impression that everyone in the academic medical world is mean and cruel. It's not really to my taste, but if you're a particular fan of these types of dramas, it might be for you.
The story has too much going on. It could have been a fairly straightforward affair following the competition between Sei and Oishi, but then Yamaaki Doton mixes in too many other elements, making it overly complicated. As a result when something major does happen in the story, it's executed too quickly and then brushed over with the next major issue, before the full implications can be explored.
I don't have a medical background, but the technologies proposed in Breathe Deeply seem to be realistic in the near future. It's the sort of thing you can imagine reading about in New Scientist or a similar publication. The execution of the technology also seems plausible, so the details appear to be spot on.
The artwork is well drawn for the most part, but can be inconsistent. With some characters, it can take a second to figure out if this is a different person or the same one drawn from a bad angle. The shading is a bit irregular, which makes the artwork look muddy.
The press release for Breathe Deeply promised an ambitious title, but sadly it fails to deliver. It creates an unrealistic miserable world. Despite these short comings I still think the husband and wife team of Yamaaki Doton has potential, I will certainly try to seek out their future work when it's published.
One Peace Books should be commended for releasing a title like this, I look forward to the next manga the company publish and hope that they get something excellent.