Reviewed by: Eeeper
Released by: Fanfare / Ponentmon
Publishing Country: UK
Author: Jiro Taniguchi
Age Rating: 15+
Page Count: 336
The Mountains are unforgiving but the City is treacherous! Shiga comes down from his Mountain refuge to look for his missing 'niece', Megumi, but all he finds is trouble!
Multi-award winning creator, Jiro Taniguchi, builds the tension to a massive climax in this exciting drama.
I frequently read manga that can and have been considered excellent by myself and the outside world. Works that transcend geo-ethnic lines and speak to the reader even if they are not the same nationality as the author. I hope that in months and years to come The Quest For The Missing Girl is added to those works. I can only describe the work as breathtaking as I don't have a better one.
Following the story of Shiga, a mountaineer working in the Komagatake stratovolcano area in Hokkaido, the plot opens as he prepares for yet another climbing season. He receives word that Megumi Sakamoto has gone missing. Megumi is the daughter of Shiga's best friend, another mountaineer who perished in the Himalayas twelve years previous, and Shiga considers himself her uncle. Her mother has been unable to find or contact Megumi since yesterday. Megumi is not the sort of girl to not come home so her mother contacts Shiga to see if he can help. Years before, on a visit to the mountain where he lives, Shiga promised Megumi that if anything happened to her he would come and rescue her. With his phone call to Mrs. Sakamoto over with, he packs up and heads for Tokyo, despite having no real working knowledge of the ins and outs of the big city, to find Megumi.
This is the first title I've ever had serious time to read and absorb by Jiro Taniguchi. If this is the benchmark then I can't wait to read more. I vaguely remember reading The Ice Wanderer a while ago but I can't be certain. Taniguchi fills his worlds with a, well, world for want of a better word. When you see Tokyo you see camera shots going back for blocks. Mountains go on and on forever. Characters are drawn in a clean, sharp non-exaggerated style. This is the world according to Taniguchi and I'm happy to play in it. Never once do I get caught in the intricacies of modern Japanese society as this could, I feel, destroy any connection to the tension building in the plot. I feel that I'm looking at a slice of the story of this world. I can't see all of it, yet I know it's there. The mountains are presented as a welcome breath of air against the murk of the city. Let me just say that Tokyo never seemed more dangerous than it did with the world of high school girls on show here.
An aside must be inserted here to talk about the character of Shiga. Shiga is a hard man. Not Terminator-hard but the kind of hard you see in Schwarzenegger in Peter Hyams' End Of Days. Arnold's character, Jericho, is tough as old boots but there comes a point when ten people with baseball bats are going to win against him. It's as simple as that. Same with Shiga, as he wanders through Tokyo's underbelly, who seems devoid of major sin. His great shame and the thought that sustains him is that his best friend asked him to climb the Himalayas with him and Shiga turned him down. His friend died on the expedition and Shiga has been beating himself up ever since. He sees this quest to find Megumi as continuing to honour his friend's memory. So as I said at the beginning of the paragraph, Shiga is tough. He sees off street punks easily but when two guys with ill-fitting suits and no necks beat on him, he bleeds. Whenever he had to tackle some seedy cipher or location in the city, you get the sense that he'd prefer the mountains. At least they won't get any satisfaction from killing him. If nothing else they're fair to him. So when Shiga has a chance to use his skills as a mountaineer in the city, you know he won't fail at this at least.
The cast of the story is varied from people with a good back-story to people who are only there to support the main characters. However all the cast has at least some time to explain their reason for being there. I felt that there is something implied in the relationship between Shiga and Mrs. Sakamoto, something that no one is willing to say. I like that. There's more there but Taniguchi won't give us all the pages. Normally I hate it when plot lines are left blowing in the wind but in this case I prefer it this way. The guide that Shiga encounters in Shibuya, Yoshio, is a favourite of mine. He's not in it for very long but I get a sense that the quest that Shiga is on takes Yoshio by surprise. Maki, a girl that Megumi knew, is....hmm. I can't tell if I like her or not. At face value she seems uninterested in helping Shiga. But when she realises he'll stop at nothing to rescue Megumi, her own feelings of abandonment make Maki stay on despite her statement of not doing it for Megumi's sake. Also, the scene where Shiga goes into a nightclub/dance club to look for Maki has to be seen. I've never seen a manga where the hero stopped trouble with a look that quickly before.
The translation work done by Pontent Mon/Fanfare is excellent. Much like Dark Horse, the translations for Japanese text are done somewhere other than right next to the text. In DH's case, at the back of the tankoubon, and in this case at the very bottom of the page. The story is presented in right to left formatting with half-gate fold cover at both ends. While a bit more expensive than regular manga prices, I'd say the work on display here justifies the cost and besides, you should be able to pick this up online for a cheaper MSRP.
I'm looking forward to reading more of Taniguchi's works and I can't recommend this story enough.