Manga Chapter of the Week: Life Chapter 20 (Reality)

Keiko Suenobu’s Life is at the same time one of the most magnetic and most difficult* to read manga I’ve ever encountered, and incidentally probably the most justified winner of the Kodansha Shojo Manga Award┬ásince the shojo category’s inception in 1986. Both its difficulty and its magnetism come from its subject matter; a Japanese high school student dealing with social pressures, bullying, and uncaring parents who won’t listen when she tells them her tutor is blackmailing her.

Life is a dark manga that succeeds in being dismal in all the ways edgy action series often fail, featuring self-injury, severe depression, attempted rape, and attempted suicide very prominently. It’s an approach that works because the tone of the manga is very serious, in a way that’s somber rather than edgy. Suenobu isn’t trying to shock the audience, but to help them understand that the problems in the manga are very real for a lot of people (an approach augmented by the inclusion of blurbs by professional Psychologists at the end of each volume). This particular chapter is a prime example of why the manga as a whole is so utterly captivating while inducing so much emotional fatigue.

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Final Review: Ten – Tenna Toori no Kaidanji (10/10)

Ten-Tenna Toori no Kaidanji (hereafter referred to as Ten) is a manga that ran in Monthly Kindai Mahjong for a 14-year period from 1989 to 2002, and the work that catapulted the award-winning mangaka Nobuyuki Fukumoto into the Japanese spotlight. Though it is less well-known in western circles than the author’s other works (Gambling Apocalypse Kaiji, Akagi), it is by no means an inferior product. Indeed, it is in many ways his best work, a sublime combination of the author’s trademark gritty, greasy yakuza storylines with dynamic storyboarding and a quasi-religious journey through the author’s philosophy on life.

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