Manga, along with Anime, is one of the biggest forms of Japanese imports to America for entertainment. I wouldn’t be surprised if there were many people who started learning Japanese after they became interested in manga. (My situation is a little different, but I’ll discuss that in another post.)
As I’m sure all of you know, manga is a great resource for learning Japan’s language and certain aspects of its culture. I tend to gravitate more towards novels than manga (in both Japanese and English), but I try to read manga once in a while to change things up.
I picked up 映画篇 1 (Eiga-hen or “Movie Version”）on a recent business trip to New York when I happened to stop by Kinokuniya for a few hours (see my review of that bookstore here), where there is a huge manga section. I selected this book because of the beautiful cover art, interesting story description, and the relatively low price (around $12).
This book is the first in a serious of manga rewrites of the novel with the same title, written by 金城 一紀 (Kazuki Kaneshiro) who happens to be a Japanese citizen with Korean ethnic background. The art for the manga was drawn by 遠藤 佳世 (Kayo Endou).
The entire novel has 5 short stories, each titled after a movie, and the first manga book has two of these. One of the stories is titled “太陽がいっぱい”, which refers to the 1960 French film titled “Purple Noon”, based on the novel “The Talented Mr. Ripley” by Patricia Highsmith. Many of you are probably familiar with the 1999 adaption of the same novel, starring Matt Damon, Jude Law, and Gwyneth Paltrow.
I’m not one to give plot spoilers (ネタバレ in Japanese), so I’ll just say that this was a satisfying read with an emotionally touching story, a step above most other manga I’ve read. I highly recommend it. One of it’s central themes is how stories can profoundly affect the lives of others, so if you’re into a field related to storytelling (movie production, novel writing, etc.) than this book will likely catch your interest. Another element is the challenges of Korean descendants living in Japan, which is surely based on in part by the author’s own experiences.
The main drawback of this work is that it doesn’t appear to have been translated to English (yet), so you’ll have to read it in Japanese or hope it gets translated eventually. Linguistically there is a lot of dialog between males, much of it using very masculine, “tough” tone. Except for a few poetic lines, much of the dialog is not unlike real everyday conversations, so you might be able to learn some useful phrases from it. (Ironically, one of the expressions I learned from it isn’t particularly useful in daily life: “一心不乱” which means something like “be completely absorbed in”.)
My tastes in art are such that I don’t enjoy many of the more generic, simplistic drawing styles used frequently in manga, or in American comic books for that matter. This book is an exception, with many scenes drawn with a style and level of detail I can appreciate.
Although there aren’t any particularly explicit scenes that come to mind, the themes and some of the events in the book would best be read and appreciated by an adult (something along the lines of PG-13).