There is something adventurous about picking up a book in a bookstore which you know nothing about except the title and cover page. It feels like you were dropped in the middle of an unknown country without a map, with nothing to go on but your own sense of direction.
This is much how I discovered Hyakumanjou Labryinth (by Takamichi, published by Young King Comics) in a bookstore in Japan, where the intriguing cover page immediately caught my attention.
Coincidentally, the story also involves a similar journey into the unknown, in the form of a mysterious labyrinth that two girls stumble upon one day. These two, who work for a game company and live in said company’s dorm, are about as polar opposite as you can imagine. Reika is about is cute as you can get, with long, silky black hair and slim frame, and Youko is chubby with short hair and a face that only a parent could love (she even calls herself a ‘do-busu’). Reika is curious and inquisitive, Youko more realistic. The only thing they share is a real love for video games, and this is what brings them together in this story, as they struggle to work together as a team to figure what has happened to them.
Though there are many girls who actually enjoy video games, Reika’s case is a little… let’s say extreme, so to enjoy this story you’ll have to check your disbelief at the door. This manga has some elements of fan service which means adding elements for the express purpose that fans will enjoy them. Depending how it’s done, it isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but I’ll let you decide if you like it or not. Without giving much away, I’ll just say that I don’t recommend this book for children due to full nudity in one or two parts.
One reason I loved this comic is the way the world is designed – the well-designed labyrinth is the biggest character of this story, much like it is in the movie Cube. In no way is it your average maze, and some of the parts even awed me with their creativity.
Unfortunately, there only appear to be one more book in the series, and it’s already been released. I’m definitely going to check it out. So far, I haven’t seen any English version yet, which is only natural since it just came out this August (2015).
Linguistically this book was really useful, since the two girls use mostly slang-laden informal speech which I am always eager to pick up. Another contrasting thing about these girls is their style of speaking: Reika’s language is pretty typical of a girl her age, but Youko’s is very harsh and manly at times, containing things like the sentence-ending particle “zo” that is not too commonly used by women. The dialog is less dense than a few other manga I’ve read, and I’d say of medium difficulty, though without a good grasp of Japanese grammar and Kanji you’re continue to have a rough time.
It may be my inner gamer speaking, but I’ll say this is a must-read, one of the most interesting and entertaining I’ve seen in some time. My only hope is that they turn this into a movie with a big budget, or somehow make a continuation.
Note: the word “hyakumanjou” (百万畳) from the title means “1 million tatami“. Tatami mats are common in traditional Japanese houses and are often made of rice straw. I think the standard tatami size may differ between regions in Japan, but I’ve heard that in some places it is 1.8 meters x 0.9 meters. This refers to both the large size of the labyrinth, plus the fact there is actual Tatami in some of the locations (you can tell the latter from looking at the back cover of the comic).