My predilections for art style combined with my love of Japanese culture means that most of the time if I have a choice between a Japanese manga or a Western (English) comic book, I will usually pick the former. But when I came across Animus by French cartoonist Antoine Revoy, I couldn’t help giving it a read, and was very satisfied with the result.
The story, involving a strange playground and murder case, is right up my alley in terms of mysterious and surreal elements. This comic book is around 200 pages, giving ample time to proceed the plot through a few twists and turns (one potentially inspired by the masterpiece film Inception). Parts of it can be considered horror, but I think overall it is probably suitable for most teens.
But what really blew me away was the art style of Animus, drawn entirely in black and white (except for the cover). A portion of the frames are simple character shots that don’t have much in terms of background, but the book is littered with scenes with an incredible amount of detail, especially in terms of shadows and textures. I’m not a manga artist but I would love to know how he draws this stuff. It looks like Revoy has won some prizes for illustration (and even apparently was offered a job to draw Manga for a Japanese company), so it looks like I am not the only one who is impressed by his drawing talent.
The other thing that I really liked about this comic, and what inspired me to write a review on it here, is that it integrates a huge amount of Japanese culture and language. There are random Japanese words thrown in, the setting in Japan, and even the characters are Japanese. The culture references seemed so accurate that I had to check the author’s bio and wasn’t surprised to see he had lived in Japan for some time.
There are many comic books written by Westerners that employ some element(s) of Japanese culture––sometimes in a cringey way––but Animus is the best in this category, hands down. I could still almost swear it was written in Japanese (by a Japanese person) and then translated to English. By the way, it helped that parts of the stories and characters reminded me of 20th Century Boys, my favorite comic series of all time.
Overall, Animus is a great book in many respects and I highly recommend checking it out. The only sad thing is that the author doesn’t seem to have done much in terms of comics since Animus was released in 2018 (though I saw references to a new project Ghost Notes possibly being released soon).
Update: This page contains a lot of interesting information about this work and the author.