Tag Archives: seinen

House of Five Leaves Volume 1

House of Five Leaves Volume 1 by Natsume Ono

This is one of my favorite series on the Sigikki site. I find Ono’s art style very refreshing and the story about a hapless ronin provides an interesting contrast to all the fighting samurai manga out there. Masanosuke is the poor unemployed samurai with a personality disorder. He’s skilled at fighting, but he freezes up whenever anyone pays attention to him. Masa is shy and passive, living in a poor apartment and apologizing to his cat every day for not having enough food for him. Due to his absolutely intimidating personality, he’s fired from the few bodyguarding jobs he’s able to get but he’s unwilling and incapable of taking on a job doing labor.

The turning point for Masa comes when he meets a man named Yaichi, who hires him for a yojimbo job. He tells Masa to stand up straight instead of hunching over so he’ll look more intimidating. Masa follows Yaichi around, fascinated by the way the other man seems to have a natural charisma when dealing with other people on the street. It soon becomes clear that Yaichi isn’t an innocent man wanting protection, he’s the leader of a kidnapping and extortion gang called the House of Five Leaves. Masa tries to resist joining the group, but Yaichi finds him intriguing and is determined to keep using him for jobs despite the fact that other members of the gang think that the poor ronin is useless. Yaichi explains “I don’t want him simply for his skills. He doesn’t bore me. I want to observe him for a while longer and see what kind of man he is.”

Ono draws with a great economy of line. The backgrounds are just detailed enough to evoke the historic setting, with screens, tatami, and the kitchens where the gang hangs out being the main settings. She does great things with body language evoking character. Masa is constantly hunched over as if he’s trying to disappear. Yaichi is loose and confident in the way he holds himself, wearing a cynical smirk as a mask to hide his secrets.

Masa needs to send money back home to his family. He’s so naive and passive, he accepts whatever job Yaichi recommends him for, not realizing that he’s actually going to take part in a kidnapping plot. Everyone in this series seems to have murky motivation for participating in criminal acts, some members of the gang follow Yaichi out of habit and others need the boost to their income. The House of Five Leaves tens to target corrupt people with their kidnapping schemes. Yaichi claims to be running the gang for money, but his personality is so complex that can’t be the only reason for his behavior. The smooth secretive gang leader and the bumbling credulous ronin each inspire feelings of fascination in each other. It’ll be interesting to see how this unlikely relationship develops.

Review copy provided by the publisher.

Children of the Sea

Children of the Sea Volume 1 by Daisuke Igarashi

Children of the Sea is as beautiful, deep, and mysterious as the ocean that the characters inhabit. Ruka is a young girl who gets in trouble at school for violently retaliating against a teammate at sports practice. She decides not go home and goes on a quest to see the ocean. She travels on the train reaching Tokyo at night and reaches an ocean view. A mysterious boy makes the pronouncement “The sea in Tokyo is kinda like a broken toy” and leaps over her into the sea. Ruka runs down to rescue him. Umi was raised in the ocean along with another boy named Sora by dugongs. They maintain their connection to the sea, their skin becomes unbearably dry if they aren’t submerged in water very long.

Mysterious ocean animal disappearances have started to plague scientists. Animals seem to become spotted with light before they vanish like ghosts. Ruka’s father works in an aquarium where Umi often hangs out. As Ruka tries to escape her troubles in school she spends more and more time in the aquarium, meeting Umi and Sora’s foster father Jim. He’s a foreigner with mystical tattoos who loves to surf. Sora is sickly and spends a lot of time in the hospital. He’s suspicious of Ruka even though Umi says that she “smells like them.” Ruka sees Umi and Sora occasionally glowing with the unearthly light that the ocean ghosts emit. Are they going to be the next to disappear?

Children of the Sea
is available to read on the Sigikki web site. Even though it was available online, I just waited to read it until I had the print volume in my hands. The production quality for Viz’s signature line is excellent as always, and I think Children of the Sea had some of the nicest color pages that I’ve ever seen in manga. There’s an image of a diver floating in the ocean during coral spawning that is just exquisite.

The first volume sets up the plot and character relationships but the story is intriguing, with just enough mystery to leave the reader wanting more. I’m curious to find out what is going to happen to Umi and Sora in the wake of the mysterious ocean life disappearances. Ruka’s special bond with the boys and the sea seems to be developing more and more, so I’ll be interested to see if she becomes a witness to the ghost animals or something more. Children of the Sea is a very special and unique series, and it is definitely worth checking out the online preview to see if you want to buy the print version.