Ao Haru Ride is a great title for those most interested in shojo manga series focusing on slice-of-life content while Frankenstein by Junji Ito is a beautifully macabre illustrated edition of Mary Shelly's original story.
- Great title for those most interested in shojo manga series focusing on slice-of-life content
- Shojo manga has got great silliness and over-the-top effects!
- Dramatic and engaging
- Beautifully macabre illustrated edition of Mary Shelly's original story
- Fairly authentic retelling of Shelly's story
- Frankenstein captures the genuine terror of what was so gruesome about its creation in the first place
- Frankenstein is a wonderful piece to base a collection around
- Ito caters to both traditional Japanese notions and style of horror and to Western horror concepts
Ao Haru Ride, Volume 1 by Io Sakisaka (Distributed in North America by Viz Media)
Viz Media’s, Ao Haru Ride (“Blue Spring Ride”) is a great title for those most interested in shojo manga series focusing on slice-of-life content. With an anime that ran through 2014 also accompanied the series, with the traditional twelve episodes included with the 12 volumes of the main series. The story’s protagonist, Futaba Yoshioka, is a high school student who has made the decision to focus on her friendships with other girls instead of pursing romance. She was an outcast for much of her middle school life because of the resentment her female classmates felt about Futaba’s image with their male peers. However, she never forgot her first love, a boy named Kou; however, she had publicly announced to her classmates that she hated boys when Kou had overheard her. Soon after, he transferred and Futaba never saw him again. During a casual day, however, Futaba runs into a new classmate who reminds her of her first love – could it be him after all these years?
I had previously followed the “Blue Spring Ride” anime series very casually, but overall I found the story to be distinct from other shojo manga/anime. While the “long-lost love” storyline is very common, Blue Spring Ride was much more dramatic and engaging with what seemed to be more a more true-to-life depiction of modern high school drama. What I love about shojo manga is the silliness, the over-the-top effects (sparkles in eyes, the blushing, comedic incidents that push our pair together). While Blue Spring Ride maintains the romance and drama of shojo, it also presents itself more like a drama versus a comedy. It takes the problems Futaba encounters more seriously and seems to show that things aren’t going to automatically work themselves out because you’re the main girl.
While I have seen the anime, I am very excited to see how Ao Haru Ride progresses in print form and to see more of Futaba’s inner thoughts and feelings that may have been missed in the anime, and rank this an 8/10.
Volume 2 is available!
Frankenstein by Junji Ito (Distributed in North America by Viz Media)
Released in October, Junji Ito’s “Frankenstein” is a beautifully macabre illustrated edition of Mary Shelly’s original story. Spanning 186 pages, Juji Ito’s work tells the classic story of Victor Frankenstein, beginning in his origins as a young university student with ambition pulsing through his veins, only to find himself spiraling into the depths of madness as he becomes consumed with the construction – and the eventual destruction – of his creature. Once driven by his desire to step into the realm of the divine and hold the elusive life-giving force in his hands, Ito depicts Frankenstein’s years descending into madness as he is haunted by the crimes his creation commits.
As a reader myself, I found this to be a fairly authentic retelling of Shelly’s story; however, Ito has always brought his creativity and sense of style to his craft, and Frankenstein is no different. While Western media typically depicts Frankenstein’s monster as a large, muscular man (bolts and all), Ito’s version of the Creature is terrifying in its colorless glory. Elongated, bandaged, tall, and with decaying eyes and flesh, the monster indeed captures the genuine terror of what was so gruesome about Frankenstein’s creation in the first place. The Creature’s design highlights the stolen body parts, the inelegant means of attachment, and Frankenstein’s need to make due with whatever was available to him – it’s truly a haunting work that re-ignites the disturbed feeling deep in the pit of your stomach, one that literature has somewhat lost to movies and video games.
However, the “Frankenstein” volume also contains several original works by Ito that be worth adding to any collector’s library, or even for a reader interested in diving into Ito’s collected works. Included in this volume are:
- “Neck Specter”
- “Pen Pal”
- “The Strange Tale of Oshikiri”
- “The Strange Tale of Oshikiri: The Walls”
- “The Hell of the Doll Funeral”
- “Face Firmly in Place”
- “Boss Non-non”
- “Hide-and-Seek with Boss Non-non”
While “The Strange Tale of Oshikiri, “The Walls,” and “The Hell of the Doll Funeral” were included in the 2018 Junji Ito Collection anime series, I would HIGHLY recommend the stories “Boss Non-non” and “Hide-and-Seek with Boss Non-non.” These are the stories I live for when reading Junji Ito stories – his distinct art style used to tell the story of his everyday life. Much like his “Cat Diaries” series, the two “Boss Non-non” are adorable and relatable stories for any pet owner and inject the humor Ito is more than capable of utilizing. While the stories are fairly short, they are an enjoyable read for someone looking to explore some of Ito’s silly and endearing works while still enjoying his distinctive art work (especially when drawing himself). Additionally, all the additional stories (excluding “Boss Non-non,” “Face Firmly in Place,” and “The Hell of the Doll Funeral” all follow the character of Oshikiri – so if your interest in this character was piqued while watching the anime, you’re definitely in luck.
Overall, I found the focal work of “Frankenstein” to be a wonderful piece to base a collection around. I myself have collected a number of illustrated novels and find that, in many cases, you’ll never see a setting or character depicted the same way twice. The style with which Ito treated the story only enhanced the aura of horror of the novel’s plot, while still maintaining the integrity of the original story. This collection, in my opinion, highlights the mastery Ito executes in the genre with his ability to cater to both traditional Japanese notions and style of horror and to Western horror concepts. Ito does not simply do “Japanese horror” or “body horror,” but has a true creative and technical gift for the universal, human experience of horror – an easy 10/10 recommendation. So, between both of these reviews, I rate a 9 for the average.