Manga Quick Information
“A story within a story, a book within a book, a tale about the search for family, for an emotional home.”
What is the most depressing thing you have ever experienced in your life? Mine would be listening to an Interpol album: all those dark lyrics and moody music going through your ears, it makes you feel bad. That is - until I read Not Simple. It's more than depressing, it's horrific.
Story and art are by Natsume Ono whom some of you might recognise from previous manga/anime series such as Ristorante Paradiso and House of Five Leaves. Ono's work seems to concentrate more on older characters and stories set outside of Japan; it's quite refreshing to see a Japanese author not mentioning the land of the rising sun at all.
Not Simple is about a boy called Ian who is raised in Australia with a troubled family; the only one who cares for him is his older sister, who is in jail. After his parents' divorce, Ian is sent to England at the age of thirteen with his alcoholic mother who lives off of child benefits. Ian is driven to find his sister and, when he's older, sets off on a journey to search for her.
Not Simple divides into two arcs around halfway: one depicts Ian's childhood, and the second revolves around a gay reporter called Jim who becomes interested in the older Ian when he is interviewed for a local newspaper. Jim also has a dream to write a novel in the USA. When Jim interviews him, Ian reveals his determination to find his sister and travels with Jim to America to find her. (Just to note Not Simple is not a yaoi manga, Jim just happens to be gay,like Wallace Wells from the Scott Pilgrim series.)
So why is this so depressing? Well, I've mentioned alcoholism but there is so much more: crime, loneliness, prostitution, violence, death... All these affect the characters around Ian, yet he accepts all of it; no aggression is shown toward his misfortunes, he just moves on. It's something that not many slice-of-life mangas even try to attempt and Ian's story is very believable.
As the story develops, you really start to feel for Ian, especially as just as something finally goes right, something else comes along to ruin it for him. When he gains information about his sister's whereabouts, he finds that she's somewhere else. Gradually he uncovers more and more about why his family was torn apart; the conclusion is quite shocking.
What I love about Ono's work is her unique artistic style; panels look simplified and sketchy, making her art feel so different from other manga out there. The book's title and cover encapsulate this very well. I also find that the mangaka lets the panels do the talking; some pages contain little to no speech bubbles at all.
My only gripe is that Not Simple seems to place most of the dramatic parts of the story in the prologue. Although when you get to the ending, you can understand why Ono has done this; however, it does affect its shock value as you progress through the chapters.
If you're looking for a full volume about a character with an interesting background, and a unique take on story and art, I can highly recommend Not Simple. You never know, you might even find it in your local café spot.
|Score:||9 out of 10|
|Date Published:||Sun, 2 Jan 2011|