Blue Spring Vol. #01 (Mania.com)
By:Eduardo M. Chavez
Review Date: Friday, February 25, 2005
Release Date: Saturday, January 01, 2005
Translated by:Kelly Sue DeConnick
What They Say
Taiyo Matsumoto's Blue Spring is a short story collection focusing on the lives of a small group of disenchanted high school students. Although spring usually connotes the blossoming of a new life and a time of nurturing and anticipation, the spring for these characters is "blue." They can't wait for school to end and the summer to come. Their lives are balanced on the edge of a knife as they flirt with crime and their own death in the form of a deadly rooftop game. Each character has a different story to tell and the rebellion, questioning and frustration of these youth are palpable.
Viz has done it with this one. Even though they are using new cover art, the design is perfect for the content. The front cover has some young delinquent in his high school uniform dragging on a cig. The piece is pure Matsumoto, long fingers, crazy lips, and penetrating eyes. The logo is very simple, Blue Spring as if it were brushed on in blue paint to the right of the character art. The opposite cover has a young yakuza type also smoking next to the long volume description. Great stuff. I was kinda confused as to why they did not put the warning sticker on the GN's wrapping instead of the cover itself. Luckily, it came off nice and easy, so no problem.
Inside Viz does a great job with the printing. Matsumoto uses a lot of heavy inking and the blacks are really sharp from start to finish. Tone is also very clean, easily making this one of the better-looking prints I have seen from Viz in a long time.
There is only one extra included - an ato-gaki from Matsumoto detailing his memories of his classmate's blue spring.
It is really hard to describe Matsumoto's art, as there is very little I can compare it to. Using ink almost exclusively there is very little depth. Sometimes there are issues as to where things start and where they end, but the flat look also tends to help create some crazy expressions. Matsumoto's world has a surreal feel to it. It is even the same for his character designs. Lips, noses and ears are overdone for full caricature effect. Each character has a distinctive look, as freaky and extreme as they may be.
Backgrounds are crazy. There is lot of stuff in them, from graffiti art and text to signage and subliminal activity. This is typical Matsumoto, and it works more often than not but I felt it was a little distracting in this volume (especially with my issues on the translation of some of the graffiti). The layout is just insane. Perspective has little meaning here. That is fine usually but wow can it slow reading down a bit.
The translation really sounds good. I have to say, I was a little hesitant seeing a translator I have not heard of before attached to this title, but the dialogue sounds great and it retains personalities well. A title like this where there are different characters almost every chapter, and the subject matter is a little difficult might create some trouble for an adaptation. This one handles those issues well, resulting in a translation that reads well but still maintains the attitude of troubled youth.
The SFX are translated in the gutters. To be honest this really is the only way to deal with this, as there is so much text retouching would have been very extensive. Actually, with the graffiti and signage whole panels would have been redone. This also caused a problem for translating signage. Most of it was translated, though it was inconsistent as to why they picked what they did translate and what was not. Given all that was needed this was a very good job for such a unique title.
Contents: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Boys will be boys... that phrase takes a different meaning in Matsumoto's Blue Spring. High school tends to bring out the best and the worst in young men. There are issues with adulthood. There are problems with sex and love life. There are friendships made. There are memories made that will last a lifetime. The boys in this manga are all going through the last spring of their high school careers. Soon it will be summer and then will begin the final semester before their graduation. Before the glory days of a final summer at home; before the stretch leading up to college exams in winter; before graduation next spring, there will always be a blue spring.
Blue spring is when youth start to realize their days are numbered. There are only so many days before adulthood and responsibility. These days are the days where kids pick their poison - give in or give up. This is when they test their freedoms and when/if they see there is little freedom out there this final spring turns blue.
So what is there to do to combat this? The boys in Blue Spring have their own unique answers. Some of them give in, they do their part, and they play their roles and make that special memory that will fade away next year. Others will give up on the system and focus on life outside of school, taking control of their future through desperation. Some destroy the future altogether. These young men make this spring the pinnacle before they check out themselves.
Blue spring is never fun. This moment in life is full of hardship. What you do with it and what color summer will be after it, will ultimately decide your future. Deal with it or die!
Matsumoto has never really been a favorite of mine. I admire his art style and his sense of perspective, but I was never fond of the chaos and violence. Blue Spring is tough for me because I found myself relating to a few of the shorts. In this case, many of the situations have a profound meaning where the kids are going through the growing pains everyone goes through. Some of the stories are out of left field and are glorying and sensationalizing murder and gun-violence. The reasoning is obvious for both sides, and ultimately I ended up enjoying collection.
However, there is so much going on, graffiti and scenery that I could not keep on track. I was often distracted and frustrated by what felt like sensory overload. Matsumoto's art is already very stylish. It is full of symbolism and caricatures, and backgrounds are often quite detailed. Unfortunately, I felt this was beyond style; it was almost obscene. I guess that with better direction it would have had more meaning instead of just being around. Maybe a better sample of high school life would have helped, as well. Delinquents are everywhere, but that is not representative of a population. With so many stories told, why is the only positive story comes from group of loser ball players?
As much as these stories described the bluest of springs, with a subject that is so real and easy to relate to Matsumoto has to pigeonhole himself into sticking to his old self - violence is the answer to almost every problem.
Mania Grade: B-
Art Rating: C+
Packaging Rating: A-
Text/Translatin Rating: A-
Age Rating: 18 & Up
Released By: Viz Media
Orientation: Right to Left