Calling You Vol. #01 (Mania.com)

By:Danielle Van Gorder
Review Date: Tuesday, April 24, 2007
Release Date: Monday, January 01, 2007



Creative Talent
Writer/Artist:Otsuichi/Tsuzuki Setsuri
Translated by:Yuko Fukami
Adapted by:Carol Fox

What They Say
Tsuzuki Setsuri, creator of Broken Angels, and Otsuichi, author of the Pop Fiction novel Calling You, have crafted a beautifully rendered collection of stories that will haunt you long after the last page is turned.

In these haunting tales, a girl creates a cell phone in her imagination, from which she can communicate with others... A young boy discovers his new friend has the power to heal others--and learns about true friendship and sacrifice... And the healing power of love confronts the tragedy and horror of a deadly train accident.

The Review
How do you reach out to others when you don't know how?

Packaging:

The cover has a beautiful shot of Ryo sitting in the snow, colored in watercolors. It's a really striking piece that illustrates Ryo's emotional vulnerability perfectly, from her bare feet to her upturned wrists and wistful expression. The logo and cover design enhance the art, rather than detracting from it - overall, one of the bests covers I've seen in quite a while. Happily, there are also four color pages included at the beginning of the book. After the story, there is a three page postscript from artist Setsuri Tsuzuki, and a two page note from author Otsuichi, along with an advertisement for the Calling You Pop Fiction novel. There are also several one page ads for other Tokyopop titles. The art reproduction is good, and I noticed no enlargement problems.

Art:

Setsuri Tsuzuki's style is one that will be familiar to most manga readers. It's beautiful, but not particularly distinctive. Her characters have large eyes, tossled hair, and very clean lines. Backgrounds are used when needed, and can be very detailed, but her command of negative space and page layout really help the story's flow. Her facial expressions and eyes are where her art really shines, and are remarkably expressive.

Text/SFX:

Sound effects in the beginning of the story are all subtitled, but about halfway through the Calling You story the subtitling stops, with a few isolated exceptions. Only a few of the sound effects in Kizu Kids are subtitled. I'm not entirely sure how or why this decision was made, but it does detract from the overall story.

Contents (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers):

Ryo Aihara is a lonely girl who doesn't know how to reach out to people. She is the only person in her class without a cell phone, which makes it hard for her to be friends with others, since it seems to be a necessity. Still, she wants to reach out to somebody, and so she imagines in great detail what her cell phone would be like if she actually had one. And she imagines calling someone - and manages to reach Shinya Nozaki, a boy who's also talking on his own imaginary cell phone. Ryo isn't sure if this is real, or if she's really going crazy, but when an older woman named Harada calls her on her own imaginary cell phone, Ryo ends up feeling slightly reassured. She and Shinya confirm the other's existance, although there is actually an hour difference between them.

As time passes, Ryo and Shinya get closer and closer, although Ryo continues to feel alienated in her everyday life. With Shinya and Harada's support, she eventually begins to grow more confident in herself, and slowly starts to reach out to her classmates. She makes plans to meet Shinya in person, although things don't turn out the way she had hoped. The way the time difference between the two of them plays out is an neat touch, as is the revelation about Harada at the end.

In Kizu Kids, Keigo's lead a difficult life. His abusive father drove his mother away, and the other kids in school pick on him because he doesn't have a mother and is always covered in bruises. When he's moved to the Special Ed class because of his constant fighting, he meets Asato, a boy with a difficult family situation of his own. The two hit it off, and eventually Keigo discovers Asato's special power - he can transfer a wound from another person to himself. And, judging from the marks and scars all over his body, does on a regular basis.

When the pair is attacked by another boy, Keigo discovers that Asato can't just move wounds from another person to himself - he can also move wounds from himself to somebody else. Keigo sees this as the perfect opportunity to get back at his abusive father, who is currently hospitalized. Alone in a world of thoughtless adults, the pair feels increasingly isolated from the people who should be their support. The lone exception is Shiho, a girl with a badly scarred face who works in an ice cream shop. Their interactions with her lead them back to the hospital, where Keigo discovers that the father he hated so much is dead. This eventually leads to Asato's breakdown, as more about his past comes out. It's a suprisingly powerful story about how two unwanted children find their own reasons for existing, and learn how to be happy.

Comments
Calling You is a strange book all around. The themes of isolation and living with pain are well expressed, but for some reason both stories lack the power that they perhaps should have had. This isn't to say that they weren't well done, but simply that they felt like they were missing something, and had the potential to be more. It's perhaps a consequence of being adapted from a longer prose work. Still, it's a book that really benefits from a reread, as there is quite a bit of subtle development in the story. The plot twist in the first story is perhaps the weakest part of the story, and felt unnecessary, or at least insufficiently explored.

There are suprisingly few one-shot manga titles released in English, and the ones that have come out have been of extremely variable quality. This, while not likely to win any awards, is still one of the better ones we've seen. Possibly the best part about it is how well the characters have stuck with me even long after finishing the book. All in all, it's a perfect book to curl up with on a lazy afternoon.



Mania Grade: B
Art Rating: A-
Packaging Rating: A-
Text/Translatin Rating: B-
Age Rating: 13 & Up
Released By: TOKYOPOP
MSRP: 9.99
Pages: 176
ISBN: 1-59816-931-9
Size: B6
Orientation: Right to Left