Manga Review: Me and the Devil Blues -

Manga Review

Mania Grade: A

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  • Manga: Me and the Devil Blues
  • Rating: Older Teen (16+)
  • Story and Art By: Akira Hiramoto
  • Publisher: Del Rey
  • Price: $19.95

Manga Review: Me and the Devil Blues

The Unreal Life of Robert Johnson comes to manga

By Nadia Oxford     July 18, 2008

ME AND THE DEVIL BLUES by Akira Hiramoto(2008).
© Del Rey
Despite its versatility, manga still subscribes to certain flavours when it comes to content. Therefore, even the most hardcore of collectors could be forgiven for being blindsided by a manga about the shadowy legend of bluesman Robert Johnson. They could be forgiven further still for being stunned at how well it captures the shimmering heat, poverty and heart-wrenching music of the Mississippi Delta.  
Me and the Devil Blues by Akira Hiramoto describes itself as a take on the “Unreal Life of Robert Johnson,” but it makes no claim to the man himself. The manga's hero, referred to as RJ, is a poverty-stricken farmer working on a plantation who wishes he had the skill to play the blues and maybe conjure up a lullaby for the baby his wife is expecting. Though RJ has the passion, he sorely lacks the skill. True to the legend of Robert Johnson, RJ walks out to the crossroads on a winter's midnight with a wish in his heart and a rumour under his belt. As promised by the gossipy patrons of the ramshackle bar he frequents, a shadowy figure meets him at the crossroads and grants him unworldly talent.
Volume one of Me and the Devil Blues weighs in at over 530 pages, but its surreal mix of fantasy and reality prevents the story from slowing down. It's masterfully presented; nobody knows much about Robert Johnson beyond a collection of stories and rumours, so while Me and the Devil Blues feels over-the-top sometimes, it's balanced by the knowledge that the some of the predicaments RJ finds himself in <i>could</i> have happened.
Other legends entwine their lives around RJ's, including bluesman Son House and the notorious thieves Bonnie and Clyde. Each character is written in a manner that suits them, especially Clyde's deceptively stoic demeanor. Me and the Devil Blues delivers an emotional impact relies on its scratchy ink panels and the starkness of its text. Characters don't waste words; their music speaks for them.
Me and the Devil Blues is probably this year's biggest surprise in the seinen genre. It caters so easily to the reader that a non-fan can pick it up easily. Like the blues, it speaks from the heart.    


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