Tanpenshu Vol. #01 - Mania.com

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  • Art Rating: B
  • Packaging Rating: A-
  • Text/Translatin Rating: A-
  • Age Rating: 18 & Up
  • Released By: Dark Horse
  • MSRP: 12.95
  • Pages: 232
  • ISBN: 1-59307-637-1
  • Size: B6
  • Orientation: Right to Left

Tanpenshu Vol. #01

By Jarred Pine     March 20, 2007
Release Date: January 30, 2007

Tanpenshu Vol.#01
© Dark Horse

Creative Talent
Writer/Artist:Hiroki Endo
Translated by:Kumar Sivasubramanian
Adapted by:

What They Say
Heart wrenching and complex, Tanpenshu, Volume one, is the first of two collections of powerful, shorter works by manga master Hiroki Endo (creator of the critically acclaimed, long-running Eden manga series). The three stories in this first volume are mature explorations of humanity's constant, fumbling attempts to find hope and meaning in a confusing, violent world.

A disfigured misfit befriends a doomed yakuza outcast, a group of school kids fail to see the anger that's about to boil over from one of their own, and members of an experimental theatre troupe embark on a project that will test both their friendships and the group's grasp on reality.

The Review
Hiroki Endo is cementing his place next to the likes of Naoki Urasawa and Kiriko Nananan as great contemporary manga creators who are leading the pack of English translated manga.

The matte cover is looking quite gorgeous, even if the illustration is not exactly representative of the content inside, but more on that later. An illustration is included on the inside front cover. Other than that and the afterword, there is not much else to the overall package. The print reproduction is very crisp and clean, with only a few minor spots where the tones felt a little dark.

It is interesting to experience Hiroki Endo's growth as an artist from the first page to the last in this collection of short stories. The first story features rough character artwork that starts to iron itself out a bit by the second installment. By the time you reach the final story, the art begins to resemble more of what readers of EDEN are familiar. The great background detail though remains consistent across all the stories, and Endo does a nice job at putting together simple panel layouts that allows the reader to move along at his/her own pace.

SFX are translated with small subs. Panel text is either translated in the panel with overlays or in the margins, where there are also editor's notes where appropriate. The English script is dead on, which is especially important with a heavy dialogue piece like the 3rd story.

Contents (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers):
After a cursory glance of the cover, one would probably cast Tanpenshu into the pile of hyper-violent teen assassin manga (and the fact that there is such a pile kind of disturbs me). However, I would recommend moving your eyes to the inside back cover and read another one of Hiroki Endo's always memorable afterwords. Here we get a peek at possibly the source of inspiration for Endo's humane stories about personal struggle. "Our part of town was [...] with drunks, gangsters, and girls who worked for sleazy clubs [...] It was a tough neighborhood." Endo's neighborhood was one of love hotels, brothels, vomit covered streets, and at least one dead woman. After reading this afterword and glancing at the cover once again, the meaning is a bit clearer. The picture of an innocent girl hiding half her face behind a blood red veil surrounded by such polarized objects like knives and stuffed animals, is all a bit unsettling. And that's what Endo is known for as well; creating a reading experience where the reader's feet are never on solid ground.

With Endo's other Dark Horse title, EDEN, he creates a dystopia that is a result of society caught in their own loop of violence and neglect. But the themes that Endo bring up in EDEN are very much more global in scale. In this first volume of Tanpenshu, the three short stories have a much more personal vibe, creating something that possibly more relatable to some readers than his sci-fi epic. But at the heart of each is the same central theme--we are all molded by the environment, culture, and people around us. And for some, the effects can have quite the negative mental and emotional effects.

As I mentioned above, Tanpenshu is made up of three short stories; separate pieces that are shining examples of how the short format can achieve great success. Not only that, but these three stories also highlight what Hiroki Endo is best at--stark realities, complex characters, and that heightened sense of dread with each page turn. The latter is especially strong in the first two stories entitled "The Crows, the Girl, and the Yakuza" and "Because You're Definitely a Cute Girl".

The first story starts off feeling like another Beauty and the Beast inspired bit featuring an injured yakuza member on his deathbed being taken care of by a young homeless girl who also watches over a throng of injured crows. It's not a bad setup, and Endo does a nice job at creating quite the odd couple, but nothing special stands out. However, that all changes at about the one-thirds mark when the girl makes an understated remark about how she fed one of the crows in her care one of her eyeballs. "Wait a sec, what!?! Rewind that bit back and play it again," is what I remarked before I felt that familiar unsettling feeling while reading a Hiroki Endo manga. That feeling carries over into the second story, a tragic tale about a lonely high-school girl whose emotional abandonment and life full of misery spirals into unsuspecting horror. It's unsettling, but not without a sense of compassion for the characters involved; a feat accomplished by Endo in a mere 50 pages.

Endo could have gone for the throat with his third and final story, but instead eases back on the throttle for an ensemble piece that serves more as a vehicle for Endo to explore forgiveness and condemnation. The cast features a quirky group of college students, not unlike Hiroaki Samura's Ohikkoshi, who are putting on an experimental play about capital punishment. This piece could have easily turned into a podium for Endo to express his views on the death penalty in an over-handed manner, but instead he uses it as focal point for his cast of characters to play off of. Many members of the cast are suffering from holding on to some negative feelings toward individuals from the past, whose actions have an affect each of their daily lives in the now. "For Those of Us Who Don't Believe in God" is a very quaint and personal piece, and showcases Endo's talents at handling a large cast with enough characterization and complexity at a mere 90 pages. It's personally my favorite story in this first volume.

Whether I'm reviewing a manga or reading it for personal entertainment, I always look for that emotional impact and long-lasting impressions that keep my mind occupied well past the time I close up the book. I want to feel joy, sadness, dread, excitement, or anger; and I want to remember what happened days or weeks after I've put the book down. Tanpenshu gives me all those emotions I listed and its themes and topics have inspired some moments of personal introspection--and I love that. Tanpenshu grabs my attention, socks me with riveting stories and complex characters, and leaves a lasting impression that for the time being I don't see fading away. A hell of an achievement for a trio of short stories.

In 2006, Dark Horse introduced me to Hiroki Endo. In 2007, with EDEN and now Tanpenshu both getting published, Hiroki Endo is cementing his place next to the likes of Naoki Urasawa and Kiriko Nananan as great contemporary manga creators who are leading the pack of English translated manga.


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