One of my many lists to come! This one will be highlighting some works within the world of manga that I personally feel are underrated or easily glossed over. I want to shed some light on these titles with the hope that these will bring similar feelings of serendipity for you that they did for me.
Marie no Kanaderu no Ongaku| Furuya, Usamaru | 2 vols ~ 12 chaps | Fantasy, Seinen
The Music of Marie is one of the most imaginative works I’ve read. Spanning about 2 volumes, it is astounding how much intricate detail – both in art and story – that the author was able to convey. The Music of Marie is a set in a dreamlike world where the population lives simply through the notions of “collectivity” void of any desire for technological progress or individual benefit. The world is overseen by a flying mechanical “diety” named Marie who keeps harmony within this realm through her music. The story follows the adventures of Kei, a young boy who is fascinated by Marie and begins to garner an unparalleled curiosity and obsession – a curiosity that leads him to unlocking the secrets of his world, Marie, and most importantly, himself.
I have to point out that this manga offers some of the most stunning art and elaborate world-building I’ve had the pleasure of encountering. If you enjoy an insightful story with roots entrenched in fantasy and spirituality, give Marie a try.
This work is written by the same author that created Mushishi. Need I say more? Ushibara Yuki continues her trademark of letting natural atmosphere tell the story rather its counterparts. Suiiki tells a tale of a young girl named Chinami, who amidst a sultry, summer day gets transported to a mysterious town encapsulated by a mystical river. Here Chinami finds herself among a young boy and his grandfather who seems to be isolated within a blip in time and place. It’s a fantastic tale consisting of multiple discoveries, friendship and family, and the natural element that brings them all together: water.
I absolutely love the works of Ushibara Yuki because she imbues such craftsmanship and meaning into every panel. Her emphasis on the natural world and the role it plays constantly in the forefront is impeccable. It isn’t just a device used for “world building” or “atmosphere” but an integral part of her works in their entirety.
Copernicus no Kokyuu is a highly disturbing tale that narrates the story of a pierrot clown nick-named Bird’s Nest in a French circus who is stuck in a state of perpetual physical suffering and spiritual anguish. Behind the bright lights and magic tricks, this circus is a sinister place that bids and prostitutes its performers out and coerces them to fulfill the vile and inhumane whims of the “buyer”. Stuck with present that ‘s drenched in despair and pain, while simultaneously being haunted by the spirits of the past, the story of Bird’s Nest unfolds with such psychological candor and impact that I couldn’t help but fall in love with it – as grotesque as it was. Yet the manga always remained hauntingly beautiful through its visual palette, atmospheric intensity, and subdued revelations and I would wholeheartedly recommend it to those who enjoy an unconventional story with unconventional art.
This is another very interesting manga with extremely dark and disturbing nuances that play off the plot and characters to tell a story worth telling. It centers around “a man” who tires of his mundane job and life. He takes a detour and ends up in odd places amongst even odder people, witnessing and partaking in outlandish, often questionable activities. There are subtle philosophical and psychological undertones carrying the weight of the narrative and it makes it all the more fantastic. The way journey is explored of the man is extremely intensive and uncannily similar to some of the unspoken truths of the world and ourselves.
I found this manga to be a unique, worthwhile experience; offering peculiar art with strangely drawn characters and blocky/grainy backdrops coupled with insightful undercurrents driving the momentum -all wrapped up in a surreal realm that will surprise, disgust, amaze, and endear you (yes, all the same time!!).
This one is a special recommendation from Avelys (a beloved contributor here). Be sure to check out this entry and other fantastic material on various media on her blog: Shoujohearts.
” The manga begins as Kanae Sekiguchi, proprietor of the Tsuki no Yu bathhouse, struggles to reopen her business after the unexplained disappearance of her husband…”
The type of manga that resonates with you, this story had a very compelling story. I didn’t expect to be completely immersed but I was sucked into this main character’s life. She intrigued me as she wasn’t easy to understand. Having occasional thoughts of drowning and dying, I kept wondering what there was underneath her exterior. She comes across as a strong and independent woman but is more fragile than people thought. As the story goes on, the main character is asked what it means to understand someone. She is at a loss and this question begins to make her question herself and her relationship with her husband and others. I found the story and the dialogue between characters written extremely well and realistic. It complimented the atmosphere that was being portrayed. I really enjoyed it overall, especially the ending. I think it tied everything together pretty masterfully. Giving closure to certain story lines and characters while kind of leaving certain things open ended and up to your imagination. But none of it was lacking. I highly recommend this one if you’re interested in a more mature manga.