by Matsuri Akino
published by Tokyopop; $9.99 US
Review by Rob Vollmar
Genju no Seiza is one of two Matsuri Akino manga currently being serialized in English, along with Kamen Tantei, also from TokyoPop. As in her first English-translated manga, Pet Shop of Horrors, Akino finds great success here in mining myth to generate content. This time out, it’s a mish-mash of Hindu theology and Buddhist philosophy superimposed over a juvenile power fantasy as teenaged Fuuto Kamashina discovers that he is the latest incarnation of a deposed, foreign god-king (i.e. like the Dalai Lama).
What struck me most as I read through these three volumes again was how ideally they are paced and structured for potential anime adaptation. Akino sticks to essentially self-contained stories for the first volume, adding with each new “episode”: a new supporting character, a new power for Kamashina to discover in his moment of greatest need, and just a snippet of larger concerns that impinge momentarily on the more episodic concern of that particular chapter. When those external plot threads pile up long enough, we earn a big two-part episode and a big confrontation that resolves (albeit temporarily) the crisis. Lather. Rinse. Repeat.
Adhering to a formula, however cynical, is neither crime nor sin and if, as a reader, you enjoy what Akino does very well, chances are that you’ll like this better than most. Her stories slyly refer to a number of strains in contemporary shoujo without becoming wed to any of them. Like Pet Shop of Horrors, she fills Genju no Seiza with story after story of humans and animals interacting as peers with the resulting trove of her stunning naturalist drawings. As with any good shoujo, the costuming in this story is elaborate and meticulously rendered. While male-male relationships are rarely consummated, both Genju and Pet Shop fall somewhere between bishonen and shonen-ai with Akino frequently blurring the gender boundaries of her characters, as in “Father and Son,” when Kamishina is possessed by the spirit of a dead woman to confront her husband.
By virtue of working these particular angles so diligently, Akino turns out a number of genuinely sharp pieces. One of the best, “Partners”, closes out the second volume and is both classic Akino and a textbook example of how good, episodic writing can be meaningful in its own right. The story becomes more fixated on the “big picture” by volume three but, given the craft regularly on display here, I’m not really in hurry for this to go anywhere but onward.