by Ken Saito; adapted by Alethea & Athena Nibley
published by DC/CMX Manga; $9.99 US
I think The Name of the Flower is the moodiest manga series I follow. Between grumpy author Kei, suffering-in-silence Chouko, and co-dependent Shin, everyone here is pouty and morose, each in their own ways. Yet it’s entertaining watching them work through their tragedies to aim at the promise of happiness.
Shin, Kei’s editor, has a lovely little monologue about loving the power of books before he meets Iori, a former college friend, which sets into play the flashbacks that drive this installment. Both Shin and Iori have history with Kei. Shin, infatuated with Kei, introduced him to Iori, but she ended up leaving him.
But it’s more complicated than a long-ago relationship that didn’t work out. Iori seems jealous that Kei really cares more for Shin than he did for her, implying that she left him before he could hurt her, which gives her concern for Chouko a different meaning. When confronted with how deeply Kei feels things, Shin chose the opposite and ran away, an act he feels compelled to make up for. Kei’s own destructive ways of coping stem from his tortured family background and the loss of his mother, a story also revealed here.
I often found it necessary to reread sections or chapters, since the revelations aren’t straightforward but revealed in pieces, with new material putting old in different light. I also sometimes missed scene transitions, not realizing that time had passed between various panels on the same page. It’s a puzzling, layered structure, much like Kei’s personality.
Unless Kei changes, no matter how much he cares for his young cousin, he’s going to wind up hurting her. Kei wallows in his pain as fuel for his art. There’s plenty of torrid emoting here, all the more potent under the Japanese cultural expectation of reserve, and lots of complications result. It’s a shame that the reproduction isn’t as sharp as the feelings shown — the newsprint-like paper can result in fuzzy lines and a muddy greyishness. I’ve previously reviewed book one and book two.