Friday, 25 June 2010

Foreign Language Friday: Translucent

Dear Blog,

Today I bring with me a review of the manga Translucent by Kazuhiro Okamoto for Foreign Language Friday. 

Name: Translucent (original title:  Toransurūsento- Kanojo wa Hantōmei)
Written (and drawn) By: Kazuhiro Okamoto
First published in: Japan
Translated by: Heidi Plechl
Summary (from the blurb of volume 1): Eight grader Shizuka Shiroyama is  an introverted girl, dealing with school woes, bossy peers, and a medical condition-the mysterious Translucent Syndrome- which causes her to periodically turn semi transparent or completely invisible.  One classmate, the hyperactive Mamoru Tadami, is falling for Shizuka despite her prblem, and his dogged determination and unconditional support brings hope to her life.  As Shizuka struggles to overcome her difficulties, her illness becomes a metaphor in the ordinary lives of jer classmates and friends, as they try to work their way through life and relationships.

Review: Two things before I actually start: 1), this is a review of the first 3 volumes, 'cause volume 4 is scheduled to come out on August 15 (a day after I leave to go on holiday to Italy for a fortnight, dammit) , and I've heard (ok, read on a website) that volume 5 is going to be released in November.  But this is all internet rumours, so don't believe this is the truth.  2, I told myself when I started doing Foreign Language Friday that I wouldn't spend the whole time waffling about all the manga I read.  Which is a lot.  But manga is books, and even more it is a teenage book, and even more it is a very awesome book.  Books, plural, I guess I should say.  The Translucent books are my favourite manga of all time (even better *gasp* than Strawberry Marshmallow, which I reviewed here, and Azumanga Daioh, though I guess you can't really compare them to Translucent because Translucent has a plot and Strawberry Marshmallow and Azumanga Daioh are both slice-of-life manga.  And these brackets have gone on far too long and I better get back to reviewing now).

The artwork is good; simplistic and slightly minimalist at a first look but as you look closer and get more and more sucked in, everything seems more complex and beautiful.  Much like everyday life I suppose.  One thing: the artwork sometimes looks a bit weird and surreal.  But then, it must be tricky to draw something and give the impression of invisibility (I can't draw anything to save my life).  If .  The picture on the left also a picture of nearly-invisible-Shizuka (there are some scenes in the book where you can't even see her unless you look very closely, but I can't find any on Google Images). 

Now onto Shizuka herself.  And all the technical bits about the plot and the writing and stuff you find in novels. 
Translucent is awesome because it's all about life.  There's so much to learn from the books: about first love, friendship, happiness and uniqueness.  I realised when I was typing up the summary that it probably does sound a bit corny and High-School-Musicaly.   The bottom line is IT IS NOT.  Translucent is a wonderfully touching series and it always leaves me with a warm smiley feeling when I've finished reading.

The characters are absolutely everything to this story.  Apart from Shizuka and a few other characters turning invisible now and again (including Keiko Haruna, who is always invisible, and who you only know is there because you can see her cap and glasses), the characters are all regular, everyday people, with dreams and aspirations and secrets.  What makes Shizuka such a compelling character is that in every other aspect from her Translucent Syndrome, she is an ordinary  fourteen-year-old girl.  She wants to be an actress. She has a crush.

Speaking of which.  I love, love,  love the relationship between Shizuka and Mamoru because it's so...normal.  As yet.  They're friends and then they realise that they're slightly in love with each other. Their "first date" had me in stitches.  I wish Mamoru was my friend.  He's funny, sweet, and collects plastic models.  Oh, and he pretends komodo dragons are monsters.  Who wouldn't to be his girlfriend?
Shizuka herself is a likeable character, though she's kind of pessimistic.  Sometimes I just want to pat her on the back and say, "smile, Shizuka!" but I'm the sort of person who stays up until the small hours worrying themselves sick about everything from a fear of open water to the demise of the human race, so I can't really talk.
My favourite character is probably Okouchi-san.  I know she's meant to be tough and mysterious, but the little bonus manga strips between chapters reveal otherwise. Oh, and she also has a crush on Mamoru, which adds an extra dimension to their relationship (as I said, who wouldn't like him?!).

Summary: if you read one manga, then I suppose it ought to be Translucent. It's an easy read, but it's deep and full of emotions and everyday life.  Rating: 5.

1 comment:

  1. The books that you have made are amazing.


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