There is only one problem with buying manga from Kinokuniya in New York City: the plastic wrappers sealing the book make each purchase of an unknown manga a risk. The description on the back cover still strikes me as hard to read. Actually, I only understand “…her beloved gun will today also silently fan [lit. blow] a flame.” The the artwork on the cover shows a beautifully drawn woman and a well-detailed M1991 with a silencer. On that day, I was in the mood for a manga featuring a femme fatale. Perhaps, Silencer by Shou Fumimura could be another Noir?
For this post, my dear readers, I’ll let you into the workings of my scrupulous mind. You see, for a long time now, I worried whether manga like Akame ga Kiru and Silencer actually carry a benefit to the reader. In general, a fascination with blood and violence for their own sakes obviously manifests a disorder of the soul. At the opposite extreme, squeamishness at the sight of blood and the refusal to countenance the existence of violence must also count as defects. So, do Akame ga Kiru and Silencer fall in the mean between these two extremes? And if they are in the mean, what is their particular virtue?
A couple of quotes I found recently appear to show the value of such works. One derives from Erik von Kuehnelt-Leddihn’s Leftism: from de Sade and Marx to Hitler and Marcuse and the second from one of Chesterton’s Father Brown mysteries. After describing a horrific and monstrous scene from the French Revolution. Kuehnelt-Leddhin writes the following:
In this series, I have started out with something easy: the first volume of Nanatsu no Taizai in the original language. The level of the Japanese ranks even below Inuyasha in terms of difficulty. Inuyasha happens to be the first manga I recommend beginners for testing their ability to read Japanese. In Nanatsu no Taizai, the only thing remotely amusing about the Japanese is the name of Meliodas’s pet pig, ホーク or hooku–the closest the Japanese can transliterate the English word “hawk.” However, I had no idea the author was going for “hawk”; instead, I took it as a play on the way one would transliterate the word “pork”–ポーク. As you can see, the same characters are used, but the latter one has an accent marker to tell you that the character should be read “po” rather than “ho.”
Now, I should give my opinion on the story as one sees in volume one. Many of my dear readers likely remember my prior remarks on the show, and I shall try to embellish on them here. Volume one of the manga begins with Elizabeth convincing Meliodas, our hero, to seek the members of his gang, the Seven Deadly Sins, in order to oppose the Holy Knights. Then, the hero fights a few battles (admittedly well done) against a Holy Knight and some henchmen before he meets Diana of the Seven Deadly Sins and the manga ends on a cliffhanger. One already sees the common trope of the heroes wearing black while the villains wear white. This is a fine trope which reminds the audience that they must always look beneath appearances in order to perceive people’s true intentions. However, one needs to be as skilled in using it these days as Victor Hugo in Les Miserables, Richard Donner in Ladyhawke, or at least Akimine Kamijyo in Samurai Deeper Kyo. (The last author happened to take the trope too far in Code: Breaker, and the reversals became silly.) When the reversal of the usual symbolism lacks subtlety, it grates on the viewer. Then, the concept our heroes going on a journey in order to find lost comrades and to overthrow the organization which has usurped authority in the kingdom has been done many times before.