Manga-ka: Hiroaki Samura
Publisher: Dark Horse
Rating: Older Teen (16+)
Released: October 2006
Synopsis: “Hiroaki Samura’s modern-era romantic comedies are finally available in English! These stories are told with the same bold, kinetic art style and brilliantly paced storytelling that Samura’s Blade of the Immortal epic is famous for – but with a decidedly different attitude. The main offering, Ohikkoshi, follows the turbulent paths of several university students as they fall in lust, form rock bands, ride motorbikes, and try to avoid making life decisions while drunk.”
Ohikkoshi is a small collection of stories set in modern day, following the lives and trials of various people. The first few chapters focus on a group of friends, their changing lives and romantic trials that they juggle amidst rock concerts and alcohol binges. The second story is a more out there tale of a manga creator’s “quest for love” and the often unbelievable, but thus amusing, life struggles she finds herself in.
As a comedy, the laughs in this book can be had in two ways; one comes from the obvious jokes and sly humour while the others come more at the characters’ expense. Either way, these are stories written for an older audience and thus will be enjoyed most by said older audiences. These aren’t kid stories, and not just because there happens to be a tiny bit of sexual content. The stories, even when seeming a bit over the top, have a strong sense of heart and experience to them and the humour plays off these attributes. It’s not the laugh out loud kind of humour but it’s still there and often worth a good chuckle.
There are a lot of times where the characters feel very real in this book. They jerk each other and readers around with their motivations and surprise actions with a sense of random that can only be attributed to real life. This cast just feels… real. And it’s refreshing. Some of the stories are darker than others, sad but never really crossing the line into downright depressing. They’re the kind of stories where you find yourself rooting the characters on.
Though the character interactions of the first story are heart-warming and amusing, the story “Luncheon of Tears Diary” packs a little more punch and delivers a unique take on someone maturing through what life throws at them, and where they end up when the dust settles. While some readers may not have found the first ending as satisfying as they would’ve liked, the ending to this one shouldn’t disappoint.
The artwork in Ohikkoshi maintains the nice sketchy appearance Hiroaki Samura is known for and it works well here. There’s not a lot of action but the characters come alive through vibrant expressions and emotion-packed panels, as well as pleasantly solid anatomy. Sometimes readers can look in the eyes of the person on the page and it feels like their entire life can be seen in those simple but powerful pupils. At times the pages do seem a bit cluttered but it sort of works in this book’s favour, adding to the atmosphere and setting of the story. The front and the back of book have some really nice bonus pictures for some extra eye-candy.
Despite Dark Horse toting this collection of stories as comparable to Hiroaki Samura’s popular Blade of the Immortal, it unfortunately just doesn’t hold up. However, Ohikkoshi is a completely different kind of story so the comparison really isn’t there. Samura fans looking for the next Blade of the Immortal certainly shouldn’t look for it here but there’s still some charm. Though sometimes the jokes feel a little dry and the story a little dull, there does manage to be enough here to surprise readers and keep it entertaining for at least one good read through. Though honestly a second read to get what you missed the first time makes it all the more fulfilling and is certainly recommended to get what Ohikkoshi has to offer.