Manga-ka: Ayami Kazama
Publisher: CMX Manga
Rating: All Ages
Release Date: January 2010
Synopsis: “Being a “Projectionist” can bring lots of money and fame, but only if you are good at it. If you want to become one, first you need to have the power to cast a four-dimensional image. Then it’s really important to be able to hone and perfect your projecting abilities. The best place to do that, of course, is at a high school filled with other aspiring Projectionists. Step into this multidimensional world with a very special student body!”
A gentle walk into the world of fantasy and romance, The World I Create offers a bit of sweet whimsy that never overstays its welcome. Taking fairly standard school and fantasy manga aspects, its strong focus on character relationships and endearing art style makes for an appealing stand-alone volume of work. Offering a more complete story then most stand-alone manga works as well, it makes a great addition to any collection.
The work is broken up into four separate stories, but is made more cohesive by inserting either cameos or supporting roles of each stories’ protagonists into one another’s tales. This makes sense given the school setting, and allows for a great deal of interaction between the cast, while keeping focus on the stars of each chapter. Guided by their teacher, Ritsuki’s androgynous and rather meddling father, the lives of the students chronicled in this collection aren’t overly eventful but are nonetheless pleasant to follow as friendships and romantic relationships are forged.
The use of the character’s magic powers is presented as a fairly natural part of the story, working itself in way similar to how music students might interact- personality clashes caused by differences in talent, distractions that cause students to fall behind others, and jealously of those with talent by those who lack the necessary skills are themes encountered in the stories. The joy of these stories come as the characters overcome these difficulties, mature and find personal growth. The power of projection itself makes for a visual approach that really suits manga. I also liked how the tools the student used as “lanterns“ and their suitability became a part of the story, similar to how a music student finds the right instrument, and the assorted objects used as project devices – my particular favourite was the toy cash register. It’s a realistic touch that the artist uses to help build this world in a subtle way, and the second chapter, “Last Platonic Blue” really highlighted this aspect.
Focusing on Soyaka, a gifted student whose magic is weakened and has become disillusioned with the school, it’s a very touching story that provides some very satisfying moments after the fairly safe “boy meets girl” chapter the graphic novel starts off with. It grounds the rest of the work in it’s very emotional portrayal of how important these gifts can be, and the lengths people will go to hide their melancholy. The ability to create and share something is a something to be treasured, and this chapter makes one appreciative of this ability in the bittersweet nature of the gifts. Soyaka’s choices initially seem very immature but as you get to know her, it becomes one of the more solid tales, and she became my favourite character of the piece. Subsequent chapters build upon these themes, with a fairly solid finale involving a sibling of one of the other protagonists who isn’t part of the projectionist division of the school, and his realizations regarding his dislike of the division. Kazama makes some fascinating ponderings on what it means to have a special talent or skill, and how it affects you relate to others.
While each chapter presents a love story in a sense, they vary from the traditional to stories of deep friendship, and it was refreshing to see so many different viewpoints present. Relationships are never simple, and the jealousy involved in the differences in talent works its way into character interactions in an organic way, giving a different conflict then the standard woes of shojo manga. It makes The World I Create a more simple, personal tale than elaborate fantasy relationships you‘d normally expect in stories with magically powered significant others. While not excessively dramatic, and still somewhat simplistic, the honesty of the character emotions is appreciated.
Kazama’s artwork isn’t overly polished, but really supports to the story well. The characters are presented in a cute, neither shonen-nor-shojo style, and in friendly, expressive manner that makes it very engaging. It’s a friendly style that makes this a suitably all-ages book. Asides from the strong character artwork, the projections the students create aren’t overly complex, but the mood established by the art is very compelling, often reflecting the emotional states of the characters themselves.
CMX’s standard production values are provided for the work, with a colour page and their usual thinner but still solid paper choice, but did differentiate a little with the use of the interior covers for the indica, reusing some of the interior art alongside stuff like the ratings guidelines to make for an appealing presentation. Sound effects are translated, either with new lettering or complimentary fonts alongside the original Japanese sound effects. The cover artwork wraps around to the back, and the interior colour pages spotlight some of the other characters, offering a delicate watercolour piece alongside the more standard computer coloured cover.
The World I Create is something one can easily recommend, being a self-contained work that feels like a complete work rather then the usual cancelled serial effect of most single volume releases. Wrapping things up with a bonus story reuniting the leads of each chapter on a summer outing, it becomes a very satisfying read, providing many views on the nature of relationships and creative talents. The sweet, nostalgic tone and whimsical approach to the school make for a great escape, while also grounding it within the realities of life to make for a rounded read that I feel like returning to again. Given Kazama states this is her first continuing story, I’m looking forward to seeing her future output, and hope CMX considers bringing it to domestic readers. This is one of the most solid outputs I’ve encountered by Flex, and a great manga for beginners or long time fans who don’t mind if their manga is a little sentimental.