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Review: Yakuza Moon – The Manga Edition

Yakuza Moon

Manga-ka: Shoko Tendo
Publisher: Kodansha International
Rating: Mature (18+)
Release Date: July 2011

Synopsis: “Born into the family of a wealthy yakuza boss, Shoko Tendo lived her early years in luxury. But labeled “the yakuza kid,” she was the victim both of bullying and discrimination from teachers and classmates at school, and of her father’s drunken rages at home. Then, the family fell into debt, and Tendo fell in with the wrong crowd. After the death of her parents and her own suicide attempt, she began a tortuous, soul-searching reevaluation of the road she had taken.”

Yakuza Moon is the manga adaptation of Shoko Tendo’s autobiography of the same name. In it Tendo wrote about the influence the yakuza had on her life, from growing up with a gang member for a father to how she became a delinquent herself. I haven’t read the original novel, but the manga does feel like an adaptation, moving quickly through events in order to cram everything into its new format.

One thing that interested me about this manga was that it promised a look into the reality of life within the yakuza. After seeing so many depictions of the Japanese crime world in anime, manga, and movies, I was interested to see how Tendo’s true account measured up. Tendo’s story shows them to be like pretty much every other criminal outfit found the world over, except, oh yeah, they also have outrageous tattoos and cut off their pinkies when they fail. There’s really nothing new here in regard to criminals or the yakuza in particular. For this reason I found the first part of the book to be kind of boring. Seeing Shoko become a teenage thug is sad, but it’s not a particularly unique story.

Yakuza Moon is also tough reading since for much of the first portion Shoko is a pretty passive participant in her own life. She gets hooked on drugs and becomes dependant on an older man for drugs, money, and love. But, as Shoko starts to take charge of her life, the manga also starts to shape up. Shoko goes from being a generic teen delinquent to a strong young woman, one with her own unique story to tell. The manga gains momentum around the halfway mark, gaining strength as Shoko does.

The art is fine, if a little stiff. Michiro Morikawa, the artist, is perfectly apt at drawing figures, but while they’re technically fine there’s nothing really eye-catching about them. The page layouts are interesting. There are lots of panels that have blocks of text alongside the art, not enough to make the manga seem like an illustrated novel but enough that it looks clunky at time. I can’t help but wonder what the manga would have been like if the author and artist had worked a little harder and re-worked scenes so that they flowed better in manga format.

Kodansha did a really nice job with this release, releasing the book in a larger size than Viz’ Signature books and giving the cover a dust jacket. It’s also flipped, something that I find curious. Maybe they’re trying to reach a larger audience than just the manga crowd? It’s probably a good plan, since I think Shoko’s story has wide appeal. Yakuza Moon isn’t the prettiest manga art or plot wise, but it’s still an interesting read.

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Book bought from Strange Adventures

Shannon Fay

About the Author:

Shannon Fay has been an anime and manga fan ever since junior high when a friend showed her a raw VHS tape of ‘Sailor Moon Stars.’ After watching it, she knew she didn’t want to live in a world that didn’t include magical transvestites and alien boy bands. Along with her reviews on Kuriousity, Shannon Fay has also written manga reviews for Manga Life and Anime Fringe. She is also a freelance manga adapter and is currently working with the manga licensor Seven Seas.

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