Review Ningyo – Manga

After having seduced us in depth in October 2020 with their first collaboration Jizo, the French author Mr TAN (or Antoine Dole, well known for his great success Mortelle Adèle and for various novels among others) and the Japanese designer MATO (also author from the youth series My friends the Popumomos) made their return in May to Glénat editions with Ningyo, a new work which, over approximately 200 pages, will involve us in a new narrative oscillating between the human drama, the supernatural and the philosophical tale .

It all starts with an event that could not be more tragic: on his 28th birthday, Daichi, a young father to whom everything seems to be successful, comes to sink into the forest of Aokigahara to kill himself by hanging. . Behind him, he leaves a wife who was nevertheless radiant, a barely born little girl, devastated parents… but also a little brother in search of answers. Kai, since that is his name, does not understand how his big brother could have come to this when he seemed to have everything to be happy, unlike himself who is less successful, does not really know what he wants to do with his life and even takes quite harsh remarks from his father. Finally, Kai is consumed by the feeling that he did not know Daichi that well, so that, despite his mother’s opposition, he decides to go to the famous forest to try to find some answers. But as he goes deeper into this sea of ​​trees, his quest for the truth about his brother’s suicide will take a direction he could not have suspected…

Mr TAN’s love for Japanese culture in different forms is no longer a secret: there was of course Jizo where the author cleverly exploited these famous stone statues with such special meaning, but let’s not forget the more clumsy 4LIFE where he reappropriated certain aspects of otaku culture, more recently his manga adaptation of Rabbids, or his very beautiful youth album Les Jours Joyeux, his photo book Nendo Stories featuring Nendoroid figurines, and some of his novels like Ueno Park. With Ningyo, the screenwriter does it again by exploring, this time, the very special setting of the Aokigahara forest, a forest that does indeed exist, which extends to the base of Mount Fuji, which is so dense that it is often nicknamed “the sea of ​​trees” (Jukai in Japanese)… but which also bears the more fatal name of “forest of suicides” since, each year, it is the privileged place of most suicides by hanging of the region. The place is therefore conducive to myths, especially stories of haunted places and ghosts, and it is therefore the turn of the French author to appropriate it in his own way… and a way that is quite original to say the least. . Mr TAN indeed seeks to evoke with a certain realism this place often seen as sinister, by approaching the natural curiosities found there such as Lake Saiko or the ice caves, and it is precisely by playing on these predominantly aquatic that the author will be able to interfere, without shocking, a completely different element that we did not necessarily expect to have here… if indeed, of course, that we do not know that “Ningyo “, the title of the work, means “Mermaid” in Japanese.

Because in this story located in the middle of the forest, it is however a question of sirens, supernatural guarantee of the story. But be careful, there is no question here of finding mermaids such as modern Western culture makes them seem to us (hello Ariel): like Rumiko Takahashi in his masterpiece Mermaid Forest, Mr TAN delivers a vision of these creatures quite close Japanese myths, even in the visual rendering that is offered by MATO: human torso, teeth and tail of fish, particularly bewitching voice… without forgetting immortality. And it is largely by exploiting this notion of immortality that the author will be able, little by little, to give meaning to the death of Daichi, and from there to depict a certain mythology conducive to reflection. Mr TAN, via the revelations made by the siren Ningyo to Kai on their multi-millennium life and their relationship to the humans they saw being born, will thus have the opportunity to imagine the way in which they settled in our beliefs. and in our imagination over the millennia. But above all, it offers the possibility, starting from the impact that the arrival of humans may have had on the sirens, of evoking more or less briefly a number of things about ourselves: human fragility, the way in which our civilization has taken over everything else to the point of suffocating it and suffocating ourselves… But far from being satisfied with a simple negative critical portrait, Mr TAN, through the “sacrifice” of Daichi , what he left to his little brother, the common history of Kai and Ningyo, and the uniqueness of the latter among his congeners, above all knows how to bounce back to better oppose more positive human values. Because in the face of anger, pain, despair, there is also love, joy, dreams, hopes… everything that makes a human. What’s more, the writing, punctuated in particular with pretty little aquatic metaphors, brings something quite poetic.

If the bottom of the story, like Jizo, has something quite hard or even sad in addressing difficult subjects, there is however no question of proposing a story that is unnecessarily or excessively heavy, especially since the he outcome is full of hope in this story which clearly has everything of an initiatory quest for Kai to mourn, reflect on life and mourn. And this atmosphere also owes a lot to MATO’s design, whose fairly round designs, sufficiently deep decors (especially in the context of a dense forest like Aokigahara) and the play on black thanks to a good job inking and dithering. Finally, let’s highlight in particular the beautiful work done in the first part of the book to effectively install the mysterious, supernatural and slightly disturbing part of Kai’s journey in the forest, thanks to various small strange details, such as when he crosses a kind wall of water without realizing it, or when a webbed, scaly hand shows up behind a tree.

Finally, concerning the edition, it’s faultless: Glénat had the excellent idea of ​​offering a large format similar to that of Jizo so as not to mismatch, and of offering a jacket that was well in tune and punctuated with a fine and discreet selective varnish. Finally, inside, we are entitled to a white and very thick paper, which allows a printing quality quite satisfactory.

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Review Ningyo – Manga

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