Monday, March 22, 2010
When you hear the name Satoshi Kon you usually think of his extremely successful anime film career, but he wasn’t always the super director that we see today. Just like any other anime creator he had to get his start some where. For Kon, his earliest work can be traced back to the forgotten and left behind manga that is Kaikisen. Not much is known about this manga besides that it was a one tankoubon manga released in 1990, other than that there’s not much more to go one. And this manga is quite hard to find, it’s only be released in Japan and France and I’m sure aren’t very popular in either country. On top of that it’s a long forgotten seinen series so there aren’t many scan groups that would be willing to invest time into something like this. But, never the less, I was able to find a few chapters scaned with minimal effort. But sadly this has prevented me from completing the whole series. But what I have read truly impressed me.
Kaikisen tells the story of Yosuke, a member of the Yashiro family, whose father is the priest of a local shrine. But this family has a secret which they have been protecting for generations; they possess a mermaid’s egg. As legend has it Yosuke’s ancestors once made a pact with a mermaid. The deal was that they would protect this egg and, in exchange, the mermaid would insure the town had good fishing seasons. But now Yosuke’s father sees no point in keeping the egg a secret and decides to reveal the egg to in front of the media to try and attract people to the shrine. This sets in motion a strange set of events which Yosuke can not even begin to imagine.
I went into this manga thinking that Satoshi Kon’s brilliance wouldn’t transfer well into a manga format, but I was mistaken. This manga is truly a strange and unique manga which fits Kon’s style perfectly. As the writer and artist for this manga we get to see a side of Satoshi that is rarely seen today. In his recent works he doesn’t really deal much in the way of the actual animation process anymore. He started off as a man who would work on the art of the movies he worked on like in Roujin Z in which he was involved in Key Animation. But as the years went on he became more and more focused on directing and screenplay writing that, now at the most he’ll work on character design. But this manga gives us a pure and clean look at Satoshi’s art style that we’ll most likely never see the likes of again. But his animation style is quite high quality. In fact if even half of the manga I read had this good of animation I would be a very happy otaku. And many of the elements in the art seem to foreshadow the style which his films would take on down the road.
But animation isn’t the only thing he did well on with this manga, the story was also quite wonderful. The story had a edgy blend of fantasy and drama which is quite easy to read and fallow while at the same time it excites you with the mystery of what’s to come. And what’s truly fun about reading this is seeing all the story elements which become quite common in Satoshi Kon’s work down the road. One element which you can often see is the clash of traditions and the old ways of Japanese culture clashing with the new age of modernization. In Kaikisen this is shown through Yosuke’s grandfather conflicting with yosuke’s father. We soon learn that the grandfather is a strong believer in the legend and is extremely upset with yosuke’s father. But the other characters often over look him and see him as nothing more than an old man who is stuck in his ignorant ways and should just stay in the hospital. Another common theme in Satoshi’s work is the idea of fame which can be seen in his flims like Perfect Blue, Millennium Actress, and Paranoia Agent. In the manga Yosuke’s family quickly becomes an overnight sensation as word spreads about the mysterious mermaid’s egg in their shrine. In this story the power of fame tends to get into Yosuke’s father’s head and blur his judgment. It his work in this manga gives us a good look at where Satoshi has been, and where he may be going.
In the end this manga is high on my list of recommendations. Not just because of the compelling story line and very well done art, but also because of the relevance that this manga now carries. If you are a fan of Satoshi Kon’s work, like me, I highly recommend you check this manga out.