Welcome to another edition of Off the Shelf with MJ & Michelle! I’m joined, once again, by Soliloquy in Blue‘s Michelle Smith.
MICHELLE: MJ, I don’t mean to alarm you but I have some bad news. This column is going to self-destruct in five seconds unless you tell me about a manga that you read this week.
MJ: Gah, the pressure! The pressure! I can’t work like this, Michelle! Must… calm… down.
Okay. I had a bit of an odd week which kept me away from home a lot, so I didn’t have an opportunity to read any of the piles of manga I have staring down at me, day after day. To make up for this, I decided to check out some of the free manga I’ve mostly ignored online. Much of what I read was single chapters, but my cyberjourney first took me to Viz’s SigIKKI site, where I finally read the first volume of Natsume Ono’s House of Five Leaves, which is coming out in print next month.
I’ve had mixed reactions to Natsume Ono’s work so far. I liked Ristorante Paradiso, but had issues with Not Simple. *This*, however, I loved. It’s really my kind of manga in so many ways.
The story revolves around a samurai, Akitsu, who is dedicated to his vocation, but whose mild, even shy, personality has lost him his place among his kind. His timid manner is such a detriment, he can’t even hold a position as a bodyguard, so he’s often left with no money, scraping by on odd jobs which he finds fairly humiliating. Then he meets Yaichi, a powerful, charismatic guy who hires him for a one-time job. Akitsu is drawn to Yaichi’s personal qualities–the same ones he most painfully lacks–but his illusions are shattered when he discovers that Yaichi’s line of business is a sort of twisted vigilante kidnapping racket. Disgusted, Akitsu tries to distance himself from Yaichi and his group, but he’s undeniably drawn in by the warm relationship they all have with one another, which he finds difficult to let go….