Creator: Usamaru Furuya
U.S. publisher: Viz Media
Released: May 2011
Original release: 2010
The third and final volume of Usamaru Furuya’s short manga series Genkaku Picasso was originally published in Japan in 2010. Viz Media released the English-language edition of the volume in 2011 under its Shonen Jump imprint. Genkaku Picasso was initially serialized in the manga magazine Jump SQ. Furuya mentions in the series’ afterword that he was somewhat surprised to have been approached to create a manga by one of the Jump SQ editors since he didn’t consider his previous work to have had much popular, mass appeal. (Furuya made his debut in the alternative manga magazine Garo and is particularly well-known for some of his more avant-garde work.) Genkaku Picasso was originally intended to be only two volumes long. Happily, Furuya was able to expand the series to three volumes, which allowed him to tie everything together in the way that he wanted. Although I enjoyed the first volume of Genkaku Picasso the manga starts out a little unsteady. But by the end, Furuya has created a fantastic series.
For most of his life, Hikari Hamura has been content to keep to himself and concentrate on his drawing. He’s earned himself the nickname of Picasso from his classmates (much to his dismay as he greatly prefers the work of Leonardo da Vinci), but up until recently they have mostly ignored him. Picasso is as strange and gloomy as he ever was, if not more so, but many of his classmates are beginning to feel drawn to him for some unknown reason. What they don’t realize is that Picasso has been helping to solve their personal problems. After nearly dying in a bizarre accident Picasso has gained a strange ability that allows him to see and draw the darkness that exists in another person’s heart. He can enter into those sketches, and by changing them he influences his classmates lives, hopefully for the better. This power is something that Picasso has tried to keep hidden from the others but it becomes difficult for them to disregard his increasingly odd behaviour, especially when he seems to know things that they would never reveal to someone else.
Genkaku Picasso starts out as a fairly episodic series. Generally, I found the longer stories–those lasting several chapters–to be more successful than the shorter ones as they feel less rushed and more thoroughly developed. It’s only really during the second volume that it becomes clear that there is also an overarching plot. The details of that larger story are completely reveled in the third volume of Genkaku Picasso. With a little bit of a lead in, “Hikari’s Story” takes up nearly half of Genkaku Picasso, Volume 3. It’s the longest story in Genkaku Picasso and is what pulls together the entire series. Up until this point in the manga, while Picasso has certainly been the protagonist, the stories have largely focused on his classmates and the issues that they are struggling with. But in “Hikari’s Story” their roles are reversed and it’s Picasso who needs help. It’s an extremely effective turn of events that brings the series full circle quite nicely.
The ending of Genkaku Picasso is actually a little heart-wrenching. Picasso starts the series almost a complete loner. Except for Chiaki, who hung out with him despite his protests, most of his classmates simply took no notice of him. Picasso was perfectly fine with this, or at least that’s what he told himself. As Genkaku Picasso progresses, Picasso slowly gathers people around him as he helps them with their problems. But it’s not until the third volume that he actually admits that he has friends and that he actually wants friends. Picasso has to be completely honest with himself and with the others, which in reality is a very terrifying thing to have to do. With “Hikari’s Story” the entire series becomes about Picasso and shows the tremendous amount of growth that he has gone through. I’m very glad that Furuya was able to extend Genkaku Picasso and give it a marvelous conclusion. Even considering its somewhat awkward start, Genkaku Picasso is a wonderful series. I thoroughly enjoyed its quirky humor and characters, its engaging artwork, and its somewhat peculiar but ultimately heartfelt story.