I’ve been collecting manga for a little while now and I do enjoy it a lot. In an effort to branch out and maybe discover something I wouldn’t have otherwise, I asked for manga suggestions on Twitter and got a bunch back. It’s how I discovered Blank Canvas which I really dig.

Among the people who kindly came to my aid, there was this one person who ended up giving me a huge list, maybe 4 tweets long worth of titles. A lot of them I had already read or I knew weren’t really for me for various reasons but there was this one title I had never even heard of. And what’s more, it was repeated like 5 times across the lists. I thought wow, this must really be a manga that was enjoyed! That title was Utsubora, and I quickly snatched it up.

I’m going to be reviewing the full mange in this post. I saw that it comes in a 2 volume version but I got the one that completes the entire story in a single, very thick, manga.

Official Summary

Young author Aki Fujino appeared poised to making it big in the world of publishing. Her debut title UTSUBORA was being pitched about to a number of editors and at least one person felt it was set to propel her into stardom. However, before she could ever have her book published, the young woman was found dead. Some believe it was a suicide, but those close to her feel there is something more sinister involved in this young talent’s death.

Aki’s death has become something straight out of a mystery. Much like the story behind UTSUBORA, there is something more to Aki, Sakura and their relationship with an author named Mizorogi than meets the eye. And it is possible that the only way to solve this mystery may be to uncover all their secrets.

My First Impression

What a pretty book!

Techinical things

First of all, the single-volume edition I got is a really good quality book. There are no coloured pages (for some reason I strongly feel that this story is better in black and white anyways) but the pages are thick and the paper is good quality. The cover is also nice glassy cardboard with a cool mirror effect on the front and back covers that aren’t completely identical. It’s not the best quality manga I own but it’s one of the good ones.

Moreover, I simply love the art. I adore it. It’s quite sketchy and might not appeal to all but I couldn’t get enough. If I wasn’t horrified at the idea of tearing out pages, I might have framed a few. I fully intend to look into Asumiko Nakamura’s artwork. I’m thrilled to have bought Utsubora simply as an art book.

Story

Utsubora is a layered story. Kindly you could call it complex and evocative, more harshly you could also call it contrived and tortured. I would say both apply.

I thought Utsubora had a really strong start. In fact, it had a strong first half, I guess what would have been the first volume in a two-volume edition. It’s a down-to-earth story and despite what the official synopsis would have you believe, it’s much more about an old man trying to come to grips with the idea that his glory days may be past him than it is about any young author.

There is also a very nice mystery going on during the first half that will keep you on your toes and have you doubting everyone and everything.

The writing style is what I would call cinematic,. I could see it clearly as a movie when I was reading it and it was nice. The dialogue feels naturalistic and the interplay really gives the sense of conversations rather than written scripts. It’s a style I really enjoyed and realized as I was reading that it’s rather unusual.

Utsubora is also a rather erotic book. It’s not hentai by any means but there are quite a few sex scenes and I will say, Nakamura has a talent for writing and illustrating them. They were, to me at least, very sexy sex scenes indeed. Although they were often a bit uncomfortable or suffocating which was the point. Like I said, well done!

However, like everything else in this book, in my opinion, they just got piled on too much in the second half. After a while, these scenes became frequent enough to lose their impact and some of them just felt like they were thrown in to fill in pages, adding nothing to the story like the previous ones had.

To me, the events of the latter half felt more convoluted, sometimes forced and other times needlessly drawn out. I feel like the story would have been better served in half its length. A lot of the more interesting elements got explained away in boring ways, the passionate flairs fell into melodrama and in general, I went from wanting to warmly recommend this book to everyone, to simply wanting to tuck it away in my bookcase.

I will say, I’m still glad I read it, and even happier I bought it. But I personally wouldn’t put it 5 times in a list. This said, it’s an often artistic book that explores some unpleasant issues unflinchingly and there is a lot of merit to that. I also think I would probably have enjoyed it a lot when I was younger. I was much more into very dramatic works in the past.

For me, Utsubora simply became too one-note and seemed to favour emotional impact over plot and characters. That’s not my jam but it might be yours?

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