Thursday, December 20, 2007

Translucent, vol. 1

By Kazuhiro Okamoto
Released in the
US by Dark Horse Manga

Slugline: Is becoming invisible a curse or a blessing for a teenage girl?

Shizuka is a teenage girl who has a medical condition that makes everything in her life harder to deal with.
No, not diabetes like in an earlier review, but she is translucent. She turns invisible and back to visible in a monthly cycle (much like another cycle girls her age learn to deal with.) It is treated like an uncommon but still normal disease in the title, which frees the title to talk about how Shizuka lives with it rather than focusing on the disease itself. This is a slice of life title, with no overarching plot as such, and Shizuka and her friends, especially Tadami, in turn deals with and try to work around Shizuka’s translucent state.

The writers of Buffy: the Vampire Slayer had a saying about writing their episodes, "What is the metaphor?" While there was always a monster, each monster had to tie in some way back to the themes of growing up and high school. While this is a slice of life of comic, it is also has the metaphor of withdrawing from life and society made physical through the use of the translucent syndrome. Here, the metaphor is not particularly deeply hidden, where the confusion of wanting to be noticed and to be like everyone else is made concrete (irony only somewhat intended.) Shizuka's feelings of shame and confidence directly feed into her appearance, and the confusion in the steps between childhood and being a young adult is also expressed through her ‘disease’ and her friends, especially Tadami’s, attitudes and willingness to relax into childish games, but also to reject them. It needs to dial down the obviousness of the metaphor sometimes, but it is still an outstanding title.

Translucent, vol. 1 is also available from Right Stuf, Intl., an online retailer specializing in anime and manga.


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