The highest compliment that I can give Alive is that it’s the manga Stray Bullets. That is the only comparison I can make to it and while the story telling is completely different, the subject matter has little in common, they are similar in one important way… they capture slices of real life. Whereas Stray Bullets focuses on the realistic seedy under bed of American society, Alive takes a look at a range of slices of life from Japan. Sometimes it’s a story that could and likely does happen in life and others are a bit more surreal and metaphoric with their approach.
There are a lot of stories in the collection and each one is different. Each one has its own theme and stands on its own. Here’s the crazy thing about this collection of shorts… there’s no filler. Not one of these stories feel like a last-minute throw in, but rather each one has been carefully crafted.
I have to say that one of my favorites is the first story called “Rumble Fish.” Unfortunately I can’t tell you why I like it without spoiling it and so I won’t. I can tell you that it’s about a very possessive husband and a wife forced to stay inside their tiny apartment all day.
Another story that stood out to me was “Red Rice.” It’s about a boy and a girl in middle school and basically deals with the girl getting her period for the first time. Not only was it interesting to see how the girl dealt with getting her period, but also the two character’s relationship. The boy wants to help her and decides to rededicate his path in life to becoming a doctor to help her. It wasn’t a cute story per say, but it was an interesting perspective to see.
Not all of the stories had titles as is the case with the next one. It’s about a high school boy that isn’t handling the pressures of school and home very well and ends up on the roof of his apartment complex. There he finds a girl from his class, that dropped out, living in a small box on the roof. Eventually he joins her and they make a Garden of Eden on the roof. It had an interesting premise and I definitely didn’t see the ending coming. It’s not a love story that’s for sure.
I could go on and on about the different stories, but it’s of course a better experience to read them for yourself. All of the dialogue is very realistic and the characters are very deep even just for being short stories.
Since all of the stories are created by Taguchi Hajime they have the same look which actually helps to give the stories a real world feel. Even with the more fantastic stories the overall feeling is that it’s a shared universe, but that it’s our universe.
Hajime has a ton of range as the characters vary in age and genders. Hajime’s style is photorealistic and it’s amazing to see things from fish to skyscrapers illustrated in that style. Really I have a hard time finding something Hajime didn’t illustrate throughout the course of this book. That again is where the Stray Bullets comparison comes in because David Lapham’s style is similar in that regard.
Much like VS Aliens, Alive is perfect for new readers of manga; Alive is actually better for new readers because it gives so much variety in the tales. There’s something for everyone, but if you’re like me it was everything. Gen Manga continues to be the Image Comics of manga so if you’re tired of endless hero tales and harem comedies then check out their titles, but definitely start with Alive.
Writer/Artist/Creator: Taguchi Hajime Publisher: Gen Manga Price: $12.95 Format: TPB; Print/Digital Website