By Dustin Cabeal
Where has Animus been all year? Hands down this is one of the best stories I’ve read all damn year. This is also going to be one of those reviews where I don’t tell you much about it because you should just be reading it or pre-ordering it if it’s not released by the time of this review.
The story is set in Japan, which is a familiar setting for me considering how much manga I read, but this felt nothing like the stories I’ve digested and have recently reviewed. The story starts off with missing children. The latest is a young boy whose parents don’t want to give up hope yet, but the superintendent is encouraging them to move on. Mostly because of the number of children that haven’t returned after going missing.
With that, the story moves fifteen years into the future. A boy and a girl are at a public playground. The girl is reading, while the young boy practices his soccer moves. He loses the ball, and it rolls near another young boy wearing a mask and creepily sitting on a stone pig. When Hisao asks the boy for the ball back, he instead throws it into the sandbox. Thinking nothing of his meanness, Hisao walks into the sandbox to get the ball, but when he does snakes suddenly are everywhere surrounding him. He runs away in a panic, but only he knows why. His friend Sayuri tells the other boy that he’s mean and goes to get the ball for Hisao, even though he’s run off as fast as he can. Sayuri sees something completely different as the boy alludes that “everyone is afraid of something.” She musters up some courage though and gets the ball and leaves the laughing masked boy behind.
Hisao and Sayuri meet up again and decide to go back to the park and confront the masked boy. They ask him what his deal is and he informs them that he’s dead and until his body is found he’s stuck in the park. He also explains that the park is supernatural and that different pieces of equipment do different things. Hisao asks him why he’s hiding his face, to which he says, “I never said I was hiding.” He removes the mask and reveals a toothy grin of missing teeth. He also tells them they can call him Toothless. While the duo have made an unlikely friend, it soon occurs to them that other children aren’t getting the same warnings about the supernatural equipment as they are. One of Hisao’s friends turns into an old man, and they decide they must help Toothless find his body to save the other kids afflicted with conditions from the park. Their journey is not an easy one and leads them to stranger and stranger places.
The twists of this story are great. I almost don’t even like telling you what little I have, but if I’m too vague what interest will anyone have. That and I’m pretty sure the back of the book gives away a lot more. The storytelling is brilliant. It’s creepy and scary the entire time. After the first attack on these kids, it felt that at any moment something could happen to them or that they could fall victim to another attack. What’s even better about Antoine Revoy’s writing is that they acted like children. Sure, they had resources like the internet, but for the most part, they’re just trying to figure things out based on Toothless’ clues, which are vague, but not impossible. It’s clear that Sayuri is very smart as her dialogue give plenty of inferences to her advanced level. The ending though, fucking hell, that ending… is damn good. It’s an ending that makes you wish there was more story, but at the same time, happy there isn’t.
Revoy’s art is crisp and clean, but extremely detailed. It has a definite Japanese influence but remains its own style. The characters are captured wonderfully with varying looks and features. In particular, it was wonderful to see that the kids varied in height. Too often in comics, kids come in one size and shape because artists are familiar with illustrating them, but Revoy masterfully captures their youth and variations. The creepy aspects are haunting and stayed with me after I was done reading. There is a lot of detail to the black and white pages, but it’s clear that Revoy understands the way to handle black and white. Animus isn’t a story that needs to be colored, but instead, one that isn’t relying on color to tell the story. While my point may not be coming across clearly, I’m sure some out there understand what I’m trying to say. There is a stark difference between black and white art and black and white art waiting to be colored. Animus is in the former group, which is high praise.
I wanted to read this story again after finishing it. It was that enjoyable, and while I didn’t particularly have the time, I did enjoy chapters here and there while I read this review, which only makes me want to read it again when I’ve cleared off my desk. For sure though, Animus is one of the best books of 2018, and I hope that you’ll check it out.
First Second Books