Friday, March 27, 2020

#IReadsYou Review: DOWNFALL


[This review was originally posted on Patreon.]

MANGAKA: Inio Asano
TRANSLATION: Jocelyn Allen
LETTERS: Joanne Estep
EDITOR: Pancha Diaz
ISBN: 978-1-9747-0936-6; paperback (February 2020); Rated “M” for “Mature”
246pp, B&W, $14.99 U.S., $19.99 CAN, £9.99 U.K.

Reiraku is a manga created by Inio Asano, the author of such manga as Dead Dead Demon's Dededede Destruction and Goodnight Punpun.  Reiraku was published in the Japanese manga magazine, Big Comic Superior (Shogakukan), from March 10 to July 28, 2017.  VIZ Media is publishing an English language edition of Reiraku as a single-volume graphic novel, entitled Downfall, released under the VIZ Signature imprint.

Downfall (Chapters 1 to 7 to Final Chapter) introduces Kaoru Fukuzawa, a successful manga artist.  He recently finished his breakthrough series, “Goodbye Sunset,” and the fifteenth and final tankobon (graphic novel) collection of the series has just been released.  Although Fukuzawa has ended his manga, he does not know how to start a new one.

All that matters in the manga industry, Fukuzawa believes, is selling copies.  Sales of “Goodbye Sunset” collections had been slipping towards the end, and Fukuzawa believes that such cruel realities of the industry have destroyed his “pure love” for manga.  Also, Fukuzawa's marriage to Nozomi Machida, a manga editor, seems to be failing, and she appears to be moving on from him to work with new manga artists.  If Fukuzawa can figure out the formula for creating a new hit manga, will everything be okay?  Can he fill the void inside himself?  Or maybe Fukuzawa himself is the problem.

The Downfall manga, like some of Inio Asano's other manga, is about self-absorbed young men.  They tend to be cruel to others in ways that they themselves might not recognize... if they bothered to care.  Sex is defined only by these young men's needs, as seen by the number of young women with whom Fukuzawa's “engages” and by how he ultimately treats them.

The Downfall Graphic Novel is the portrait of the manga artist as a “monster,” in the context of his relationships with those closest to him personally and professionally.  Downfall is not so much about watching a guy fall apart as it is about him fulfilling a prophecy; years prior, a “cat-eyed” woman already told him what he was and would be.  I think Kaoru Fukuzawa's “downfall” had already begun by the time readers meet him in the present day of the story.

The English translation by Jocelyn Allen captures the essences and layers of Asano's earthy and blunt dialogue with its sense of realism.  Asano's beautiful, textured art tells the story in a painfully human style, alternating between intimate and aloof.  Allen's translation gets that the dialogue is what drives the story and is what defines the conflict between characters.

The lettering by Joanne Estep is both elegant and precise, and Estep seizes upon Fukuzawa's unrelenting self-absorption.  Once again, Inio Asano has produced a powerful story of a calamitous personality, and the English edition is an engaging, absorbing read.

9 out of 10

Reviewed by Leroy Douresseaux a.k.a. "I Reads You"

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