Wednesday, October 28, 2020

#IReadsYou Review: MUJIRUSHI: The Sign of Dreams


[This review was originally posted on Patreon.]

CARTOONIST: Naoki Urasawa
LETTERS: Steve Dutro
EDITOR: Karla Clark
ISBN: 978-1-9747-1523-7; paperback with French flaps (July 2020); Rated “T+” for “Older Teen”
272pp, B&W with some color, $19.99 U.S., $26.99 CAN, £15.99 U.K.

Located in Paris, the Louvre is the world's largest art museum (and perhaps it most famous).  Did you know, dear reader, that the Louvre also publishes comics?  Yes, the most famous art museum in the world has been commissioning French and international comics artists to write their own original stories inspired by the Louvre and its collection for about a decade.  The comics are published via a joint venture between the Louvre (under the imprint, “Louvre éditions”) and the French publisher known as “Futuropolis.”

One of the comics creators approached to produce a Louvre-inspired comic book is legendary “mangaka” (creator of manga), Naoki Urasawa, who is known for variety of titles, including Pineapple ARMY, Monster, and 20th Century Boys.  For the Louvre, Urasawa produced the manga, Mujirushi: The Sign of Dreams, known in French as Mujirushi – Le signe des rêves.

Mujirushi was serialized in the Japanese seinen manga magazine, Big Comic Original, from October 20, 2017 to February 20, 2018.  The nine-chapter serial was eventually collected in a single volume (in both a standard and a deluxe edition) by Japanese publisher, Shogakukan.  Louvre éditions and Futuropolis first published Mujirushi in French in a single paperback volume in June 2018; then, as a two-volume manga set in August and October 2018, and finally, in a slipcase edition in November 2018.  VIZ Media published an English-language edition of Mujirushi as single-volume, paperback graphic novel under its “VIZ Signature” imprint in July 2020.

Mujirushi: The Sign of Dreams features an ensemble cast of characters.  The first is Takashi Kamoda, a failed businessman and tax cheat, who finds himself abandoned by his wife, hounded by creditors, and facing incarceration.  All Kamoda has left is his daughter, Kasumi, and now, he is considering suicide.

Fate brings Kamoda and Kasumi to the France Institute for Research (also known as the “La France Institute for Research”) and its odd director.  “The Director” wears a bow tie and his top front teeth are large and stick out his mouth, making his look like 1960s Japanese pop culture figure, “Iyami.”  A francophone, the Director tells Kamoda that he has a plan that will free him of his debts.  All Kamoda has to do is travel to France and abscond with “The Lacemaker,” a 17th century painting by the Dutch “Old Master” painter, Johannes Vermeer!

The plot also involves several other players.  Their is Michel, a French firefighter, and his singing grandmother, Madame Bardot.  “Kyoko” is the name of a mysterious Japanese woman from Michel and his grandmother's past.  There are French and Japanese police detectives.  Finally, there is Beverly Duncan, a billionaire businesswoman and celebrity who is running for President of the United States.  Oh, Beverly looks like a female Donald Trump!

THE LOWDOWN:  The Mujirushi: The Sign of Dreams manga is the first work by Naoki Urasawa that I have read since I read the last volume of VIZ Media's edition of Master Keaton back in September 2017.  Urasawa is one of my favorite manga writer-artists, and I consider him to be one of the very best creators working in the comics medium over the last three decades.

Mujirushi: The Sign of Dreams Graphic Novel is my least favorite work of his to date.  A very short work compared to Urasawa's best known manga, Mujirushi is basically a handy graphic novel package composed of Urasawa's familiar storytelling tropes.  First, it is a conspiracy wrapped inside a mystery that begins with a very important or pivotal origin story or back story that occurs decades earlier.

Second, the cast is a collection of odd and eccentric characters who are menacing or are at least behaving suspiciously.  The difference is that none of Mujirushi's characters have the depth and richness of the characters in Urasawa's best work.  Third, the art is trademark Urasawa, but there is nothing to really distinguish it from any other Urasawa graphical storytelling.

Still, even standard Naoki Urasawa is superior to most other mangaka and comics creators' best work.  John Werry's translation and English adaptation result in a story that is hard to stop reading.  Werry has fashioned something that your imagination can't stop chasing until it finds some kind of resolution... any kind of resolution.  Letterer Steve Dutro offers lettering, fonts, and effects that deftly capture the spirit of an Urasawa manga.  So while Mujirushi: The Sign of Dreams isn't perfect, it is, to quote singer Grace Jones, perfect for you, dear Urasawa fans.

I READS YOU RECOMMENDS:  Fans of Naoki Urasawa will want the VIZ Signature graphic novel, Mujirushi: The Sign of Dreams.

7 out of 10

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

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