Approaching Kayou Gogo 9-Ji, previous experiences of manga do not hold. 9-Ji is something entirely different. Exploring what 9-Ji presents and represents is at the heart of explaining it's existence.
Kayou Gogo 9-Ji was one of three stories composed by Okado Tatsuya which started in September 2008, run in the monthly magazine Afternoon. 9-Ji ran for 3 issues, the shortest of the three stories, and later was collated into a thin tankobon with the second story, Natsu o Oboeru. The third, DoLL, ran for a year and was collated into two volumes. Afternoon is one of the most respected seinen magazines: seinen referring to the 'adult
male' demographic, Afternoon being probably the most age-advanced of these magazines (it does have a small percentage of female readers as well).
Yet 9-Ji does not hold to the standards of Afternoon, which has a number of respected long running series. And no other author had been allowed 3 concurrent series as a debut. 9-Ji and Tatsuya's other works was the start of ushering in the new generation of mangaka and an entirely new paradigm of perspective in manga. A lofty statement, let's unpack it.
9-Ji is a story about a 20-something salaryman who rents out a room in his leased property and the 20-something female freeter who moves in. Their names are unimportant. 9-Ji is a pastiche of society, using these two character types. Yet unlike the eminent Hirokane works of salarymen, or the 'ningen kankei' [human relations] that a Josei would inspect the modern day female 20-something freeter from, 9-Ji is up-to-date in its use of these character types. The salaryman is incorporated into society, yet is alienated from his own identity. He has a maladaption to sexuality which he imposes upon this freeter in trade for covering half the freeters rent. The freeter herself is adrift, not knowing "whether these days are good or bad". Both are restless, in a pidgeonholed role yet with their psyches crying out.
By exploring the pairs perceptions of life, Tatsuya remarks upon society. It is not in a quest to prove anything. Tatsuya is of the post-post-modern generation; accepting the lack of authenticity or truth as post-facto. The cultural role of the salaryman is explored, his job unsatisfying yet numbing. Her role as being in listless stasis, fraying against her equally dis-satisfied friends who are married or full-time employed.
One could describe 9-Ji as a psychodrama; the two eventually coming together in an embryonic relationship that holds no water. Yet the narrative spins a larger web that tells of the socio-economic situation. The minutiae even suggests the current rise of long-term work in tandem with fluidity, disparity, and the phenomena of NEETs.
The entire dialogue of 9-Ji is comprised of half-finished paragraphs; the rest can be felt or predicted, the words the same of that of real discussion now- flailing, en-shortened, desperate, alone. It is certain that Tatsuya's world is bleak; there are no characters who are happy with the conception of their self. The two other stories which are more focused upon the sexual confusion of modernity feature a young teacher and her student; a mature student and her professor. These kind of relational diaphragms the plot is built upon does reduce the pulling power of the narrative, yet in the brevity of a short 3 chapter narrative, Tatsuya brilliantly outlines the new perceptions of the foundling adult generation. The artwork, panelling, and other technical qualities are exquisitely achieved, as per evidenced by Tatsuya's victory of the 4 seasons competition, so there is no worries in this sense as to the means of Tatsuya achieving his message through form. Indeed some of the panels are creative in their choice of framing- many are miscentred or focused upon less central things, a trick Tatsuya is employing to let the emotions of the characters interplay without woodenness and to exhibit the intricature of the structural life both live.
It is probable that if Tatsuya was older and embittered, the plot would have been more sadistic, more gratuitous, or more resigned and colluding with outlined sociocultural frameworks. Yet Tatsuya is at a crossroads where he can accurately distil the underlying perception of current time without these subtle failures, and without juvenile hyperbole. (It may be remarked this manga was September-November 2008, yet its moral conclusions have become only more pertinent, or increased in clarity, as of 2013 May.)
While Kayou Gogo 9-ji may be short, and the plot feels like it could have attempted to develop, the lack of further thematic exploration in DoLL suggests this was the perfect length for the message to be communicated without becoming forced or more explicit. Unfortunately, this results in a rather subtle work that will be disregarded, misunderstood, or misidentified by many. Furthermore, some may naturally prefer works that deliver staid genre-driven or demographic-driven narratives.