Ten years ago, they took him in. He doesn't even know who. And for ten years, he has been confined in a private prison. He doesn't know why. For ten years, his only contact with the outside world has been a television set and the voices of his jail mates. In time, he lost himself. He changed...transformed himself into something else...something hard...something lethal. Suddenly, one day his incarceration ends, again without explanation. He is sedated, stuffed inside a trunk, and dumped in a park. When he awakes, he is free to reclaim what's left of his life...and what's left is revenge.
In 2003 Loose Senki: Old Boy was adapted into a film Old Boy by the Korean director Park Chan-wook, with many plot points completely altered. The film won the Examiner's Special Grand Prix at the 57th Cannes Film Festival in 2004. In 2013, a remake of the same name was directed by the American director Spike Lee, but received mixed critical reception.
The series was published in English by Dark Horse Comics from July 18, 2006 to October 16, 2007.
The objective of this review is to compare Old Boy manga with its Korean live-action adaptation.
I've watched Oldboy's live-action first, and so I decided to also read the manga.
The Korean Oldboy is a very violent Tarantino-esque movie, but yet full of psychological elements and plot twists. In the movie, Goto is also locked in a hotel room, a private prison. While in the manga he spends 10 years locked, in the movie he is locked for 15 years. In the live-action, Goto is accused of murdering his wife. But the murder occurred while he was imprisoned, so he wasn't guilty. In
the manga, he isn't married and there is no murdering.
In both versions, Goto is released after 10 or 15 years and searches for the person who ordered to lock him, to know the reasons and take his revenge. In the Korean version, Goto doesn't ask the police for help because he was the prime suspect of murdering his wife. In the Japanese version, he doesn't ask the police for help because he thinks no one would believe him, and he had no proof of the existence of the private prison.
There are other minor differences in the beginning. But the differences grow and I soon realized that the manga has a totally "new" ending. I really liked the brilliant ending of the Korean movie. But the manga's conclusion, although still unexpected, it isn't as good or as shocking as the movie.
Old Boy is perhaps the only case in which the live-action adaptation becomes better than the original manga.
But the manga is still a very good reading. It has almost the same psychological elements you find in the movie. There are also more characters and more new situations in comparision to the movie. So the plot is larger.
Goto has a similar colected personality in both versions. He is also a skilled fighter in both of them. The main difference is that Goto is much more violent in the live-action, while the violence in manga is far from exaggerated.
Though the movie is obviously better, if you have enough free time, I recommend you to read the manga and watch the movie. I don't now if you should choose them in a particular order, then feel free.
After being knocked-out cold, kidnapped and locked in a private prison for ten years in a small room with no heating, Goto, our 'old boy', is finally set free. He decides that he'll find whoever did this to him, whatever it takes. Truly, it is a revenge served cold.
It's astonishing that some writers can't muster up suspense to cover a chapter, while Tsuchiya, Garon (the author of Old Boy) can arguably be credited with creating 79 pure, frustrating yet awesome, chapters of suspense. Lost following the perspective of the paranoid Goto, the reader guesses at every ally and even random people, as you endlessly try
to guess who's watching Goto now.
The art was detailed, shaded and definitely added to the overall mood aka. the suspense. Was everyone pretty? No. But did the style of art only beneficially add to the manga? When it came down to the facial features, in my opinion, I didn't really see why the two main characters needed such bulbous noses; it didn't really add anything but eye-twitch-iness to see a face that was a third a huge nose. Which contrasts to the sexy figures of nearly all the women in the manga. Do only men deserve weird noses? Otherwise, the backgrounds, the clothes and even the signs, were consistantly drawn to an excellent quality and were a feast for the eyes.
Some character's, like the teacher, were excellent. They were realistic, some were unfathomable, cunning, but realistic all the same. Their attitudes were unflinchingly in-your-face; there's very little that's 2D about them.
The sexualisation of almost all the women is disturbing, to say the least. If a women is talking, we get the panel focused on her lips, her ass or the space between her thighs. Is this depiction of women supposed to be attractive? Stimulating? I found it nothing but demeaning, especially when the character's personality made her awesome otherwise.
For a who-dun-it, it's ability to keep the reader guessing made this manga a really addicting read, but the sexualisation of the female gender was a definite con. Still, the details and efforts put into the smallest features within the panels definitely deserves a pat on the back to the illustrator and author.
If you're looking for a mind-whirling thriller with a sweaty, paranoid protagonist and a crazy psychopath, go for it.
Old Boy had an interesting start. With the premise that it offers, it’s easy to get absorbed in its story. The mystery it presents early on is done well enough to be gripping. Violence is promised, with its very crisp action sequences. The execution is good with its captivating paneling of scenes. The art is well done, albeit character designs could’ve been done better. Yet, it started to fall apart halfway with its villain growing ever present by the chapter.
One main problem it has is pacing. When it comes to mysteries, it’s often natural for a slow yet steady buildup that is heightened by cliffhangers.
Old Boy assures its readers with a payoff, but the story can only be dragged so much to be remotely engaging. It worked well for the first 20 chapters or so, but then you will realize that it becomes a repetitive cat-and-mouse scenario. It also attempts to be complex by setting the plot into a psychological maze, but the exposition is so lackluster. A lot of vital and even unnecessary info is revealed to the point that it’s considered spoon feeding. It could’ve been done more subtly, as it’s a strong asset in terms of exploring the mystery.
Another point is that the villain is not even that interesting. His motives felt weak and unjustified as he obnoxiously insists that it’s something very life-changing. His background isn’t properly explored well despite being the story’s main key to solving the mystery. His interaction with the cast is like of Friend’s in 20th Century Boys, only that manga did way better in terms of characterization and layering plot points. He even reveals himself way too early into the story, losing most of the essence of the mystery. It felt too lazy because the main character was being too slow in remembering things. Let’s not forget their past teacher who became a plot device in order to speed things up. Just as the story reaches the finale, the conclusion of the entire “Remember your past” detective game was so unfulfilling. At that point, almost everything that what made it so interesting in the first place was almost gone.
Overall I think it’s still a recommendable manga to a degree since it pulls of that noir vibe well. If you’re looking for a well-developed mystery game that has enough suspense to keep you going, look somewhere else. A disappointing read, but there is still merit from the reading experience. It’s an example of a well-executed manga that can still turn overwhelmingly boring when the plot leaves more to be desired.
A man finds himself imprisoned for a reason unknown to him for ten years before he is released. He keeps himself sane by acknowledging one logic of the situation - that he is still alive. With his past behind him and nothing to lose, his only goal is to find a man who has kept him imprisoned all this time.
The world of manga, much unlike its brother in the western culture (i.e. comics), is undoubtedly plagued with fictions that do no better than to establish a rather conventional story, a rather predictable set of characters, and art that is well refined but nothing reflective
of the real world. With Oldboy, however, the rules of convention are left completely neglected. There is nothing enticing about Oldboy as a manga at the first glance. Characters are just people dressed in normal clothes and with no dramatic expression on their faces. Little amount of action takes place in relation to the whole manga. The setting mostly takes place in Tokyo - again, nothing extraordinary.
What makes this manga unique within its first chapter from other mangas is the concept behind the whole story. The idea of a man being imprisoned for ten years where he was well-fed, provided a room with full bathroom and TV, plus monthly haircut service, as part of the act of a vengeance is truly extraordinary. On top of that, this was done at an expense of 300 million yen (roughly = 3 million US dollars), all paid by the perpetrator. Could he not have sent an assailant after a person whom he clearly loathes and have him murdered? Or even tortured? Why imprison him at a place that have costed him 300 million yens to pay for... especially with the intent of releasing him some time later?
One of the unfortunate drawbacks of the manga is that it's too long. The motive behind the story is truly captivating and intriguing, but, even with all the fascinating characters, their development and interactions in between, it takes simply too long for the truth of it all to unravel. However, the sheer volume of the events that take place before the truth is revealed is not without purpose. All the events leading up to the final moment of truth do contribute to the ultimate impact of the motive behind the antagonist. There is an underlying theme in this manga that is as thought-provoking as it is melancholic. What is it that keeps us going in the world of superficial people, unfairly played games and the ultimate demise that is as forthcoming to all of us as a clock clicking towards the next minute? No one is safe from the imperfection that prevails in our world, and Kakinuma - the antagonist - in particular has a surprisingly heartfelt story to tell. Then, at the core of it all, is Gotou, a man who is honest and empathetic to the point of them being a flaw to his character.
Where this manga truly thrives is its subtle dramatization of the characters and the relationships they build throughout. Unlike the heroes and the bad guys of most conventional mangas, the characters here are not immune to the flaws of humanity: the greed and carelessness that comes with our self-preservative intents; the vulnerability to establishing meaningful relationships; and - among the most damaging quality of humanity - the ability and the sense of obligation to care. These characters are no different from people who we may encounter in our lives, and are as respectable, flawed, and despicable as our friends and foes alike are.
Oldboy is a manga of highly realistic characters that have found themselves within the grasp of an unbeatable nemesis to humanity. It is frustrating, dark, and depressing, but it is also touching and also surprisingly sympathetic. The underlying atmosphere of melancholy is haunting and well established through not only the story, but the never-exaggerated, subtle portrayal of characters and the settings. This truly is a triumph in both the world of manga and literature. 9/10.