In the forest, there is a bear only children can see. If you can escape the forest after spending one day with that bear, you can become whatever you desire. A girl sets foot into the dense forest of legend and what she encounters there was…
My brother bought this manga to me because he, like most people do, judged the book by the cover. 'The man who runs away' with a dark colored picture in which a mysterious man stands within an equally mysterious forest, it certainly something that catch the eyes. However, its interior isn't as charming as that description, here is why.
The story is basically about this man, son of an important politician, who needs to turn in his father in an investigation that's taking place, but he doesn't want to since duh, it's his father. So he runs away to the forest where he finds a bear
and stays there... forever. That's revealed later though, since at first he's just this entity you aren't sure if it's real of not.
Everything starts with a woman who's curious about a certain tale: a bear, only visible to children, that'll fulfill any of anyone's wishes if the person in question stay with it during an entire day. She enters the forest and eventually finds this bear, goes to an apparently abandoned house and in the night has sex with a strange man. Her hopes it could be the bear's human version were destroyed once she saw he was indeed just a guy living around, what is weird enough for making me wonder what the fuck is crossing the characters' heads.
Soon after we are exposed to the story of the mysterious man, killing all the mystery by the way. He ran away from that situation I've cited above and now lives peacefully with his giant pet. He even finds one of his old friends that tries to convince him to leave the forest, but he stands firmly in his decision to stay there. By the end, it's suggested that a man lived there before him, a man who gave up on society after living a good life with his family for many years and entered in the forest forever. The end.
This is a story about people who can't endure life in society and how running away isn't exactly a bad option. All that matters is if you are truly happy, no matter your conditions. It's enigmatic at first with hints of supernaturalism, but ends up being just a regular case of disturbed people acting accordingly. That honestly didn't attract me at all. The silent plot seemed endearing at first, but contemplative atmosphere only works when the art is minimally understandable. Speaking of which...
While looking at the first panels of this manga, I noticed it was very similar to an anime I had watched few days before. The anime in question was ACCA's adaptation by Madhouse and happens that it was from the same authoress of Nigeru Otoko. But what is notable about her draws? Well, the faces are flat, the noses are big, the eyes are super rounded and the hair is super sloppy. The backgrounds are rarely drawn and the characters look extremely inconstant. At one scene they look like X, at another, Y. That's due to the negligence of detailing and results in some messy panels where it was hard to figure out what was happening to begin with. Several times I had to reread certain pages or group of pages to understand and I don't know about you, but I don't like feeling stupid. I imagine the fault wasn't mine, but the laziness of the authoress that simply refused to draw decently. I'm still impressed she decided to give this an air of silent plot when in reality all we can see are a bunch of scrawls.
Honestly, it's always hard to evaluate visuals because sometimes they have a specific purpose. Blame! for example, has breathtaking scenarios, even though all its characters look the same and several times you will just wonder what the heck is going on within a scene. So while I can praise the wonderful scale and imaginative setting of Blame!, I just can't towards Nigeru Otoko. There's no redeeming quality about the art and I was never fond of sloppy drawings. The only thing I think didn't bother a bit was the paneling that I found fine and organized enough. I don't know about her other works, but this one isn't particularly well-designed. It's not terrible or dreadful, but not good at all. It carries a type of charm owed by its 'originality', but that's all.
Honestly, it wouldn't be a big problem if the story was actually strong and cathartic. But as I stated before, the silent plot forces you to play attention to what's going on and damn, it's hard to do that in this case since my eyes naturally search for beauty and charm, not mess and carelessness.
I don't know if they have names of if I just don't remember them. They're basically three and their interactions are extremely basic. The first time the protagonist and the girl meet each other is having sex from nowhere. Anyway, the characters here are just the showcase of the main theme: running away. Everything about them is conditioned to it and my expression towards them was fully poker-face. Indeed, this whole manga is basically poker-face level of remarkability. I don't like plot-driven shows most of the times, and the fact that the plot is equally whatever doesn't help.
I like silent plots. That said, I cannot ignore the fact it attracts me no matter how much the art sucks or the story is weak/pointless. I always like characters who don't say much and look, think and act a lot more. So of course, at first this manga made me curious and all, but the resolution is just too simple and not that much cathartic. It's a story you just observe, but don't relate yourself with. I mean, of course a lot of people want to run away from their problems, but I don't see how that message is enough to carry itself out of mediocrity. So, in the end the only thing I really enjoyed was the fact the characters don't speak too much. Other than that, it's just a fairy tale for adults without fairies and whose plot is not something as an adult I like to consume. It's not thought-provoking beyond the obvious and superficial level, I didn't care about the characters nor liked seeing the drawings. I don't feel happy by saying this, but my brother threw money in the trash can when buying this manga to me.
I would only recommend Nigeru Otoko to someone who has nothing better to do and wants to read something that will not offend his intelligence. Calling it bad would be unfair, but wanting or not it is just a mediocre attempt of making a contemplative setting that doesn't work because of the unpleasant artistic visuals. I read with a poker face, I found it to be boring, I had to reread several panels to understand what was happening and the final message was whatever and lacking catharsis enough to be notable. So yeah, I think a 5 is a fair score and I'm not surprised, since ACCA is also kind of boring, lacking catharsis and character development. Well, this one at least has the excuse of length.
The synopsis above is quite misleading. Reading it, you might think the focus of this story is some kind of magical bear, or forest, or the aforementioned girl...but you'd be mistaken. In fact, the Japanese title translates to something like, "Escaping Man" -- and that's what this manga's basically about: a man who "escaped", his reason for doing so, and what happens when that reason no longer exists.
Since it was serialized in "Manga Erotics F", I expected to see something naughty but the closest this manga ever came to that was just an implied sex scene. This doesn't affect my evaluation of it in
any way (OF COURSE), but I thought I should just mention that, for the benefit of any *cough* pervs *cough* out there.
The plot and characters are fairly simple, and the main draw for me was the art--it too is simple, but effective, and reminds me a little of Quentin Blake's sketchy, raw style in those old Roald Dahl books you used to read as a child (you know who/what I'm talking about right?), except with slightly tighter lines. Unlike a lot of self-taught mangaka out there, Natsume Ono can draw--she probably went to art school or something. I mean, just look at how she does the bear; it's not hyper-realistic or anything, but at least it's unmistakably bear-ish-esque...which is more than I can say for most of us, when trying to draw the same (go ahead and try it yourself--and NO, teddy bears DON'T count.)
There isn't much dialogue, which is how I think a comic should ideally be done -- let the pictures tell the story, otherwise we might as well read a book amiright? NIGERU OTOKO does a fairly decent job of that.
Bottom-line: it's an okay read, something mildly pleasant with which to pass the time.
This manga is simple, nothing extraordinary (don't expect a deep or crying story) , but yet the story is beautiful. It's a little bit mysterious due to the few dialogues and the sceneries, and talks about a man who ran way of his life in the city to live in the forest with a bear.
The art style is very unique. Well, it may look kinda lazy or "unfinished", but I think that's what make it beautiful and different.
I would recommend it to anyone who wants to pass time and read a short and unique manga, without many dialogues, but yet pleasant to read.