Two broken individuals, a need to escape and a serendipitous encounter.
Sounds like the plot to many romances, but add in some snow and get Miyamoto Kano to describe what happens next, and you end up with Escape – one of the most heartrending oneshots I've ever read.
Note: While there aren't any major spoilers, since Escape is a oneshot, this review covers a great deal of the manga itself.
The story begins as Jun, having led an inconsequential existence for as long as he remembers, stumbles upon Kouji, a seemingly dangerous drug-dealer. In a desperate bid to escape his miserable life, he asks to be sold some drugs. Kouji, himself too tired of leading a life of crime, reluctantly agrees. A turn of events takes the two on a road trip where revelations are had and self-discoveries are made.
This trip is essentially the defining moment of their growth as individuals. As they find solace in each other, they begin to realise life isn't too bad.
The manga itself doesn't give too much back story on characters, but there is enough information for readers to understand the motivations behind the characters' actions, like why Jun would be spurred to take drastic decisions, or why Kouji would let a clingy high-schooler tag along with him on the trip. But love doesn't radically change their view of the world; so even as the meek, forlorn Jun and inconsistent, self-loathing Kouji begin to feel more hopeful, there is no shaking their sense of regret and anxiousness.
This somewhat poignant air is complemented exquisitely by the use of snow in the backdrop, which is easily the standout element as far as the art is concerned. Not only does the snow add to the ambiance, but its fragile and beautiful nature is reflective of that moment in their lives. At the same time, their isolation is symbolised by the harsh winter – and as corny as it sounds – their hope by the spring that's just over the horizon.
What meets them over the horizon is left somewhat ambiguous and readers are left to make up their own minds about how things turn out. Ending the manga with unanswered questions could be considered both the strength and the downfall of Escape. Personally, I thought it wouldn't have left such a strong impact on me if it hadn't ended the way it did.
Regardless, the ending doesn't detract from what is essentially a touching tale of how two lives are thrown together in the midst of reality, come to love each other and learn to view the world a little differently for it.
- Written for the Miyamoto Kano Society - read more