In the process of growing up, one gains greater freedom and is given more responsibilities at the same time. For Isaki, who had just turned 16, this adventure and challenge comes through his neighbor's Piper Cub. In exchange for paying gas bills and making deliveries, he is given the chance to meet new people and expand his horizons.
Hitoshi Ashinano is known primarily for the meditative masterpiece Yokohama Kaidashi Kikou. However, like any mangaka worth his salt, he knew YKK had to end, and it did. Ashinano has followed it up with this currently publishing equally beautiful piece Kabu no Isaki. And it's no featherweight.
Kabu no Isaki is a manga that elucidates the wonder, the utter joy, of flying in light planes. Isaki is the neighbour of Shiro, and she lets him pilot her aged plane, the Cub. Isaki pays for the gas from his part-time job at a factory, and carries out deliveries for Shiro. Completing the nucleic trio is Shiro's
younger sister, Kajika, who often tags along on flights ~ a skilled pilot in her own right.
Ashinano has one main objective in Kabu no Isaki. To make us appreciate the sublime that is our world. He achieves this through the depiction of majestic and infinite landscapes, of humble and wholly believable places, of the “terrifyingly deep” and limitless sky. It very much imbibes a jewel into your mind, that of a divine fragment of time. It's something that, weird as it sounds, actually creates the feeling of nostalgia (or “natsukashii” for the Japanese). It's not a unique approach, but it's something Ashinano has mastered. Very few writers, let alone mangaka, we could say the same of. Ashinano's work is thus priceless in this age where everything is hustle and bustle, where it seems like there is no time to relax, where the 'boonies' are undesirable backwaters with literally nothing to do. Kabu no Isaki gives us the time to sit back and escape that rat race, and really enjoy life for what it is worth living for.
Ashinano often uses sci-fi or fantastical elements in his stories to facilitate a cohesive narrative, and indeed Kabu no Isaki is also graced with this. The landscapes of Japan are delightfully empty ~ romantically so, and there seems to be higher numbers of planes and plane related infrastructure than would be possible. Ashinano has really pieced together a spotless alternate world- one which while we might know is not our current earth- we feel it must be based here, must be possible, is in reach. We can grasp at the very air our characters inhabit.
That's a quality that might be unique to the medium of manga, as Ashinano has pictures to help him tell his indelible story unlike say Shelley, Frost or Miyazawa. And somewhat surprisingly, the art is not some photo-realistic style at all. Instead, it's a deceptively simple and quite sketchy style, with lots of line shading and cross-hatching, little complicated pattern design, a conspicuous lack of tonal work, non-convoluted backgrounds, and very chipmunk-like bodies. It looks a lot more simple than it really is, as Ashinano consistently provides perfectly drawn mechanical designs, memorable landscapes and places, and even the simplistic faces seem to communicate more than first expected. We really start to relate and understand Isaki, Kajika, Shino, and the rest of our characters. The limited scope of expressions on display also seem more human than the freedom of distorted or super-deformed styles, the acute angles of the typical shonen manga, or the perfected forms of a ecchi/ero. The actual character anatomies themselves are also more in a realistic seinen style- Isaki has the awkward body of any sixteen year old, Shiro while being attractive, is not some bimbo, and the twelve year old Kajika has appropriately modest proportions. Side characters too, are humanely flawed, and have in-depth developed personalities.
Overall, Kabu no Isaki is simply an enchanting manga that makes us love life, love the earth, and forget our worries. That makes Kabu no Isaki invaluable. And Ashinano also provides excellent art, excellent characters and characterisation, and lyrically enchanting dialogue. There are no faults in Kabu no Isaki- sure, perhaps the characters are a bit sameish compared to his other works, but that's because Ashinano has a real goal that he has achieved wonderfully in Kabu no Isaki. It's impossible to not be enamored with such a solemnising and beautiful work as Kabu no Isaki. So please do read it, it's, in a word, excellent.