Every day in Japan, 2500 people die due to any number of causes. Do you think you'll be one of the ones to die? No, of course not. Do you think you'll win the lottery? You'd like to think so, we all would. But Sumida is different. He wants the status quo to remain in every way; live a normal life, get a normal job, have normal kids, never to be anyone fortunate or unfortunate, content in normalcy. Anyone who doesn't agree is foolish, doomed to live their life scraping up a mountain that they can never conquer, fated to die in despair wishing things had been better.
When his mother kicks his father out of the house and onto the streets, he thinks he'll be fine. When his mother leaves him to live with her boyfriend, he makes the best of it. When he realizes that he's no longer average, he strives to make his life worthwhile the only way he knows how. When the demons in the back of his mind speak to him, he tries his best to ignore them.
Himizu is a story of hopelessness and ultimatums. It gives you a third person view on the compromises we make to ourselves and how it affects our outlet on life. Reading Himizu reminded me more about reality than I would have liked. You will find no fantasies or dreams in Himizu, only the cold hard truth.
The story of Himizu is about Sumida, a teenage boy in his third year of middle school. He has no passions or goals, and only wishes to live a normal life without being bothered or bothering others. But sometimes life isn't that simple. With his parents
abandoning him and his existence straying from what most would consider 'normal', Sumida finds himself cornered. Himizu has some of the darkest themes I've come across. Each chapter dragged me into despair, but I was also completely absorbed into the story. Sumida's narrative is definitely the selling point of this manga.
One would usually expect an author to try and create characters you will like and love. However, Himizu does quite the opposite: I hate every single character in this manga. Chazawa Keiko, the pushy girl who holds unnecessary expectations for Sumida. Shozo, the trash friend who leeches off of others. Sumida, the hypocrite who is basically depressions incarnate. Each one of them I hate, but at the same time I also grew attached to them. I found myself placing hope in them, hoping that they would turn a new leaf or find the answer to their problems.
Art for Himizu isn't exactly easy on the eyes. The author often over exaggerates expressions in an unpleasant manner, almost as if he's trying to add dark humor. It's the perfect style for the mood of the story and it really molds that dark realism into the story. I have no complaints on the art at all, but keep in mind this manga is old and the art reflects that.
Himizu is not something that I can outright say that I 'enjoyed', but I am extremely glad that I read it. It's is an experience that I will likely never forget and I hope that you won't either.
It struck while reading Himizu that it is in many ways the archetypal seinen manga, at least as far as public perception is concerned.
The shounen demographic at large focuses on power fantasies and more simplistic, idealized characters and values and in the case of battle shounen, more of a focus on action (shounen jump's motto is, after all, "friendship, effort, and victory"). The seinen demographic, however, tends to have a far more cynical outlook on life, unafraid to show the raw ugliness of human beings and a higher focus on the psychology and flaws of the characters, and tends to be a bit TOO liberal
with its narrative freedom, including a lot of gore and sexual content (though of course many of them still remain great stories).
All of this is consistent with Himizu's artistic goals; it is a story about ugly, weak people. The main character despises others with ambitions and dreams and hides this under speech about wanting normalcy. His closest friend is a bucktoothed spineless weasel who skips class and is a pickpocket. One of their initial acquaintances is a fat slob who wants to be a mangaka because of some meaningless dream he had the other night. The main character's love interest is a plain-looking, bizarre girl. About the only well-adjusted and respectable character you see is the mangaka, who actually gets published and has his ambitions realized.
This is all fine, as it's been repeatedly shown that a character's moral fiber has nothing to do with how good of a character they are, and in fact many times horrible people will be far compelling than a straightforward good guy.
The main issue with Himizu is that...it isn't horrible, but doesn't EXCEL in anything it really does, barring one or two minor things. It tries to have the psychological storyline with pathetic, weak characters common to seinen manga, but while most of them aren't really BAD, they aren't really that great either. Besides being weak and terrible most of them don't have that much in the way of psychological complexity, excluding the main character who is by far the best character in the manga. Sometimes having simple characters can be fine, but here the characters, while "realistic" to a certain point, just don't have as much going for them as I would like.
The storyline also spends a lot of time focusing on these other characters, and while these subplots are never really BORING, they also distract from the main conflict that the MC is going through since the characters in them just aren't as interesting. The storyline left me...confused at what it was trying to achieve exactly?
The manga's art isn't bad. There are a few moments of genuine greatness, like the representation of the "demon" that haunts the MC's mind, which is very effective and disturbing, but otherwise, it's mostly just ok.
Overall, besides the confused story structure, there isn't much WRONG with Himizu, per se, but it just feels very average in its execution of the typical elements of seinen manga. I have seen many others which have done what Himizu is trying to do in a much more interesting and frankly better way, like Homunculus or Ressentiment. I don't regret reading it by any means, but it is a story that I would have probably liked much more like 5 years ago when I hadn't read as much manga as I have now.
Himizu is a hard manga to describe, but I think it is essentially a manga dedicated to deconstruction. What is it deconstructing? Seemingly the idea of ‘a dream’ and what it means to chase it.
On the surface, it seems to be about juxtaposition of someone who desires to live a normal life vs those fighting to achieve a grand dream and what each are going through in order to achieve their respective desires. Underneath? Well, that’s debatable, but all is not as it seems.
But how is the actual manga?
The plotline moves along in a slow pace seeming to say little to nothing at times, but
it does progress steadily. It also contains a lot of disturbing imagery and suggestions. Parts of it have also prompted me to include the warning that the manga contains child sexual abuse.
Now we’re talking about Japanese manga which has an endless array of ‘lolis’, sexually provocative ‘imoutos’, and etc, so it sort of seems analogous to complaining about seeing men’s underwear in a Superman comic. However, Himizu does it in a rather more realistic way easily making readers feel VERY uncomfortable.
Moving on from that disturbing thought, another aspect of Himizu that can be brought up is the art.
In short, it is awful, especially in the beginning. At best, it can be considered ‘half decent’, but whenever characters get emotional, they become horrifically ugly caricatures. Thing is that it seems intentional and a method of expressing a symbolic point by the author. There are parts where you see very well drawn art and, at times, the characters can look amazingly human in their expressions and very well drawn, but unfortunately, they’re rare.
I want to say it doesn’t detract from the manga…but it does. I tried to ignore it, but I could only do so when the bad art is used sporadically. Otherwise, I am constantly cringing. Luckily, it gets toned down as you move further on (which actually relates to the story too), so it does get bearable.
Yet another aspect I can talk about are the subplots of the story. All manga have subplots sometimes to amuse, sometimes to add complexity, sometimes to attract more than one type of readers, and etc. Himizu’s subplots? They tend to be pretty bad.
The characters they’re centered around tend to be unlikable for a variety of reasons plus they’re also a large source of the manga’s disturbing imagery. Similar to the art, though, it does eventually get better and even becomes interesting, so the manga does have that going for it.
However, to summarize so far, the art is awful, the manga seem to revel in disturbing imagery, and the subplots are terrible…but they all do eventually get better as you go along. The question remains, though, why did I continue reading beyond the horrible beginning instead of abandoning the manga outright?
Well, luckily, the manga is heavily driven by the MC, Sumida.
He seems like a simple character, yet as you learn more about him, you realize the utter contradiction that he is. Everything he says is the truth, yet simultaneously also a lie. It soon becomes plain and easy to see (and hell, the manga even outright says it), but startling once it hits you and turns the MC into a genuinely complex human being rather than just a manga character.
The interest keeps at it just long enough that I lasted until the manga became much better and the surrounding details improved – admittedly without my notice until much afterwards.
The short of it is that the MC, Sumida, essentially drives the entire manga.
And that is why I would recommend this manga. It is the story of a person who has no dream but simultaneously has one and we are introduced to his struggle through life as he tries to find a path to achieving his desire.
Struggling through the bad parts of the manga is, I think, worth it to reach the true worth of the story.
"Wouldn't it be awful if all dreams came true? If all 15,000 eggs that came from one crab hatched. Wouldn't that be awful? The world would be full of crabs!". This is Himizu. The darkest, most depressing comedic manga there ever was, and probably ever will be.
The story is brilliantly simple. We follow Sumida, a 3rd year middle schooler, who's only goal in life is to be as normal as possible. That's easier said than done. Sumida is constantly put into situations that are anything but normal. And how he reacts to these situations makes Himizu one of the best manga I've ever read.
Sumida's thought process is as hilarious as it is depressing as it is interesting. Not to mention the other characters' unique ways of thinking. For in Himizu the characters steal the show. You won't so much care what's going on as long as you know what the characters are thinking while its happening.
The art matches the manga perfectly. The characters have small (Japanese looking) eyes, defined noses, and large lips perfect for making exaggerated expressions. It isn't uncommon for a character's mouth to grow three times it's normal size if he's trying to prove a point. But don't let that fool you. The art is about as well drawn as it gets. And while the backgrounds are far from ugly, just like the story, the characters are the focal point of the art. Each character is drawn uniquely, and it may just be my personal opinion but each character is drawn ugly as well. No characters in this manga even faintly resemble anything bishonen. They are ugly, just like the humanity they are portraying.
Ah, the legendary characters of Himizu. Each character adds another depressing thought (or several) to the collective data bank of negativity which is Himizu. We have Sumida, the speaker of that oh so joyful quote at the beginning of this review. Then there's the aspiring mangaka who is the recipient of that oh so joyful quote. Sumida's best friend, Shozo, who wants nothing else in life but suffocating amounts of money. Each one is beautifully unique in personality, and not just the shounen way (All characters have ONE quirk. They're individuals!), but in a real way. They disagree, argue, beat each other up, etc. They're humans. Dark humans, yes, but humans none the less.
I read those two volumes like lightning, and it left me wanting more. Why haven't I read the last two volumes you ask? Because it hasn't been released in America, and the scanlation group dropped the project. It makes me furious! But anger aside, this is a must read for anyone even remotely interested in psychological manga. I'm leaning towards a 10, but without the second half of this manga I don't want to jump to conclusions. So right now I'll give enjoyment a 9.
Whenever a scanlation group starts scanning Himizu again I'll read it in a second, and update the overall score. But right now I'll give this a 9. People seriously need to read this.