Aug 17, 2019
"I told my supervising editor once, "I'm drawing because i want to be forgiven." He said, "Yes, I understand just what you mean." I almost felt like I'd cry."
It's been a while since I've read Knife, but I still remember the effect this had on me. I'll try not to get overly sentimental, but after reading this and discovering that the author had a long-running manga series (Meteor Methuselah), I've never been so hyped for anything in my life. And then I still had to find out she drew these stories as a teenager (!)
Judging from the small amount of users but 8.31 rating and
10/10 reviews for Meteor Methuselah + the awful rating on this collection, Kaori Ozaki's works seem to be something people either disregard or absolutely adore and place among their favorite works of fiction of all time. In other words, Kaori Ozaki is a cult-mangaka. And it's safe to say I definitely belong to this cult. And here's where the sentimentality kicks in and I get embarassing: The moment I started reading her works, I felt like I found a soulmate. That's right. You heard me. A soulmate. And I dare say there's many more who feel this way among the few that have been lucky enough to read her work.
In this collection of early short stories, you can really get to know who Kaori Ozaki is as an author. Ozaki has a deceptively simple artstyle, but she is an incredibly talented artist. At first glance, you might not think there's much going on. Not alot of work was put into the backgrounds and the character designs are very typical of 80's/90's manga with a little bit of a personal twist to it, that oddly enough make them reminiscent of the current drawing style. But once you zoom in, there's a sensitivity in the panels you'll either feel or you don't. And more significantly: the level of nuanced, conflicted emotion in the faces is something I haven't seen before in manga.
The reason for this apparent simplicity is actually quite silly: she doesn't work with assistants. She does everything herself. She has also mentioned in an interview that writing the plot is a painstakingly difficult process for her. However she has also described drawing an absolute necessity, almost like a survival mechanism. Considering these melancholic utterances, the content of the stories make alot of sense and the effort going into drawing the right emotions in the character's eyes. We're dealing with a tormented romantic here.
Speaking of tormented romantics. Nearly every one of the chapters features "weak" characters who are in some way completely unfit to live in the world they live in and usually has another character try and take care of them. It is painfully tragic to see these characters struggle about, and although not everyone might relate to the stories, or feel the need for such melancholy and tragedy in their reading, it's all genuine. She has a grasp on human emotion and the struggle of life, that many manga writers could only dream of having.
In short: 'Knife' is a very emotional, tragic read and a great introduction to one of the most criminally underread mangaka, Check it out. And if you're feeling it, keep on reading her other works. If you don't feel it, that's all right too, maybe this amount of melancholy just isn't for you. But you should know she made all this when she was 17-19. And her art has definitely matured over the years.
For those of you who have read her other series: definitely check out her first attempts at manga. If only because it's interesting to see how her art has evolved. Be warned that it might be alot darker than you're used too, but the same themes from her other work are here too, just being explored in a different way. Perhaps it might even be more profound reading for adults and older teens than her work aimed at younger audiences? I'll get back to you on that.
Also interesting: she adds these little anecdotes at the end of every story, (which mangaka tend to do), but she really tends to expose bits of her soul. Really fun to read if you are a fan.
Reviewer’s Rating: 9
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