Trepanation is the procedure of drilling a hole in the skull. It is said to increase the blood circulation and improve pressure inside the skull. It is also said to bring out a person's sixth sense, the ability to use ESP, see ghosts, move objects with one's mind. This is speculative fiction based on the concept of trepanation.
An individual knows that it is not status that defines who they are, but how they perceive the world around them.
Such is the case for Nakoshi Susumu: former-salaryman turned vagrant. Homeless he may be, but he does not think or act as one normally would. Living life in the comfort of his cheap car, he is ostracized by the homeless men that he interacts with.
An intimidating young man appears before him with an offer — 700,000 yen in return for an experiment involving trepanation, the drilling of a hole in one's skull. While initially reluctant (and for good reason, one might add!), Nakoshi eventually undergoes the surgery and receives what is believed to be a supernatural effect of the trepanation: the ability to see Homunculi, the repressed feelings of an individual by closing or covering one of his eyes.
But is it really something supernatural?
Despite its premise, Homunculus still manages to remain firmly rooted in logic. It never truly answers whether Nakoshi's experiences are a supernatural phenomenon or if they are simply a hallucination. While the characters will often use psychology to rationalize these events, several questions are curiously left open for the reader to interpret. And at the end, both conclusions are still equally valid. It is duplicitous but never contradictory.
What Nakoshi sees is often disturbing; at times repulsive. These aberrations may be represented by something as simple as a person with no face or a body of a robot, while in other situations it may be something far more unsightly, such a man with a penis for a head, or Nakoshi seeing his own face on a woman that he is sleeping with. At times it is even worse. For all the manga's phallic and unpleasant imagery, though, none of it is ever used for shock value. It is there to effectively immerse the reader in the mental state of Nakoshi, a feat which Homunculus brilliantly achieves with its abstract and detailed artwork. Perhaps you might need a bucket beside you, though. Just in case.
Homunculus carries an exceptional cast of characters, with Nakoshi in particular being wholly fascinating. We do not know his past or his situation, but as his ability pulls him into invariably bizarre situations, these details slowly begin to piece together in a relevant, harmonious format. And while he does not change completely, he develops. He grows and matures as a person. Nakoshi begins to understand that his running away was meaningless, and rather than adhering to his detached and misogynistic persona, he simply wishes for a person that can love him without the superficiality of appearance and wealth. After all, it is not sex that defines happiness, but something less tangible— something more personal.
And then there is Manabu Ito, the one responsible for the trepanation surgery. An example of the proverbial "Don't judge a book by its cover", he is a man who acts completely contrary to his appearance. With piercings, bleached hair, and a flamboyant outfit, you would normally think that such a person would sooner stab than help you. But that is not the case. His appearance is a facade, much like Nakoshi's, which inevitably brings the two together as accomplices and eventually friends. The dynamic between the two is consistently engaging (and occasionally amusing) with Manabu concurrently receiving his fair share of development over the course of the story. You may even grow to enjoy his presence more than Nakoshi's.
Notably, the side characters are also fleshed out and given unique personalities. Even the homeless men or yakuza that Nakoshi interact with have their own backstory, resulting in a much more authentic feel to the characterization. Clichés do not exist within this manga.
The artwork of Homunculus is meticulously illustrated and oftentimes beautiful. No panel is treated as inconsequential. Subtle symbolism, such as winter leaves blowing across a busy city or Nakoshi assuming the fetal position in his sleep, provide as much depth to the art as there is in the story. You may also find enjoyment in discerning what each Homunculus represents. Though with that said, you can just as easily ignore the symbolism and choose to focus solely on the story instead. This is a manga that is as complex or as simple as you want it to be, but it will reward if you choose to analyze and dig deeper.
There's an unpredictability to the narrative which makes Homunculus such an engaging read. When you think that the series has peaked in absurdity, the next chapter will reveal something even more abstract or revolting. When there is a twist, a more surprising one will soon follow. All the way until the final pages. It is never tiresome and will always compel you to continue reading.
Beyond the surreal presentation is a distinctively macabre story. A number of panels are depicted in a gruesome fashion. For example, there is a scene where a character enters a public bathroom and performs self-trepanation with a drill, knowing that they may die or suffer brain damage in the process. What occurs is a brief moment of madness, with the character displaying a ghastly expression while blood rushes from their forehead. Such moments are not uncommon in Homunculus.
You will certainly be surprised by the ending, too. There is no traditional happy ending to be found here, nor is it an inherently 'bad' ending. It is neither and entirely ambiguous. At best, it will provide you with one of the most intelligent and poignant endings in manga. At worst, it will leave you scratching your head. But it will not be something to be forgotten.
What Homunculus manages to achieve in the end is an experience unlike any other. With its beautiful artwork, subtle interpersonal themes, brilliant characters, and macabre narrative— this is not a manga that should be passed up by anybody with an open mind. It is intelligent, it is entertaining, and most importantly, it is memorable.
While we may not always be satisfied with who we are, Homunculus shows us that it is how we think and feel that ultimately decides our role in life. And things never do remain the same. read more
False face, false money, false women, false status, false life.
Susumu Nakoshi is a beanie-wearing homeless man living out of his beat-up car. He hangs out at a park with other homeless people though not being one of them. This man is actually more displaced than the vagrants he surrounds himself with.
The mystery of this man, his real identity and motives is the highlight of this brilliantly disturbing psychological drama. Each chapter peels away like an onion, the more you read the more layers are uncovered about Nakoshi and his place in society, his relationship to other humans and how he ended up where he is when the manga begins.
But that’s only the outer layers. Deeper inside are some very strange ideas at play. Author Hideo Yamamoto dabbles with trepanation and the concept of homunculus, via a kooky surgeon, Manabu Ito, willing to use Nakoshi as a guinea pig. The idea of homunculi is that they represent the subconscious mind. The question of whether they're 'real' or just subjective delusions hovers in the air all throughout the manga. Things are never simple with Homunculus, and the relationship between Nakoshi and Ito develops and complicates as brilliantly as all the other people depicted in the story.
There is a main narrative of Nakoshi's experiences connected to Ito's operation, the after affects that he has to deal with by himself, and the larger narrative of who Nakoshi really is.
Nakoshi's relationship with Ito is an engaging cat and mouse affair that gets increasingly complex throughout the story. Who the cat and mouse are up for debate. Who is using who, and what for? The relationship is unpredictable and always entertaining. Yamamoto avoids convention all throughout the story and the twists and turns will continually surprise you. It’s never for shocks however, the story just flows from one turn to another without letting up so at one point you think you've got a handle on the story and a character; then a few volumes later your entire perception is changed.
The after affects of the operation on Nakoshi's skull are as if he suddenly gained super powers. If so, Nakoshi is surely the most messed up superhero ever. His so-called power is to see people's inner hearts and minds via imagery that would make Picasso vomit. The art is inspired and so disturbing; Yamamoto's ambitions in the manga are admirable. We get many dynamic panels, artistic point of views and designs of human anatomy re-arranged or plain replaced with inanimate objects or beasts.
Nakoshi is seeing the world in a way most of us would rather not. On top of being aware of the distortions of the mind and sufferings of the heart, he has to work for the answers. It’s no use seeing a woman with a zebra for a body; he has to figure out what the symbolism means in order to understand her problem.
Every story has arcs, in shonen the climaxes are battles, in shoujo they're confessions, but in Homunculus the climaxes to scenarios in this manga culminate in surreal imagery with symbolism and allegory all over the place. Its psychological battles of wit and mental fortitude that make the manga so gripping, you never know what the author is going to throw at you next, whether through narrative or stylistically.
The actual main story is pretty compelling. Yamamoto takes a typical post-modern predicament and distorts it in such a way it feels fresh whereas if he'd just told the story straight without all this hallucinatory craziness it would just be clichéd po-faced stuff.
Homunculus should ideally have hit the seinen manga scene like The Matrix hit cinema. Both are about/products of the post-modern condition and have crazy effects while showing more possibilities of the medium they're in. Whether you like it or not, Homunculus is definitely unlike any other manga out there, with great visuals and substance to boot.read more
Gripping. Its filled with such rich contents that you can't shove it aside. It is original and it is well researched. It depicts each character's lives in such realism. It shows how lost we humans are, how much we've lost our true selves. And that out past and present are linked even though we hide them under layers of make-up, they still are there, lingering within the depths of our conscious.
Very very real. Its nice how the author takes different views and angles. How each character has a touch of humane in them. It it also very detailed form the twitch of a finger, to the dripping of sweat. And how he shows how Japanese people actually look like. I can differentiate characters =)
So well thought of into and out. They have their story and its filled with humanity. The modern problems of today's generation in identifying oneself. The main character isn't so perfect himself is why the manga is a success because it portrays true human qualities. The minor characters are interesting as well and have their side of their story which is equally intense and mysterious.
This is a mature manga and it does live up to its rating. The mature contents are somewhat gross yet exciting.
This manga is very well plotted and the author knows exactly what he's doing and where he's going. The beginning til' the end and the title are connected that it challenges you to even try to predict what happen next. Though its rather slow paced but the detailed expressions and scenes make you lose track of time, it makes you hungry for more. This manga is worth the time if you have the patience.read more
OYASUMI PUN PUN, has nothing to do with this manga but if you've read it you might notice some similarities between these. Both have lots of surrealism and extremely depressing circumstances, and both seem like an outlook into literal insanity. Both follow a single main character and his story, and both end like shit lol but more on that later
It's psycho-horror thats what it is, especially in the later chapters. Never before have you watched someone go crazy in such a natural way. This is the epitome of a unique manga, which may seem stupid to say after i start with a series of parallels but they are just that, parallels. They are still two different manga, as Homunculus will provide plenty of evidence for throughout its pages. Homunculus is about a man named Nakoshi who sleeps in his car in a parking lot between a hotel and a park. Each day he wakes up, tunes his car a bit, and eats with his homeless aquaintences. He seemingly has no money whatsoever and has no motive for being where he is, as well as a nonexistant history. One day he is stalked and approached by an almost inhuman looking punk man who proposes to him a process in which he will drill a hole in his head and pay him afterwards, for the purpose of testing the existance of ESP. After that things go crazy quite literally.
Nakoshi gains an ability to see "things" about people in the form of bizarre hallucinations. These "things" are seemingly random caricatures of the person he is looking at, but he starts to realize that they may represent something about the person. Throughout the story he gets more and more obsessed with his ability and its uses for no clear reason. The reader of the manga takes a very 2nd person perspective in this. You will hear the thoughts of Nakoshi but they will slowly stop making any sense, giving you a very detached perspective that works perfectly with the atmosphere and the plot. This is a story that is bizarro to the core and there is nothing quite like it.
The art is good. Some of the faces look weird but I can't help but think this is the point. Nothing really stands out which is of no problem because the content is what is of note here.
This manga has from what I've seen, polarized its readerbase. Some people outright hated it because of how random and crazy things are later on. The ending in particular makes no sense, which I love. It's just something you should read and have your own impression on whether or not that includes an interpretation of events. In fact at one point in the middle I dropped it because I was bored. But in the end I picked it back up and was so glad I did because its just so fucking weird. It's like theres some sense behind it but its so buried and vague that you will be debating if it even exists rather than what its content is (which is great!)
It's Good! You should read it. This review may seem half assed thats why I shouldn't right three at once but at the very least I have brought it to your attention and hopefully this one in particular will not leave it.read more