Jun 28, 2016
bloge (All reviews)
Oldboy is a very entertaining cat-and-mouse story with great art that features some grounded characters that I came to like. I'm sure many of these characters will remain memorable for me, but the events of the story I'm not as certain. The thing with Oldboy is that it's slow and a grand buildup. Without that satisfying conclusion, in a way it would be all for naught. Sadly, for me at least, the conclusion was sub-par to my expectations. From early on I had the likely basic idea of the causation of these events in mind, but the manga keep insisting itself that the secret is something much more complex, but in reality it isn't that much.

Beyond that I do have other issues with the manga. For how grounded and subtle it tries to be, much of the manga is quite simplistic in how it's events take place. Many explanations are left out to buildup this idea that everything is tied together by a mastermind. All of the twists more-or-less lend to this simple idea, which in a way makes the interactions in the story less interesting over time. The story also, for me, relys heavily on immersion as this story is very grounded in a somewhat plain setting with characters not too out-of-the-ordinary. The story chooses to reinforce metaphors over and over again though that everything taking place is part of an epic tale, and they tend to state this in a way almost as if breaking the fourth-wall that this is actually just a story in a manga. They'll say things like, "I thought it was time we sped this game along", which for me can't be detached from the thought that maybe the mangaka just wanted to speed the story along. There's a lot of moderately unexplained phrases like this, all usually carrying that more-or-less uninteresting "game" metaphor (this could be Dark Horse publishing's doing, but I can only speak on what I can understand).

Back to the characters not being that out-of-the-ordinary, it's true. Being interested in the characters relys mostly on how tightly woven they've become into the series of events taking place, beyond that there isn't much actual character development. Most characters are left shallow, but there are 2-3 characters who get their personalities out there a little bit by the end. Their lives aren't really divulged upon though, and by the mid-point you'll likely actually be interested in such things since things are moving at such a slow pace. The story is by no means boring though, I did enjoy the ride to some degree as I did finish it - I'm no masochist.

Another thing that bugged me though was the plot elements the mangaka chose to include in the last volume, it took a once-grounded story and made unnecessarily mystical to a more literal degree. The entire time the characters were what created the mystique, so it was unnecessary and just created further immersion-breaking problems. The ending isn't exactly anti-climactic though. In a way it does tie things together, but it does so in a way more invested readers might've already been expecting. Heck, the characters were already hinting very closely to the revealed causation of everything earlier on. It was only because of their bluffing of how complicated the causation was that I began to doubt. Doing such a thing with their characters, the mangaka should've expected that the readers would be wanting something more complicated to unweave all that he has woven, but he chose a quick end with the new contrived plot elements he adds.

Overall, I enjoyed Oldboy. It has a lot of interesting ideas and much of the experience had a nice genuine feeling with enjoyable characters who feel multidimensional (while in reality not much is divulged, again). I actually watched the american movie before this, things are definitely different to this manga, but I have to say a short experience like that is more fitting to this kind-of journey. I think a movie-length format really would be best to simplify this unnecessarily long story. Time to watch the Japanese version!

EDIT: Watched the *Korean* version and I have to say the manga is much more meaningful than that. The movie has really creative directing reminiscent of Tetsurou Araki (Death Note) though, but overall I think the manga's the better deal.