The Fable (Manga) add (All reviews)
Jul 11, 2022
The story of Akira Satou's assignment to leave his assassin ways behind him takes us through several dark and dangerous situations passed on as completely mundane annoyances or inconveniences. Conflicts are constantly born out of the simple desires of the antagonists, who treat their actions with careful planning and calm cruelty. The story works because of this. The seeming banal response of the characters and even the story itself to what is normally considered tense and suspenseful in any other manga draws you in, buttering you up with its black but lighthearted comedy. Then the story will slowly transition to an actual tense and thrilling climax, as both the protagonists and antagonists meet to duke it out. This plays out multiple times, and yet each time a new twist or subversion is added, preventing the arc from becoming stale.
This manga is incredibly detailed, most likely using a lot of sketching over actual photographs for its backgrounds. But unlike a manga like Dr. Stone, where the backgrounds feel more like a compressed and photoshopped image, the backgrounds in The Fable look like they were drawn manually. I have no understanding of digital art, so I have no clue how this was done, but it is impressive all the same. Meanwhile, the characters are drawn very realistically, with every detail in their face and clothing in view at all times. Because of this, there are very few times where the characters themselves emote or express themselves in a unique way, but when they do it's meant for comedic effect, and it always lands. However, there is sometimes a lack of variety in both panel composition and layout. Sometimes the panels can start to blend together and get a bit samey. This is a dialogue-driven series, so other than the full page and double spreads, don't expect a whole lot of creative shots or interesting angles.
The seeming mundanity of fighting and killing can only be expressed when the characters themselves treat it as such. But there needs to be a way to express a difference between emotionless and cold-blooded killers, and assassins who have adapted to and understand their way of life. This is what makes Satou, Youko and many of the other assassins such good characters. They have been raised in their ways since they were young, and while characters like Youko have not completely separated themselves from their humanity, characters like Satou have in a way that has not made them callous or sociopathic. It is this that gravitates these characters above edgy overpowered Saitama-esque jokes into well rounded, and very complex characters. Meanwhile, the more normal characters, such as the lowly yakuza henchmen, Misaki, or Satou's new boss, are both incredibly funny and genuine at heart, which helps display Satou's growing humanity in a subtle yet beautiful way.
The Fable manages to do all which it seeks to accomplish. When it tried to be funny I laughed, when it tried to be tense I was worried, and when it tried to be grounded and sad I felt the pit in my stomach sink ever so slightly. There is nothing quite like this manga, both in style and substance, and it's probably in my top 10 manga of all time. So if you got the hours to put away pick up this manga, it's a long ride but it is well worth it.
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