Manga, like comics tends to get a bum rap as being just 'kid stuff.' There's no denying that some of the most popular and best-selling manga is geared toward teens, there's also some genuinely smart, suspenseful and addictively readable manga geared for grown-ups that rivals any TV show, movie or novel. Astral Project by marginal (a.k.a. Garon Tsuchiya, the author of Old Boy) and Syuji Takeya from CMX Manga is right up there as one of the most thought-provoking new series to come out last year, and undeniably, one of the most masterfully-written manga I've read in a while.
marginal takes a pretty basic formula for a mystery - an anti-hero tries to solve the mysterious death of a relative - and turns it on its ear by injecting out-of-body experiences, avant jazz, Tokyo gangsters, high-end call girls, government conspiracies and even John Coltrane, Francis Bacon and Federico Fellini into the mix. Just when you think you know what's going to happen next, marginal taps you on the other shoulder and slaps you with a plot twist you never saw coming. It alternates between being mind-blowing, bizarre, fascinating, gritty and ethereal. And surprisingly, this odd mix... works. Once I picked it up, I got immersed into the story and didn't come up for air until the last page.
Check out my reviews of Astral Project Volume 1 and Volume 2 and see if you can resist picking up this curiously compelling seinen manga series. Also, if you're intrigued, get a free sampling of this story with this online preview of Astral Project Volume 1.
Image credit: © marginal, Syuji Takeya 2006