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Genkaku Picasso Volume 1

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Genkaku Picasso Volume 1 by Usumaru Furuya, from Shonen Jump Manga / VIZ Media

Genkaku Picasso Volume 1

GENKAKU PICASSO © 2008 by Usumaru Furuya/SHUEISHA Inc.

The Bottom Line

Hikari Hamura loves to draw, so his classmates have given him the nickname "Picasso." But when a horrible accident claims the life of his best friend, Hikari is given a second chance at life, with a catch: he must help other people with his drawings.

Art geeks rejoice, your shonen manga ship has arrived. Smart, strange and surreal, Genkaku Picasso isn't going to outsell Naruto or Bleach. But maybe that's the point, as seinen manga auteur Usamaru Furuya tweaks tried, true (and often tired) shonen manga plot formulas to delve into the dark side of teen angst with some unexpectedly heartwarming twists.

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Pros

  • Offers a uniquely creative and psychological twist on shonen manga mystery stories
  • Hikari's images of his classmates' inner torment are filled with fascinating symbolic imagery
  • It looks dark, but it has some meaningful messages to share with teen readers
  • A quirky mix of social commentary, goth imagery and wry humor that keeps you guessing
  • Furuya's art style is uniquely his own; at once elegant and creepy, dark and occasionally silly.

Cons

  • Includes some disturbing imagery that occasionally feels gratuitous
  • Chiaki isn't given much character development, which seems like a missed opportunity
  • Some stories get resolved just a little too neatly, a bit too abruptly

Description

  • Original Title: Genkaku Picasso (Japan)
  • Author & Artist: Usamaru Furuya
  • Publishers:
  • ISBN: 978-1421536750
  • Cover Price: $9.99 US / $12.99 CANADA
  • Age Rating: OT – Older Teens, Age 16+ for some scenes of bondage, violence
    More about content ratings.
  • Manga Genres:
  • US Publication Date:November 2010
    Japan Publication Date: February 2009
  • Book Description: 256 pages, black and white illustrations
  • More Manga by Usamaru Furuya:
    • No Longer Human
    • Short Cuts

Guide Review - Genkaku Picasso Volume 1

Hikari Hamura loves to draw, so his classmates have given him the nickname "Picasso." After a horrible accident claims the life of his best friend Chiaki, Hikari is given a second chance at life, with a catch: he must help other people with his drawings. If he doesn't, his arm will rot away.

Now Hikari can do more than just draw pictures: he can see into people's hearts and create images that offer insight into their innermost thoughts, fears and dreams. On top of that, he and his friend Chiaki can enter the worlds depicted in these drawings to heal the hurt from within.

Shonen manga, especially Shonen Jump manga tends to follow a tried and true formula: a young boy strives to be the strongest fighter, the mightiest athlete, the most clever gamer. To reach his goal, the hero must defeat a seemingly endless stream of ever-stronger opponents on his road to greatness. And then there's Hikari, a skinny and socially awkward kid who isn't striving to be the greatest anything, anywhere — he just wants to keep his arm from rotting off.

With its reluctant hero and his smart female sidekick, Genkaku Picasso offers a fresh take on shonen manga without abandoning the things that make it so much fun to read. This is likely because Furuya, a creator who is best known for seinen manga with exquisite art and twisted, dark humor (Short Cuts) isn't your typical shonen manga artist.

Rather rehashing the "fighting to be the best" theme, Furuya offers readers a mystery series with a twist: Hikari draws disturbing images that mirror his classmates' inner torment, then he and Chiaki must go inside the pictures to solve a psychological mystery. Hikari's pictures aren't easy to decode, which makes for some surprising twists. In some cases, Furuya uses these dream pictures to send Hikari on some disturbing detours, but somehow always manages to steer things back to a heartwarming resolution in the end.

It's as if Furuya likes to shock his readers with images of bondage, dying animals and Goth rockers, then says "psyche!" as he makes a sharp right turn to sunnier, albeit tamer territory. It's a subversive approach, and that's part of what makes Genkaku Picasso so intriguing.

Another thing that makes Genkaku Picasso worth reading is Furuya's artwork. It's refined and delicate with a dark edge — an atypical style for shonen manga. Furuya also alternates between crisp inked linework and soft pencil sketches to delineate the differences between the "real" and "inner" worlds. It's a creative, cerebral, and occasionally wry take on a genre that usually favors action over irony. Genkaku Picasso is shonen manga for an underserved demographic: art geeks.

Smart, strange and surreal, Genkaku Picasso is too quirky to topple Naruto from his throne. However, it gets points for venturing into new territory, and in shonen manga, that's a lot harder than it looks.

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Disclosure: A review copy was provided by the publisher. For more information, please see our Ethics Policy.
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