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GoGo Monster

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GoGo Monster by Taiyo Matsumoto from VIZ Media

GoGo Monster

© 2000 Taiyou MATSUMOTO/Shogakukan

The Bottom Line

First grader Yuki Tachibana says he can see and talk to 'monsters' -- but are these creatures just a figment of a disturbed child's imagination, or is he the only one who can sense the impending war between two factions of supernatural beings who are haunting his school?

Using the same distinctive, gritty linework he used in Tekkon Kinkreet, Matsumoto takes readers down a surreal, sinister rabbit hole to a land where the boundaries between reality and nightmares blur. Innovative, mesmerizing and memorable, GoGo Monster will suck you in and won't let you up for air until the very last page.

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Pros

  • Masterful visual storytelling with simple premise told with surprising, surreal twists
  • Matsumoto has a distinctive art style that blurs the line between reality and fantasy effortlessly
  • A surreal, poetic tale that's full of thought-provoking themes and uncommon beauty
  • Simply gorgeous and thoughtful book design that turns the entire book into a work of art
  • A one-shot, complete-in-one-volume story that any comics connoisseur can pick up and enjoy.

Cons

  • Matsumoto's storytelling is somewhat ambiguous, leaving readers to sort out what really happened
  • With a few similar-looking characters, it takes a little extra effort to sort out who's who and what

Description

Guide Review - GoGo Monster

First grader Yuki Tachibana is different than his classmates. He scribbles mysterious doodles on his desk and seems to see monsters. His classmates think he's strange, and his teacher thinks he's disturbed -- but Yuki and the school groundskeeper know better. There are two factions of supernatural forces at school and they're about to go to war.

If drawn by any other manga-ka, this simple premise would be full of fantastic creatures, inter-dimensional realms, bodacious babes and blood-spattering combat. But GoGo Monster is not your average manga -- it takes a much more subtle and more sinister approach. With each page, Matsumoto drops in hints of 'monsters' that only Yuki can see, and masterfully ramps up the tension, but not in the way you might expect.

With each face hidden in raindrops or lurking in shadows, Matsumoto takes readers down a surreal rabbit hole that leaves them questioning the boys' sanity. Like most manga, GoGo Monster requires that the reader suspend their disbelief against improbable events. While you never actually see the 'monsters' you might expect in GoGo Monster, it's more chilling that these creatures are depicted as subtle but ominous presences that only a few special children can see.

GoGo Monster was originally released as a standalone volume instead of being serialized monthly. As a result, Matsumoto doesn't waste time with repetitious recaps with each new chapter -- the story flows as a single, uninterrupted story. This only heightens the hypnotic effect as this Yuki loses touch with "Super Star," the benevolent spirit who haunts his school, and gets closer to the darkness that threatens to engulf his world.

Much as in Tekkon Kinkreet, Matsumoto's artwork has the same gritty, brittle linework and dramatic contrasts of black and white that make his style so distinctive. There are also similar themes of boys on the fringes of the "normal" world because they refuse to conform to the soul-killing rules of school/society. Is Yuki just fearful of 'growing up' -- or is he really someone who can touch a reality that's truer than what his classmates and teachers can see?

To their credit, VIZ Media resisted the urge to release GoGo Monster as a (cheaper) paperback edition, and honored the hardcover, slip-cased presentation of the Japanese edition. It's a good thing too, because everything from the slipcover to the wrap-around printing that extends to the edges of the pages is as much a part of the story as the pages within.

If there's any shortcomings to GoGo Monster, it's that it doesn't give readers a clear-cut idea of what exactly happens when Yuki crosses the threshold past the black door, nor what the monsters look like or what they want. It's all left purposely ambiguous. This may frustrate readers who crave more straight-forward exposition, but this open-ended storytelling allows readers to fill in the blanks, and that makes GoGo Monster a disturbing and memorable artistic tour de force.

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