By Leroy Douresseaux
Feb 28, 2010 - 12:39
|GoGo Monster slipcase cover image courtesy of barnesandnoble.com.|
Rated “T” for Teen
GoGo Monster, a thick manga graphic novel by Taiyo Matsumoto (Tekkonkinkreet), takes readers into the make-believe life of a third grader. A mystery and sleight-of-hand fantasy, GoGo Monster asks what is real and what is childhood obsession?
Third grader Yuki Tachibana lives in two worlds. In one world, our world, Yuki is a loner ridiculed by his classmates and reprimanded by his teachers for telling stories of supernatural beings that only he can see. In the other world, these supernatural beings vie for power with malevolent spirits that bring chaos into the school, the students’ lives, and even nature itself.
In Grade 3, Class 2, Yuki is a good student, but he is preoccupied with the struggle between his good supernatural friends and the bad ones who break windows and paint graffiti on the school walls. Makoto Suzuki is the new kid sitting next to Yuki, and although the other students warn him against this, this boy becomes Yuki’s steady companion. Yuki also finds sympathy in Ganz, the elderly caretaker of the school’s flower and vegetable gardens and also Sasaki a.k.a. IQ, a boy who wears a large box over his head. Makoto isn’t sure if Yuki is making up his fantasy world or not, while Ganz and IQ are cagey about what they believe. As he becomes more withdrawn, Yuki will have to depend on the friends that stick with him – whether he realizes it or not.
The answer to whether Yuki Tachibana’s claims are true or not is obvious to most readers, but the validity of this child’s fantasies are not necessarily the heart of GoGo Monster’s narrative. The genre to which Monster is closest is not fantasy, but rather the coming of age story. In fact, Monster is a coming of age story presented in such a fashion that the reader must be a detective – searching for the truth by discovering Tachibana’s motivations and by dissecting what little of his past is presented to the reader. The star of the story is Yuki Tachibana and he doesn’t disappoint.
Taiyo Matsumoto’s tale mixes environmental and green metaphors and symbols which gives the story’s themes of renewal and rebirth, not only for Yuki, but also for his classmates. What Matsumoto does best, however, is engage the reader. Matsumoto structures the story so that the reader is constantly trying to find the truth. The execution of this comics or graphical storytelling is such that the reader is always looking for something – a strange looking creature or a subtle movement in the face of a staff member or student at the school – that will answer a question.
You will want answers, and you will be won over by this maddening complicated child, Yuki Tachibana. He is our surrogate into this literary world. GoGo Monster is a monster of a read, filled with a sense of wonder about the natural world, about the supernatural world, and also about living in the real world.