By Leroy Douresseaux
Jan 17, 2010 - 8:43
|not simple cover image|
Rated “T+” for “Older Teen”
Ian, a young man with a fractured family history, travels the world – from Australia to England to America – in hopes of reuniting with his troubled sister, Kylie. Jim is a reporter seemingly driven to capture Ian’s experience, which he plans on turning into a novel. And a troubled mother and daughter are Ian’s date with destiny.
THE LOWDOWN: Readers would be forgiven if they mistook not simple, a manga, for an American autobiographical, indie graphic novel. Upon first glance, even not simple’s cover, binding, and production values seem more American small press than major manga publisher. None of the story ever takes place in Japan, and none of the characters are Japanese. Even the art suggests an Oni Press title, although the publisher of this manga is VIZ Media.
It is unfortunate that much of not simple reads like one of those somnambulant alt-comix dramas (like Alex Robinson’s Tricked). not simple is mostly padded drama, but Natsume Ono (like Robinson in Tricked) makes her manga at least a little intriguing by dropping shocking reveals and scandalous family secrets, at least one per chapter. Sometimes, not simple seems like a film noir mystery heading towards an awful date with destiny instead of what it actually is, a gloomy character drama.
The biggest problem here is that neither Ian nor Jim is an actor. Both men are acted upon. Things just happen to them. Much of what happens in the story, in fact, the most of the dramatic and conflict-filled moments, happen off-camera, so to speak. Natsume tells rather than show the best stuff. We see only small moments of Ian’s family’s worse moments. There is really no context to explain their actions because characters talk about other characters’ bad behavior rather than it being shown to us. Everything is oblique, and that’s a shame because there is a really excellent drama not being told here. All we see is the surface stuff – big sad eyes that offer long, sad stares.
POSSIBLE AUDIENCE: Readers who enjoy alt-comix, graphic novel dramas may like not simple.