COMIC BOOK REVIEW: HENSHIN / AUTHOR: KEN NIIMURA / ARTIST: KEN NIIMURA / PUBLISHER: IMAGE COMICS / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW
Esiner and International Manga Award-winning artist Ken Niimura (I Kill Giants) has written and illustrated this substantial set of thirteen stories under the theme of Henshin (or transformation). Running at nearly 300 black and white pages, this is a quirky and sometimes surreal set of stories very rooted in Japanese life.
Being a translation of a set of stories originally set in Japanese, Henshin is presented in what to Western readers is back to front printing. If you aren’t familiar with this it takes some getting used to and adds to the surreal experience of reading some of these stories.
The stories have a range of fascinations: cats, bodily functions, obsessions (with cats and bodily functions, and bodily functions of cats), death, obedience and several more besides. Each story is really a vignette, a flavour of a story but sometimes just a few scenes where the reader pieces the greater meaning together as they reflect.
Artistically, the style very much suggests action and comic in the normal meaning of the word – character perspective alters scene by scene, backgrounds are sketched at best, there is no attempt at creating a realistic looking world. Much is minimal, sharing the basic premise and nothing more. Here is the flaw with this for the casual reader – there is a large sense of so what? It is difficult to care for most of the characters, and the stories that present what might be a twist in the tail pack little emotional punch.
If this type of Japanese comic strip is to your taste then this probably rates 7 or even 8 out of 10. Anybody else will find this heavy going.
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