Utsubora: The Story of a Novelist serves up the first work from mangaka Asumiko Nakamura to be made available in English, and it makes for a hell of an introduction. Nakamura’s tale of an author wrestling against his own snowballing plagiarism and its source—an enigmatic pair of women who appear to be linked to both him and his writing—is tightly plotted and beautifully paced, making for over 400 pages that beg to be revisited.
Shun Mizorogi is an old-fashioned dandy of an author, and his currently serialized work “Utsubora” is garnering quite a following. Suspicions begin to surround him, however, when an unidentified girl commits suicide, her last call having been made to Mizorogi. What relationship does he have to the girl and her similarly mystifying sister, and which one of the three is really responsible for writing Utsubora?
The answers to these questions don’t come easy, and following their esoteric trail is a real treat. Nakamura has an expert grasp of how to pace a comic, with panels spaced and positioned perfectly for natural beats and suspenseful transitions. The art itself is at times reminiscent of a more seasoned Natsume Ono (House of Five Leaves, Ristorante Paradiso). Thin lines trace subtle expressions, and she knows when to leave something obscured and when showing it all best serves the story and atmosphere.
Utsubora does an admirable job of leaving some of its mystery intact by the time it all ends; not in a frustrating way but in a manner that doesn’t trip over itself in an attempt to spell everything out. As a result, it wasn’t long before I wanted to dig into it again from the top, looking for any details I may have missed the first time around. Nakamura’s work is a great example of how carefully crafted comics can move all types of readers along deliberately and on their own terms, and anyone who appreciates the medium will be glad they picked it up.
Publisher: Vertical Inc.
Story & Art: Asumiko Nakamura
© nakamura Inc. 2012