Go with the Clouds, North-by-Northwest’s first volume stands out for its artwork and its mystery. Written and illustrated by Aki Irie, the same mangaka behind VIZ’s Ran and the Gray World, it stars 17-year-old Kei Miyama, a brooding young detective. Part Japanese, Kei is living in Iceland with his French grandfather and solving cases that come his way. His parents are dead and his younger brother is back in Japan.
At first the book follows Kei on some of his cases, including returning a missing dog. But then his own life takes a turn for the weird when he’s unable to reach his brother or the aunt and uncle the brother is staying with. Kei quickly flies back to Japan, where the mystery continues to deepen. Not only does he learn that his aunt and uncle are dead, but his brother is missing. Kei returns to Iceland, where he’s confronted by a Japanese policeman who insists the brother is behind the deaths of the aunt and uncle. Kei doesn’t believe this for a second, but something fishy is definitely going on. Is he detective enough to solve the riddle?
A few clues about the brother surface, though not much. Flashbacks show the two boys as children, and how even then Kei was an out-of-the-box thinker who liked to take video game consoles apart to figure out how they work. Very little is said about the deceased parents, leaving plenty of room to fill in these gaps later.
There are a number of other things going on at the same time. The grandfather has a mysterious connection with birds. A beautiful young woman keeps showing up and Kei is frazzled and unsure what to make of her. As cool as he is with his swagger and his sunglasses, he doesn’t know how to put on any of the charm when he’s around her. How all these things might be connected is pretty unclear, and the whole manga has an almost dreamlike quality to it. Irie has a cinematic style for some of the paneling, and sometimes landscape panels go by without a single word and you just feel the vastness and beauty of Iceland. At first the book moves very languidly and gradually, though as more parts of the story come together, the pace picks up. There is still something avant-garde about it, and it will be very interesting to see where Irie takes the series next.
Story & Art: Aki Irie
Danica Davidson, along with Japanese mangaka Rena Saiya, is the author of Manga Art for Intermediates. In addition to showing how to draw manga character types in detail, the book describes how professional Japanese manga creators work, including common techniques and what drawing utensils they use.