Naoki Urasawa is an author who I’ve been reading for some time – my interest in him was rekindled recently. His works include MONSTER, 20th Century Boys, Pluto, and Master Keaton. His latest is Billy Bat.
The predominant theme in his stories is conspiracy, on a colossal scale. MONSTER follows a doctor named Tenma on the trail of a brilliant young sociopath. 20th Century Boys is a worldwide conspiracy that finds its humble beginnings in a group of kids’ secret club. Pluto is marketed as TEZUKA X URASAWA, and is a darker retelling of the Astro Boy story arc, “The Greatest Robot in the World”. The length of these stories is tremendous – ranging from 8 volumes to 22 volumes. I say tremendous because he manages to weave a web large enough to sustain the lengths of his books. I’d love to see how he plans his books out. I’d probably kill a man for a glimpse.
Generally when I read comics, I’m reading them in two ways – I’m reading the story and at the same time I tend to break down layouts and sequences that I think work particularly well so I can file them away for later. With Urasawa’s comics, I can’t. They are propellant; I am stuck to the edge of my seat going 300 miles per hour and before I know it I’ve finished a book without stopping. I read MONSTER in the span of about 2 days! It is 18 volumes.
MONSTER especially is a great series to give to someone who dislikes anime and manga. The only Japanese thing about it is the main character and the race relations that occasionally arise – in all other regards, it reads like a good thriller/suspense novel. Urasawa’s mastery of paneling is sublime; his faces are expressive and real. He doesn’t necessarily make you care about all the characters; often what you care about most is whether or not they can help to stop the impending conclusion of the conspiracy in question. There are conspiracies inside conspiracies; small fry get knocked off as the masterminds manipulate their ways closer and closer to what they’re after. You don’t know who is going to get bumped off next, and you are always made to wait just long enough, so that you forget death is a possibility. I could honestly go on for hours, but I won’t! All I’ll say is this: if anything I’ve said sounds interesting, check it out!