Welcome to Kowloon Walled Metropolis―a dystopian townscape full of individuals brimming with nostalgia and a spot the place the previous, current, and future converge.
After we first meet bespectacled Reiko Kujirai, she’s consuming slices of watermelon and smoking a cigarette on her balcony within the sweltering warmth of a Hong Kong summer time morning. It is a specific predilection of hers; she finds the cigarette tastes higher after consuming the candy watermelon. Then she’s off to work at Wong Lo Realty Firm, just a little agency with a boss the incorrect aspect of center age and one different worker, Hajime Kudou, an easy-going younger man. Kujirai and Kudou have one thing of a prickly relationship each out and in of the workplace, regardless that they normally eat lunch collectively. And it’s whereas they’re consuming lunch that Kudou sees Kujirai placing in eye drops. She’s been having hassle along with her prescription glasses – so she’s been utilizing the extremely popular Hebinuma eye drops. Kudou is sceptical about Hebinuma; the sweetness merchandise of the agency are being marketed in all places, utilizing their little snake mascot (‘hebi’ means snake in Japanese). He tells Kujirai to go and get her eyes examined. When she returns to the workplace, she’s not sporting her glasses; apparently, her imaginative and prescient is so improved that she doesn’t want them anymore! Their boss is approving however Kudou not a lot; he turns away from her, muttering, “I just like the glasses higher.” Nonetheless, she’s found that ‘when your eyesight improves, you begin noticing stuff you didn’t see earlier than.’ She’s begun to look on her co-worker in a distinct mild, regardless that his cruel teasing of her doesn’t present any indicators of abating.
After which there’s Generic Terra. Floating excessive within the sky above Kowloon, it’s ostensibly a authorities venture ‘a brand new world for mankind… primarily based on protected and complex expertise, its development continues to make progress.’ Kudou is sceptical however Kujirai turns up on the workplace sporting a Generic Terra T-shirt… and so they begin bickering once more.
One factor they do appear to agree on is Kowloon itself. Kudou waxes lyrical after they’re having a smoke on the highest of their constructing, saying as the 2 gaze out over the town, “The individuals who stay right here – they’re all in love with Kowloon. This nostalgic Kowloon. So Kowloon won’t ever change. It shouldn’t change. ‘Cos it doesn’t want something new.”
Nonetheless, there’s additionally been a report of unusual noises coming from one in every of their properties in Naam Caangh Avenue – with every kind of theories as to what could be the supply, together with, inevitably, one thing scary and supernatural.
Then comes the day Kudou takes Kujirai to the Goldfish Teahouse (with an aquarium) the place the smiling barman appears to acknowledge them and brings over slices of watermelon ‘on the home’. Kujirai can’t resist lighting up and admits that she likes to smoke whereas consuming watermelon. Kudou then says that he is aware of ‘somebody’ else with that uncommon behavior however gained’t be drawn additional as to who that could be. Later, he buys her a goldfish (like those within the café). She thinks she could be falling in love with him… however when she tries to search out her means again there, she will be able to’t find the place and all Kudou does is tease her for being a realtor with no sense of course. One thing isn’t fairly proper…
Once in a while, I come throughout a manga that provides me the chills – good chills! – as a result of it’s such a well-drawn and engrossing learn that I’ve reached the top of the quantity earlier than I’ve observed I’ve been turning the pages. Kowloon Generic Romance is a type of uncommon titles – though as a fan of Jun Mayuzuki’s After the Rain, I already had excessive expectations. Kowloon Generic Romance is nothing like After the Rain – besides, after all, in relation to the mangaka’s distinctive graphic type, luminous color work and present for creating attention-grabbing, advanced characters. Right here, the overcrowded, bustling Kowloon is a personality in its personal proper – and by putting Reiko Kujirai and Hajime Kudou in an actual property agency, they’re intimately concerned each day with sustaining the bricks and mortar of the place. The gang scenes depicting Kowloon teeming with life, the high-rise tower blocks squeezed so shut along with their washing strains and balconies, the graffiti and posters polluting the slim alleyways, draw the reader in; you possibly can nearly odor the road meals on sale. If the writer’s blurb for this primary quantity comes throughout as just a little imprecise, there’s an excellent cause for its opacity. As a result of all the things will not be because it appears in Kowloon – removed from it!
The mangaka can also be very expert at getting the steadiness between thriller and comedy excellent. The little scene the place Kujirai persuades the reluctant Kudou into shopping for and consuming crepes (after which insists on taking a photograph of him along with her good telephone) is one in every of many temporary however telling vignettes that reveal a lot in regards to the difficult chemistry between the characters. Simply as in After the Rain, Jun Mayuzuki actually is aware of learn how to inform a narrative in photos in addition to dialogue, timing essentially the most impactful photos to observe a page-turn.
However why has Yen Press given this an ‘Mature’ ranking and shrink-wrapped the copies? I’m greater than just a little mystified by this. Jun Mayuzuki attracts her heroine Kujirai in a really sensual (and a few may say, sexualized) means. However there’s nothing right here that goes wherever close to matching the M-rated warning given (by Vertical) to the fabric in Sensei’s Pious Lie or the distressing points touched on within the upcoming quantity of New York, New York.
Amanda Haley delivers a translation that flows easily for this enticing Yen Press commerce paperback version, dealing expertly with the Chinese language Cantonese vocabulary within the textual content (Kowloon is in Hong Kong, in any case) in addition to the dialogue and inside ideas of the principle characters. Abigail Blackman’s lettering helps an awesome deal to convey all these as properly. A web page of translation notes on the finish is an added bonus: largely avenue names and meals however attention-grabbing, however. It additionally accommodates this clarification: ‘Kowloon Walled Metropolis was as soon as essentially the most populated place on earth with about 33,000 folks dwelling on 6.5 acres in high-rise towers.’ There’s extra… however it could perhaps flip right into a spoiler of types to share it right here, simply as it could positively be a spoiler to debate what occurs within the last chapter of the primary quantity.
Kowloon Generic Romance is a type of uncommon manga that, whereas being onerous to categorize, is an enchanting and charming learn. There are photos which is able to give readers a real frisson – and the ingenious means the mangaka is revealing the story will make them very wanting to seize the following quantity as quickly because it comes out (November 2022)!