I’m an otaku. Or at least I used to be.
Because now I don’t really hunt or read Japanese manga as much and as often as I used to. Right now, the only mangas that I’m currently following are Meitantei Conan (a.k.a. Case Closed) and Fushigi Yuugi Genbu Kaiden. Those two are probably the only latest mangas that I like. What I mean is that I don’t really enjoy mangas anymore as I used to, because I find the new era of mangas now doesn’t really suit me. KISS-ly: I hate the new era of manga.
Please don’t ask me why.
Okay. Do ask me. Please.
Fine, I’ll explain it anyway.
I find the newer mangas nowadays are… mostly silly and the story usually irrational.
Well, of course, that’s what mangas are all about. I know, I know that. But somehow I think… that even in a level of irrationality, there’s still a rational stage in it.
I’m talking about the romances and love chemistry in the current mangas.
The newer ones now simply put a cute guy and a cute girl (if not ugly) together in the same room, and then they simply fell in love with each other and then BAM! Happy ending.
Or perhaps it’s started a cute guy who just wanna play around, then he met an innocent cute girl, who doesn’t really realize she’s actually attractive, and the girl happen to be very naive, so the guy decided to make the girl one of his victim. In a sense that he’d play around with the girl and then abandon her after he’s… satisfied. In the end, the girl would become broken hearted, but at the same time, the guy realized that he actually fell in love with the girl, so he’d tried to win her back and bam–happy ending.
(What’s with all these ‘bam’??)
Not to mention other romance manga which are also partially sci-fi and action, and then the mangaka simply mix the genres altogether and hence, Tsubasa Reservoir Chronicles was created.
Don’t get me wrong. I love Tsubasa Chronicles. I love it as much as I hate it. Why? Because the story is beyond complicated.
If you know Inuyasha and you haven’t read or watch Tsubasa Chronicles, believe me, it’s more complicated than that. You know, CLAMP. I love them, and at the same time hate them.
Anyway, I don’t wanna talk about new mangas that I hate or how much I detest them. But those explanations above are practically the reason why I stick to old mangas.
Wait. Correction: Those explanations above are the reason why I love mangakas from the older era. My version of older era. You know, Kyoko Hikawa, Mito Orihara, Watase Yuu, Yuriko Nishiyama, and most definitely Gosho Aoyama.
I haven’t really read any of Mito Orihara’s work recently, but I remember becoming very fond of her work because the last time I read her works, she mostly made manga in which the story are usually based on real events. We all know that most true stories which are adapted into movies and books are the inspiring ones. Ones that could make the readers shed their tears. Well, Mito Orihara did that.
And then Gosho Aoyama. I have to confess that I only read one of his work so far, which is Case Closed, or also known as Meitantei Conan. He had other works, and one of them is a series called Yaiba, but so far, Case Closed is his most famous one, I guess.
Case Closed, based on its name, of course, is not a romance. Or at least, it is not meant to be a romance. It’s a mystery. Criminal series, to be exact, with Kudo Shinichi, in his shrunken form, a.k.a. alter-ego Edogawa Conan, as the mystery solver. However, Gosho Aoyama sure remembers to put a little romance here and there. There’s always some romance that he managed to put inside the case, either its a love story between Shinichi and Ran, or Takagi and Miwako, and lately, Shiratori and Kobayashi-sensei.
What I like about Case Closed is that, despite the silliness of the romance between the characters, they never really out of place. I, as the reader, always see this romance interrupting the case seems natural, and sometimes even hilarious. And the chemistry that happen between those characters always seems natural and normal to me. Kudo Shinichi sure is charming, but he didn’t simply see Ran Mouri and then suddenly fell in love without reason. He didn’t approach Ran and then suddenly the two fell in love, or worse: he didn’t kiss Ran one second after he met her (which mostly is the plot in the newer manga these days).
Anyway, it’s not Case Closed that I really wanna talk about in this post. Here, I wanna share one of my all-time favorite manga (other than Case Closed and Genbu Kaiden), an old manga, but still very dearly loved and adored by me, a sci-fi romance called Kanata Kara, or From Far Away in the English version.
Just a quick summary, From Far Away tells a story about a young girl called Noriko Tachiki, who was trapped in a complete different world, as The Awakening of that world. There’s been a prophecy saying that one day, an Awakening would come into that world, to force a Sky Demon to appear into that world one day and whoever got ahold of both The Awakening and The Sky Demon would rule the world. Yet, nobody knew at that time (in the first volume of the series) that both the Sky Demon and the Awakening take form of a normal human being. No one ever realized until that time that a handsome skinny guy named Izark Kia-Taj is actually the Sky Demon itself. Izark, though, understood completely from the day he was born, that he was meant to become a Sky Demon one day, with the arrival of the Awakening.
So Izark, knowing the prediction when and where the Awakening would appear, waited for Noriko and intended to kill her right away. But even Izark was surprised at the fact that the Awakening was only a little girl. And despite the cruel intention, Izark was actually a kind-hearted guy. So, realizing that the Awakening was simply an innocent girl who didn’t even know why she was there, Izark canceled his plan to kill her. What he didn’t predict was that he’d take care of Noriko herself for quite some time because he simply couldn’t leave Noriko alone. Even though he keep complaining (to himself and to his fate, of course), Izark took a good care of Noriko.
Long story made short, Izark and Noriko finally fell in love with each other. It happened after a long struggle, though. Izark, knowing the exact fate of his and Noriko’s didn’t want to admit his love for Noriko, at first. Even after Noriko declared her love for him, Izark rejected her. But when Noriko finally realized the reason she was thrown into that world, that is to make Izark the Sky Demon, and when Noriko finally decided to leave Izark alone because she felt guilty not knowing about the fate yet she kept clinging on Izark over and over, Izark finally realize he couldn’t stand losing Noriko.
What really interest me is the parts afterwards.
I know. When I first read the manga, and those scenes I described above happened in volume 7–I thought that it was the ending. An open ending, to be exact, as at the end of the book, Izark and Noriko were shown to travel by themselves, trying to figure out ways to escape from their horrible fate. So as a reader, I simply concluded that the ending would be a typical happy one: as they travel and make their own journey, they would soon be able to change their fate and live happily ever after.
But it turns out that’s not the end.
Which kinda sucks, yet at the same time, it really touches me.
So, as the journey went on, Noriko and Izark met many people who turns out to be hopeful people, who always believe that fate is not an absolute thing, but something that people determined based on their mind, want, and action. So, Noriko and Izark became more and more hopeful that they could someday change their fate.
Meanwhile, one major antagonist, named Rachef, began to know the existence of The Awakening and the Sky Demon in their human form, and so he began to chase them. After realizing that Izark’s weakness is Noriko–that he would do anything to ensure Noriko’s safety, including losing his conscience and sense by transforming into the Sky Demon–Rachef tried to separate Noriko and Izark. When he succeeded, he tortured Izark and made him powerless so that he could be thrown into darkness and then transformed completely into a Sky Demon. This, however, was the turning point.
As Noriko struggled and finally made her way to get to Izark, Izark saw Noriko and finally realized that what he’d been doing all these time were wrong. He shouldn’t reject his fate and the prophecy that came with it. Instead, he should’ve accepted his faith and embraced it. After that, he would soon able to change it instead of trying to escape from it. So, Izark finally broke the chain which had bounded and tied him to his fate as the Sky Demon and fled with Noriko.
The funny thing that I couldn’t get out of my mind is that the fact that in the manga, Izark was described as a very handsome man, and also absolutely strong. Other than Izark, people in that world are exactly the same normal human being like the ones in Noriko’s world (the same world as ours). Izark had his super power such as controlling and wind and fire, as well as being incredibly strong because he was the Sky Demon. So, it’s actually the typical love story where the guy is perfect. Good looking, awfully strong and at the same time, incredibly kind and loving. Oh, yes, Noriko is a very lucky girl. That’s what I thought.
But then, as I continued reading the manga, I realized that it wasn’t a mere “luck.” Many things has happened between Izark and Noriko. Izark and Noriko didn’t fall in love with each other coincidentally.
Falling in love with Izark sure is an easy thing. I know I’m very much infatuated with Izark. But falling in love with Noriko is a special thing.
As the story goes on, it would soon revealed that despite his strong and perfect appearance, Izark is actually very fragile and sensitive inside. It is stated many times in the manga that when Noriko was out of sight, Izark looked like a lost child, looking for something to grip. Something to hold onto. Izark might be strong physically, but Noriko is stronger mentally.
Izark fell in love with Noriko because she was still much in love with him even after she knew he was a monster. Sure I would love to have someone as gorgeous as Jared Padalecki. But if he’s a monster, I don’t think I would still stay by his side and accept him as he is, knowing that behind those handsome features, there’s a monster inside.
Well, that’s a metaphor, though. I might as well fall in love with a monster one day. Who knows.
Anyway, let’s focus on Izark and Noriko.
So, what strangers and friends might not know is that, Izark was strong because of Noriko. It was Noriko that supported Izark mentally. She accepted Izark as he was, and she understood Izark completely, including his weaknessed which he didn’t realize himself. This was shown very obviously when Izark decided to fight a monster alone, refusing others’ offer to help (and he didn’t really need their help, indeed, since he was really strong), and went ahead to the war zone itself. Noriko saw Izark running very fast ahead, leaving Noriko and their friends safely behind, and she thought to herself, “Izark is strong. Incredibly strong. But with that strength comes the consequences. He’s really strong that he thought he should manage everything himself. He didn’t realize we’re here to help him. He didn’t realize I’m here to help. Poor Izark.”* Izark didn’t even understand the feeling of self-pity!
Maybe I’m exaggerating, but I really love the roller-coaster of emotion that Kyoko Hikawa offered in this masterpiece. There’s reasons behind reasons, and there’s consequences. One thing relates to another, and they all make a unity.
Of course, the story doesn’t merely focus on Izark and Noriko relationship alone. It tells the story of the world in the book itself, about the conflicts that happen in the country–how darkness pushes the good in people, and these makes honest and loyal leaders from many countries being replaced by evil, manipulated, corrupted people. And there’s this one man, called Jeida–a very wise man–who said, “I felt very helpless to see how this world became corrupted and that there’s nothing I could do to change the world and make it a better place. But the more helpless I feel, the more upset I feel toward myself. I ask why I don’t have any super power to save this world. But after I tried to accept myself as it is, after I tried to accept my limits, I realize that with that limit, I should do whatever I could. There are others, most definitely, who feel the same as I do, and would try whatever they could to change this world. These actions might not worth much, but when more and more people do the same, these actions would be noticeable and would finally become worthy. And together, these actions would finally able to change the world.”*
I know it’s a simple things, and a simple saying. Perhaps I’m exaggerating it by adoring the words so much, but I really think it’s very meaningful.
What I’m really amazed at is how Kyoko Hikawa could convey these moral messages in a fun way, in which otaku like me could enjoy. At the same time, I’m amazed at her concept of Izark’s world–the same way I’m also amazed with the world of James Cameron‘s Avatar. To me, creating such concept is not an easy thing, so when I see works, stories, or whatever masterpieces with such (almost) flawless concept, I’m so much in awe. I really am.
The end of From Far Away is rather boring, though. You know, starting from half of the series (volume 14), the stories become very much predictable and there’s really no climax or conflicts in it anymore. It’s all anti-climax and happy endings for everybody, so, yeah, it’s rather boring. But without that last volume, Noriko and Izark wouldn’t have their closure, and From Far Away would never end. So, I admit I really am satisfied with the story. And Kyoko Hikawa, I’m in awe.
*The dialogue might not be exactly the same as in the manga as I wrote it down based on memory, but the message and the ideas are basically the same.