Sorako by Fujimura Takayuki, translated by GEN Manga
Having discovered manga/manwha on the verge of being old, I often have these delicious moments of ‘gaaaah’-wonder at coming across something original in the graphic industry. So here’s a not-quite-three-years-old publishing niche I recently learned about – I know! What took me so long?!
Meet GEN Manga, purveyors of Indie Manga from the Tokyo Underground, which promises that “GEN stories are published nowhere else in the world. They come straight from the artists in Japan to you. We translate the stories and put them out as they are created.”
While most of GEN’s output thus far – available digitally, or in limited print editions – is via serialized issues of manga and (more recently added) manwha (manga with Korean origins), they’ve also begun offering standalone books. GEN’s latest is a loose collection of slice-of-life episodes that vary in quality and length about an intermittently job-searching young woman named Sorako. The opening sequence is one of the longest, and certainly the most developed, as it introduces Sorako who is waiting for the missing family dog Toma to return. Sorako named Toma after noticing the kanji character for ‘stop’ (止) marking the road on her way home the day the puppy joined the family. Sorako, too, is currently at a stopping point, caught in a limbo of inaction, a sharp contrast to her own name which means ‘a child of the sky.’
Of the shorter, less memorable pieces is a two-page interlude in which Sorako decides that she might swim off a few pounds, but the lack of a swimming cap easily dissuades her from her plans. Again, for now, she’s more comfortable stopping (止) than soaring. In other episodes, a young woman working in a coffee shop dreams of going to England as she practices English with an unseen television voice alone at night, Sorako’s less-than-earnest job search gets a reprieve when she breaks her leg, and in the final story, a young married woman tries to decide if she’s going to study abroad or not (and we see that same ‘stop’ (止) character four pages from the end, this time positioned (cleverly) in the opposite direction.
Sorako is comprised of “indie stories (doujinshi, or independent) so the author creates them as she likes,” explains GEN’s Editor-in-Chief Robert McGuire. “There is no conformity to conventional standards or directional content editing as usually is the case with manga. In other words, she is free, as all artists are at GEN Manga, to experiment. However, because of this a certain amount of avant-garde or unconventionality is common. Readers should enjoy and expect a more artistic approach when reading them. GEN Manga strives to represent otherwise unseen indie manga as it is made in ‘doujinshi circles’ in Japan.”
So there you have it. Unique and uncensored, to expect the unexpected. That’s quite a return for the mere $2.99 digital investment.
Readers: Middle Grade, Young Adult
Published: 2013 (United States)