Utsubora: The Story of a Novelist by Asumiko Nakamura, translated by Yoshito Hinton
Important warnings first: this is definitely NOT a kiddie manga, so parents (!!) – be sure to keep this well out of reach from curious young ‘uns. The word ‘graphic’ is especially relevant here, and is definitely not intended or appropriate for younger eyes. Creator Asumiko Nakamura’s elongated, thinly-outlined, eerily gorgeous characters are especially effective in upping the freak-out-factor.
As if to immediately dispel all illusion that this manga will be anything but a vivid frightfest, the opening double-page-spread begins with a plunging suicide, head first. So destroyed is the victim’s face that she must be identified by the only two phone numbers that appear in the call history of a cell phone found at the death site … which leads to the meeting of her estranged identical twin sister and a famous reclusive author.
The relationship between Shun Mizorogi, the legendary writer, with the much younger dead woman, Aki Fujino, is quickly revealed when he goes to her apartment, led there by her twin Sakura Miki. He is there with a clear goal – to find the next chapters of Utsubora, a highly acclaimed novel being serialized in a prestigious publication. While the story publicly bears Mizorogi’s name, its authorship is not exactly his own. Sakura, of course, knows far too much. While you’ll probably not be surprised at how that replacement relationship progresses, the players’ motives will likely shock you.
Meanwhile, in the midst of Mizorogi’s dramatic new complications with the doppelgänger, everyone else in his life seems to be affected by the suicide. His live-in teenage niece, Koyomi, might be developing a less-than-familial attachment to him; both his oldest friend Yatabe (also a venerated writer) and his new editor Tsuji begin to suspect his literary output; and even the two officers investigating the suicide are interested far beyond their official duties, especially when they discover that Aki Fujino never existed. Identity, authenticity, authorship, creation, rebirth … yes, that’s all in there.
Got goosebumps? Heed this advice: don’t read this alone late at night …
Readers: Adult (sealed and packaged with an “Ages 18+” warning)
Published: 2013 (United States)