Tuesday, 9 April 2013

Samrat Poonia

Crossing Midnight is a Japanese inspired graphic novel series written by Mike Carey. The interesting facet of this novel is that it is a story written based on and inspired by Japanese and Korean horror manga but is decidedly western in nature. In this way it is a unique take on Japanese story telling which is told in a western style layout and writing. The series was canceled due to poor sales but it still has a cult following among avid readers.

The story is about two twins who are born on opposite sides of midnight; one sibling named Kai was born one minute before midnight whereas the other sibling, his sister named Toshi, was born 7 minutes after midnight. This difference between birth times means that they end up growing up and going through different paths in life. But these paths that they go through are not as one would think; both Kai and Toshi live their existences in separate dimensions. Through prayers of their father for safe delivery of their first child, Kai, he had unknowingly created a pact with the Kami (spirits) of the Hara family shrine, that their second unexpected child (Toshi) will be sacrificed to appease the spirits. Both Kai and Toshi grew up in a well-mannered family, but had quite a few strange occurrences during their developing lives. For one, their close childhood friend Saburo had disappeared into an alternate world; an unexplainable occurrence that had left both Kai and Toshi shocked. Other strange things would manifest between the two siblings, such as an inability to be harmed in some situations. Once the siblings had grown, an alter dimension deity named Aratsu had finally come to retrieve Toshi and place her into a dimension different from Kai. Although they had initially refused, Aratsu the master of swords, was near impossible to rebel against. As a result, Toshi was taken to the daemon plane and Kai is left to wonder how he will get his sibling back. Kai ends up allying with  Nidoru the female sprit of pin and needle in order to create a plan to retrieve Toshi.

The story itself is very reminiscent of traditional Japanese folk tales. Many Japanese stories involve spirits and super natural occurrences. This comic is no different in this regard. It is a somewhat slow-paced story in the fact that it does not have many moments that jump out to you; it is generally a predictable story but one that does hit home due to the fact that the main character (Kai) is trying to fight for the return of his sibling. It is a relatable story not when taken literally but the underlying story itself. It’s a story of love between two siblings and an uncontrollable force (Aratus, the master of swords) that is attempting to rip them apart. The narrative has a very a ghostly feel to it, as every action and story point that occurs in the novel is connected to spirits in one way or another. It also somewhat shows two sides to the spiritual realm; one that is seeking to help mortals with their troubles and another that is strictly adhering to the rules of the unseen world. It is sort of an interesting clash between mortal morals and the remorseless approach of the spirit realm.

The visual style in this novel is fairly unique. Being a western comic, it still has the more mature looking and realistic features on its characters. At the same time, due to the influence of Japanese and Korean mangas, it also retains some of the features that are considered staples of that genre. These characteristics include large hair and a somewhat youthful appearance for the characters while still retaining that western feel. It has a clean style to it that can appeal to a large audience of readers. This blend of western and Asian styles is an fresh approach to illustration.

Overall, although the story itself is an interesting take on Japanese manga in a western style, the the narrative is still relatively slow-paced and predictable. It is an interesting for a one-time read but it can feel generic at times and not something that hasn’t been done before. The greatest positive one can take away from this novel is the attempt to combine manga story telling with a western layout, which I found very compelling at least for the first time reading through it. I would recommend this to fans of manga, and perhaps western comic fans that want to get a taste of what manga story telling is like. However I would not use this novel as a standard by any means; it is a one-off read that is enjoyable but not something you would reference in the future.

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