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Imaginary: A Shockingly Mature Take on Childish Wonder — Another Blog Approaches Debut Special

Oh look, another unwanted blog reviewing graphic literature, what a surprise. Well to anyone interested, welcome to my excuse to talk about the things I read every week. Besides literature, of course, I intend to write about other subjects including events happening around UIC as well as anything else that catches my interests.

So, for my first review I’ll be taking a look at a newcomer to the manga scene, Imaginary by Niiro Ikuhana.

I found out about this book when I was scrolling through new comic solicitations a while back and came across this cover. Now, I don’t consider myself a manga fanatic or anything, but I found the art on the cover appealing and ended up ordering it.

Here’s the rundown from the back of the book:

Back when Tasuku was a kid, he harbored a secret: he was in love with his friend Maika. But Maika moved away for school before he could gather his courage and confess. Now, as adults, they’ve reconnected as friends, and being together brings back memories of their shared past. It was so easy to fantasize about wild things when they were children, but what has become of those fantasies now that they’ve grown up?

First off, a warning to any potential readers: the first page of this book is very not safe for work which was a shock to me. Even stranger, the entirety of the rest of the book is completely normal and safe, which makes the choice to open a book the way they chose absolutely mind boggling.

But I stuck with it and finished reading the book and let me tell you; its fine. Don’t get me wrong, the art is fantastic. Ikuhana has a great sense of anatomy and fashion design, making all the characters look and feel dynamic and unique just based on how they look and act.

The dialogue is also worth a mention. This may be on the translation team — and if it is, good job to them — but the dialogue has a very organic tone to it. The characters are mostly all college age people and have appropriate voices to match. It also leads to one of the books greatest strengths: its sense of wonder.

As the title entails, the primary theme of imagination — specifically the childlike fantasies and delusions we all remember and occasionally suffer from — gives the story a wonderful sense of whimsy. Scenes jump back and forth between the real world and the imaginary (nice) which makes a lot of pages look really eye catching and adds a lot of motion to what would otherwise be static conversations.

All of this combines to give the book a varied and freeform feeling. Conversations and actions can jump from page to page which opens the book up to interesting moments that cover a variety of topics. From the developing romances between young adults and friendships between multiple young women to anxiety about one’s future and life in small towns, Ikuhana offers shockingly nuanced interpretation that toe that fine line between realistic and fantastical.

The book is at its best when characters just sit around and reminisce about their childhood hopes and dreams. All these friends, sitting around a table covered in snacks, talking about what they wanted to be when they were little. It makes me feel nostalgic even if I can’t relate.

These strengths, however, also make up the book’s greatest weakness. The freeform dialogue and scenarios means the book lacks much in the way of plot. If you, as a reader, are not down with a 10-page conversation about “What if the town got a new restaurant?” and all the implications thereof, then I don’t think I can recommend this to you.

Even still, I think this book is an admirable first entry into the world of published manga by Niiro Ikuhana. The second volume is slated for release at the end of February 2023, and I’ll probably pick it up when it comes out.

Well, that’s all for this week folks, feel free to come back next week for more of whatever this is. It probably won’t be more manga though. Probably.



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