Sunday, January 18, 2009

Disappearance Diary

"This manga has a positive outlook on life, and so it has been made with as much realism removed as possible."

The above quote opens Disappearance Diary, a filtered autobiographical manga by Hideo Azuma, known for his science-fiction works and as the father of lolicon. It's not an entirely fair representation of the book -- Azuma doesn't outright reject the hardships he went through, or that he didn't endure them because of his own shortcomings -- but it's an accurate indication to the distanced tone of his two disappearances and period of heavy drinking.

This "removal of realism" is what will divide readers who will find enjoyment over Azuma's failings and misadventures and those that will come away hating the man -- neither are wrong in their respective position. Azuma's restrained acknowledgment of what he put his loved ones through, as well as his editors and readers, is only reserved for two interviews, one posted at the end of the book and the other on the insides of flaps (the reality of the situation fittingly hidden). There's a couple nods to them inside Azuma's stories themselves, though hardly to the point of warranted sympathy. ("None of this was funny," Azuma insists, as he refuses to give any details of a particular reunion with him and his wife. The incident wasn't funny for him, I'm sure.) Azuma is simply more interested in making his life's derailments enjoyable to the readers -- which, when putting any sort of ethical obligations aside, he does succeed at.

I'll admit that I rarely laughed during my reading of the book. There are plenty of scenes throughout that are obviously intended to evoke laughter, but I mostly found them either cloying or else fitting to the bouyant tone of the story. (There are a few exceptions to this, such  as the ending of his first disappearance period at a police station, where it is revealed that one of the cops is a fan of Azuma's work, and has the artist draw and sign a piece for his child.) What continually carries Disappearance Diary is the fact that the stories are simply engaging. All of the little survival pieces and advice, along examinations of his jobs and of other's quirks, strengths and mistakes -- even if Azuma only superficially alludes to his own -- drive the tale, up until the conclusion partway through Azuma's alcoholic rehabiliation.

Though, in truth, there is no actual conclusion, no sort of All Important Moral to Learn from the book. Azuma implies a continuation to conclude his diversions from reality sometime in the near-future. Even if it is a detached enjoyment, I'll be looking forward to following it.

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