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Utsubora - The Story of a Novelist Paperback – June 18, 2013
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"Nakamura has created something tense and relentlessly worthwhile. It’s Mature rating will make it a hard sell in a lot of markets, but it’s a valuable book that merits the time readers will put into it. And that’s the great thing. When I first presumed Utsubora to be some sort of lip-service homage to Murakami, I was only seeing plot points and thriller tropes. I thought Nakamura’s book would merely be an amusing ride. Summer reading, something to lounge with poolside. But just as Murakami masks deeper examinations of culture and identity in his novels, so too does Nakamura.”
—Good Ok Bad
"Utsubora: The Story of a Novelist is a visually striking puzzle of a story playing with parallelism...[It] is one of those works that can be read at different points in your life with different interpretations, given its narrative unreliability. This time, I found it about the disillusionment of our idols, and it spurred thoughts on what creativity really means.”
—Comics Worth Reading
"If Satoshi Kon were alive today, he might have been interested in adapting Utsubora, a psychological mystery-drama that blurs the lines between fiction and reality... Asumiko Nakamura's delicate art is perfect for the moments that take place in the characters' heads (and between their bodies); the fusion between real-world elements and abstract lines creates a dreamy otherworld. Even the character designs make a statement about the story: Mizorogi is the old-school, traditionally dressed intellectual, while Fujino is almost unrealistically beautiful. Those little details—along with the big picture—result in a story that's provocative in many ways.”
—Anime News Network
About the Author
Born in 1979, Asumiko Nakamura is one of Japan's hidden gems. The artist has penned more than 15 titles since 2002 and has reached critical acclaim for her sensitive protrayals of romantic narratives featuring a wide range of characters - men and women, young and old. Nakamura has worked in a range of genres for an equally broad range of audinces winning recognition in almost every category - shojo, women's comics, men's comics, LGBT fiction as well as erotic fiction. Utsubora is her English language debut.
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Top Customer Reviews
In a nutshell, Utsubora is a story about an author who does the unthinkable, the repercussions of his actions, and the eventual reveal of his motivations. To say more would spoil you and I'd hate to do that-- suffice it to say that nothing and no one are who they seem.
Four stars because the translation needed one more pass by an editor (for example, 'snucked' is not a word), but it's otherwise good. Also, when you read the notes at the end you realize that a lot of little winks and nods and cleverness is missed. The title, for example-- throughout the novel it's referred to as 'Utsubora' but translated into English it is a very obvious reference to one of the characters. Not sure why the translators chose to overlook that, other than that Utsubora 'rolls off the tongue' (eyes?) more easily? I enjoyed one particular 'scene' that was nothing more than two characters eating a meal and chatting-- the names of the dishes being rattled off must sound beautiful in Japanese but most readers might not know what is fish and what is fowl. Regardless I enjoyed it. I used to live in Japan and miss the food very much.
Nakamura's work is very reminiscent of art noveau style tinged with Al Hirshfeld in terms of the lines and languid forms. There's sex. Occasionally I had to really stare at the page to figure out what I was seeing because the mangaka did a lot of 'close shots' and not all were immediately recognizable. Still, really like her work so not such a hardship!
Shun Mizoragi is an author who is past his prime, the writing has stopped, the ideas have dried up, and then he gets involved in a writing contest. during which he steals a manuscript from the unknown Aki Fujino and fobs it off as his own. Soon, the mistake snowballs, and the cryptically titled "Utsubora" is being serialized in "The Monthly Warbler".
This is all background, stuff we will learn as we read this novel, as this manga opens however, Shun gets a phone call from the police. It seems that Aki has taken a self induced header off of a building and she's dead, but, if she is dead, where did the young woman who calls herself Sukura, and who claims to be Aki's twin sister, come from? She claims to be estranged from her sister, but she seems to know things that only Aki should know.
As the novel progresses, we are introduced to Shun's world, including his much put upon editor Tsuji, his young co-ed niece Koyomi, who lives with him, and his friend and rival Yatabe. And as the novel continues its progression Shun gets more and more ensnared in Sukura's world, first willingly, then, more addictedly, especially as it will turn out that Sukura is obviously way more than what she portrays herself as.
In the end though, I didn't particularly like this book. I guess I needed somebody to like, and I liked nobody here. The novel becomes a rather sleazy soap as everybody is sleeping with somebody, graphically, and for no damn good reason. Shun is reportedly a ladies man, but he can't complete a sex act, except through manual manipulation, and he continues to plagiarize long after he should, and accepts Sukura as his uncredited ghost. Yatabe, supposedly Shun's friend, carries on with Koyomi, and Sukura, well, Sukura is just a piece of work, carrying on with her own little Machiavellian actions, which include casual sex, with everybody, ghosting Shun's novel, meeting with Shun's publisher behind his back, etc.
Then there is the novel itself. It is just way too long for what we get. It truly needs a good pruning; Tsuji and everything dealing with him could have been excised with no noticeable effect on the novel's continuity. Like many mangas, this novel is more convoluted then complex or deep. There are transitory flashbacks that spring out of nowhere, which are confusingly constructed, and inserted into the continuity. Often happening on the same page as the novel's main continuity.
Unlike many, I'm not even particularly enamored of Nakamura's art, overly simplistic and perfunctory, at its best, it gets the job done, at its minimalistic worst, it's just functional, and ususally forgettable.
So while it's true that there is a good story here, it's buried under an overly convoluted plot, sleazy characters, and underwhelming artwork, making this a, overlong by half, novel. Making Asumiko Nakamura's adult "Utsubora", for me, a fairly non-essential manga. With its graphic sex, including one rape, this is not something for young readers, something that sadly has to be said, as most libraries usually, and automatically put anything manga in the juvenile section.
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I've only been able to read her work through scanlations but to actually have a...Read more