I read this manga in English in hardback version, thanks to Moro, once again. I read it three times but I want to read it again and again and again… but for now third time’s the charm.
Certainly not your usual one. I will not make a summary of it; firstly, because summaries can be found on so many forums, but more importantly, I have no desire to do that here. This is especially due to the fact that I loved the story so much that I feel like something would give, if I attempted to write such a thing. I have already attempted today to write a summary, but after a while it didn’t feel right, so I will never try to do this again, not for this story.
This has most definitely become one of my favourite stories. It’s brilliant. It’s sad. It’s dramatic. It is and at the same time it is not out of the ordinary. It’s happy. It’s cruel. It’s fascinating. Captivating. At times funny. At times morbid. I don’t care what others say, this is my opinion: It’s a masterpiece. This can be seen not only by how Asano put it together (which others can hate all they want, I found this frustratingly beautiful), but also by the complexity of the characters. The story may not be complex and it’s certainly open to interpretation, but the characters most definitely are complex. Which makes Asano a genius for what he achieved in a story of this length.
Story and characters
Kimura Ariē (木村有江) is as sweet and innocent as one can be. She honestly didn’t deserve to go through all that. But then again, I think nobody does, regardless of their ‘sins’. Anyway, from what I could see in the book she seems a calm soul with a cool mind, who can think clearly, who understands, who forgives easily, who loves with all she has, who can give her all to anybody. These are not shown explicitly in the book; this is what and how I feel about her solely from reading the book. Nothing more, nothing less. However, she is shown and described to be physically extremely beautiful, with long hair and a slender silhouette. I think I can safely go as far as calling her an angel. She’s most definitely become one of my all-time favourite characters.
My next favourite character is her twin brother, Kimura (later Suzuki) Amahiko (鈴木アマヒコ). In the beginning I felt pity for him; he kind of reminded me of Misaki Mei from Another, what with being ignored by his classmates and all that jazz. However, at the same time I felt a strong liking towards him. Maybe because he, more than any other character in this story, made me remember my school days – I’ve no idea exactly why, though. Anyway, when I saw what he did to his sister when they finally met as adults at the Nijigahara Field, I panicked. I didn’t want to accept it. I wished I had not started reading the story. But then I saw it had not been real and the moment I saw him kneeling and crying at her feet, I liked him even more. He is one of those characters which changes a lot, if not completely, during the events of a story. He is that character which shows that it is indeed possible to leave it all behind and start it anew if one so wishes with all their might. I think the ‘magic’ in his tin box was exactly that: the wish that one has to make in order to change everything. What was in the box was most probably his will to change. Whether he opened it or not was entirely his choice, as said to him by his older self. If he opened it and wished for it, he could even end the world. What this says to me though, is that that is how strong humans are – they have but to wish for something (genuinely, truly, madly, desperately, wish with all they have) in order for that to happen. If he could bring the end of the world, of course he could also change himself. And I choose to believe that he and his twin sister lived happily ever after (not as a couple, no, no, just that they have a happy life).
[this has to be my favourite scene in the book]
I also think that in the book, at the end of it, I saw three Amahiko. The old Amahiko who is talking to the young adult Amahiko and asks him to push him to the crying child Amahiko. At that point, the young adult Amahiko goes to his biological mother’s grave; the old one turns into a swarm of butterflies when he gives the tin box to the child Amahiko, who finally stands up. I think that what Asano did there is truly amazing. That is one of my favourite parts of the story.
The last one of my favourite characters has to be Komatsuzaki Kōta (小松崎航太). I loved him and this isn’t the first time I’m madly in love with a bad character. To be truly honest though, I don’t think he was bad. I know he was a bully. But I also know why. Of course, that did not give him the right to do those horrible things. But (yes, there’s a but – there has to be a but) he is sweet, especially with the way he’s in love with Ariē; especially with how he wants to protect her – this shows something, in my opinion; especially with how he defends her when the others badmouth her; especially with how he feels guilty for not having been able to protect her when she needed it the most. Even though he went as far as to murder people, I understand his motifs. I do not agree with what he did, no, but this somehow did not stop me from loving him. In fact, I think it actually made me love him even more, as weird as that might sound. I actually think he reminded me a little of Yoshida Haru, from Tonari no Kaibutsu-kun.
[and this was also an amazing scene]
I also think that even though he kissed Maki, he’s still in love with Ariē; that much is obvious. I tried to find a reason as to why he kissed Maki but I ended up having vague ideas so I won’t get into that – the strongest feeling I have is that it was due to his brain injury. But to me it doesn’t matter anymore, right now. I mean, it is consistently and repeatedly shown throughout the story that he is still in love with her, despite his loss of memory due to his brain injury, despite the fact that Maki is keeping him hostage (yes, I’ll go as far as calling him her hostage – it’s unforgivable what she’s doing to him). And even though Maki is keeping him hostage she can and will never have him. He will never truly be hers. First of all, he constantly forgets who she is. Secondly, when she asks him what they should do, he says they should buy flowers for Ariē because she always loved them. Even when Maki was in the hospital with Hayato and she sees herself with Kōta reflected in the window, he is holding the flowers for Ariē and smiles – what more does one need to understand what was going on there?
The child Kōta, yes, the bully, finds an unconscious Amahiko in the snow on the Nijigahara Field and takes him to the hospital – bully?! No, this shows how sweet, helpful, and caring he is. Yes, this is how I feel about Kōta and nothing and nobody will change my mind. Neither regarding him nor the other two – this has to have become one of my all-time favourite trios.
Now, she was not one of my favourite characters, but I couldn’t not sympathise with her. I’m talking about Higurashi Narumi (referred to as日暮妹– Higurashi sister). She was really sweet and I liked a lot how she behaved towards Amahiko. A lot. At first I thought it might have been a joke when I read that Makoto killed her; I felt really sad when I found out that she was killed. I was actually wondering, for quite a while after I read the book for the first time, why she had not come to meet Amahiko at the Nijigahara Field (I was still under the impression that Makoto had joked about having burned his house). I wish she had been able to run away with Amahiko…
As for Takahama Hayato (若松隼人) I was pleasantly surprised with what he became. He seemed to be a nice guy, especially considering what he had thought he’d become as an adult. I didn’t like the fact that he still liked Maki, though.
The last character that I felt pity for has to be Miss Sakaki (Sakaki Kyōko 榊恭子). I thought she was nice as a teacher, if not a bit too indifferent to certain… stuff. I didn’t like her as a mother. I wish she took better care of her children, of her family, of her new life. I wish she protected them. I wish … I wish she didn’t end up the way she did. I think I understand at least a bit how she felt about men after her injury, but just like Amahiko, she had a choice and unfortunately, unlike the latter, she chose wrong, but again, this is solely my opinion. She wasn’t mean; she certainly preached things she herself could not practice but that doesn’t make her anything but human. I would have liked for her to find a way to get over that fear and appreciate and cherish more what she had. I think taking one’s own life, as I have said in a previous post, is one of the most selfish things to do…
And yes, now we’re getting to one of the two characters that I hated the most. Of course, I’m talking about Arakawa Maki (荒川マキ) – she was a b****, to say the least. She was indeed a bully, not Kōta. She hated Ariē for stupid reasons and even pushed her down a well, along with their other classmates. And then she expects Kōta to like her?! Even as an adult, she’s not much better, if not worse actually. She doesn’t even love Kōta anymore, she just thinks she does. And she actually proves my point to be true: that she’s a f***ing w**** – she goes as far as to want to be Makoto’s lover and sleeps with him; why? maybe because she couldn’t have Kōta; maybe because she felt lonely; perhaps because these thoughts scared her; maybe because she was still jealous of the fact that even though Ariē was in a coma, Kōta was still in love with her. After Sayaka Miki in the Madoka series I didn’t think I could hate a negative female character to this extent, but apparently I’m surprising myself once again. She proves that she’s a b**** once again when she starts to make Kōta her prisoner – she really should have been killed by Makoto – ugh!!!
[personally, I don’t think she should have such a defiant expression on her face, considering that she has nothing]
And now, the last character which I couldn’t hate more: Higurashi Makoto (referred to as日暮兄– Higurashi brother) – I couldn’t be happier when he died. I only felt sorry that Kōta had to dirty his hands with him. He’s worse than Yagami Light from Death Note. And this should say something. I don’t even have words to describe how low I think he is… I feel like they wouldn’t even express a fraction of what I think about him, so I won’t even try.
The characters were all bloody brilliant, yes, all of them, including the negative ones. I wouldn’t have hated them [the negative ones] this much if they had not been so bloody brilliant. I would have most probably just been indifferent to them. But Asano is truly a master at what he does. I know some people out there loved the story per total but didn’t like how ‘complicated’ it was – the way it was put together; I know there are people out there who think Asano overdid it, in the way that he tried to make it more complicated even in situations where he shouldn’t have. I couldn’t disagree more. I enjoyed it as much as I have especially because of how it was put together. As I have previously mentioned, the way it kept jumping back and forth was frustratingly beautiful and fascinating – to me, it was perfect. And I could read this book over and over and over and not get tired or bored of it, just like I could watch Boundary of Emptiness over and over and over.
As for the story per se, I know some out there wonder whether or think that there must be a certain significance to Ariē’s story, but I don’t really want to delve into that. I think Asano has explained (in the main story) everything he thought he needed to explain. Whatever he did not explain was obviously meant for the readers to interpret however they want. With that in mind, I only want to mention what I think about the kudan legend with regards to the main story. In my opinion, the upper left-hand side panel on the third page in the prologue, shows a kudan (according to the story, a kudan is a human-faced cow which predicts a calamity or bad crops and then dies). I have various vague ideas, some of which may be educated guesses. Firstly, Asano might have wanted to make a pun with the kanji he used for the name of the field (I’m talking about two children and rainbow) – I think that in the beginning people did indeed call the field ‘the plain of two children’ (as Miss Sakaki’s husband explains) but maybe after some time, they got tired of throwing away the body of one kudan only to later find two; so they may have wanted to stop the place from having a bad atmosphere associated with it due to its name and thought to change it to something ‘happier’ instead (this is actually said in the book by Miss Sakaki’s husband, so I shouldn’t think I’m mistaken thus far). Secondly, if Asano really might have done this on purpose, I’d think there could be a connection between twin children and two kudan. But this is as far as I’m willing to take it, because I already feel that I’m starting to overthink it, which I don’t want to do any more than I have already. I think that sometimes, the fact that we don’t understand something makes that something even more beautiful, and for the sake of this story, considering its beauty, I’m willing to say that I think there are plenty of aspects regarding it that I may not have understood – but I’m happy. I’m happy I could read the book. I’m happy that it was so bloody brilliant and beautiful. I’m happy with how it ended (to a certain degree *cough*) – but more importantly, I’m happy because I want to read it again.
There are bloody brilliant things (books – including manga; series – film series, anime series; bands, artists; songs; and this list is endless) out there, and Nijigahara Holograph is most definitely one of them – for me, at least. Once again, thank you so very much, Moro, for having given me the opportunity to read it.
I also think it’s about time I mentioned that I’m madly in love with butterflies, so when I saw the cover of the book I was thrilled. And just like in the Spiral manga, the way the butterflies were depicted here freaked me out a little, at times, but not in a bad way… It’s kind of stupid of me to do this, but I’m arachnophobic and whenever I see a spider, I close my eyes and imagine a butterfly… I kind of feel like it’s unfair for me to do this to butterflies, but it helps me a lot. I think I’ll always love butterflies…
[Note: I cannot write certain characters’ names in Japanese for I could not find them and since I have no idea what kanji Asano chose, I want to make no assumptions. So I shall wait until I buy the book in Japanese and then I’ll edit this post.]
The pictures in this post are taken by me; the art, obviously, belongs to Asano Inio.