Monday, 29 October 2007

‘With the Light (Part One)’ – Keiko Tobe (Yen Press)

This isn’t something that would normally fall within the remit of my blog but I’ve never read any Manga so I thought I’d give it a go. Having just finished it (literally just put it down) I felt I had to post something about it, it’s absolutely amazing and I defy anyone not to get something out of this read.
I used to think that Manga was all about post apocalyptic motorcycle warfare, demonic monsters and women whose legs were just a little bit too long to be believed. Well, the legs are still uncomfortably long but there was not a mutant or motorcycle to be seen in this book. Sachiko Azuma gives birth to a son, Hikaru, but it soon becomes clear that something isn’t quite right. Hikaru is reluctant to be held or hugged and his development is slow when compared to that of other children. When Hikaru is a year and a half old it is suggested that he may be deaf but a specialist reaches a different diagnosis, Hikaru is autistic. The rest of the book follows Sachiko’s efforts to raise Hikaru, and give him the best start in life, while faced with the prejudice of others (including her husband) and daily occurrences that take on new meaning when trying to care for a child suffering from autism.
I’ll admit that I don’t read many comics; a little bit of ‘X-Men’, some ‘Walking Dead’ and a teeny tiny slice of ‘Hellblazer’. I know where I am with western comics though so reading something that starts at the back, and finishes at the front, seemed like a daunting prospect in itself. Once I got into the story though, the format swiftly became irrelevant as I was gripped by Sachiko’s tale. I don’t know if Tobe has had a similar experience herself but she does an amazing job of capturing just what every little slight, setback and triumph does for Sachiko. ‘With the Light’ is a moving and poignant read throughout; I found myself empathising with Sachiko’s plight, cheering on her successes and getting irate on her behalf every time there was a setback.
Having never been to Japan, I couldn’t tell you how much of the prejudice (and indifference) that Sachiko has to deal with is accurately portrayed or if it’s overdone slightly in order to get the point across. I think the important thing is that it does make it’s point very clearly and makes positive moves to dispel some of the myths surrounding autism.
I couldn’t possibly review a Manga novel without making some mention of the artwork. It’s very simply done (black and white line drawings) but very effectively conveys what is going on and what it means, just like the story itself.
Like I said, this isn’t something I would normally post on here but after having read it felt that I couldn’t not draw people’s attention to it. I’d recommend it to anyone who thinks Manga is just demons and curvaceous ladies; ‘With the Light’ is something really special and I’m already waiting to see where the journey leads from here.

Ten out of Ten


org said...

Thanks for bringing this to my attention- having an autistic child myself I'll be on the lookout for this.

Troo said...

I'd imagine there are things that haven't translated too well which would add an extra layer to the reading if it were in Japanese.

For instance, the name "Hikaru" means "ray" or "light", implying that the child is the light of Sachiko's life.

The original title (Hikari to Tomoni) is more suitably translated as "Together with Light", which gives me cause for concern that this book's translation may have been a little too literal.

Anyway, that's enough of my random interludes. Carry on :D