Ciguatera Vol. 1 review – an English language debut of a long esteemed manga creator.

Award winning manga creator Minoru Furuya makes his English language debut with the long-awaited release of Ciguatera. Seventeen-year-old Yusuke Ogino is a self-described loser whose only refuge from the bullying hell he experiences at school is his dream of freedom on a motorcycle. But the unexpected entrance of a beautiful young woman into his life threatens to upend his whole world, forcing him to re-evaluate his relationships and even his sense of self.

Ciguatera has a lot going for it. Minoru Furuya has had a strong reputation amongst manga readers for many years. The anime adaptation of his previous series The Ping Pong Club was an early comedy favourite in the 90s. He also has an impressive list of celebrity fans that include Parasite director Bong Joon-Ho, fellow manga creator Inio Asano, and Metal Gear creator Hideo Kojima. It’s something of a surprise therefore that this is his first series to be released in English, but Vertical have chosen the perfect series to showcase his talent.

Given its unfortunately high statistics in Japanese schools, bullying is a subject that has been explored in several school-set manga. Furuya immediately puts himself in the upper echelon of this genre with his great grasp of writing young characters. Even when dealing with heavy themes, some series tend to idealise characters and locations, but that isn’t the case with Ciguatera. These are characters who come across as authentic high schoolers who don’t necessarily have it all together. Credit must also go to translator David Boyd – who presents some very authentic teenage dialogue that is in no way sugar-coated.

Ogino in particular is a refreshingly honest depiction of a typical teenage boy suffering from self esteem issues. Being ruthlessly bullied by resident delinquent Taniwaki is obviously a big factor, but his growing relationship with Nagumo arguably makes things even harder for him. Constantly second guessing himself and putting off making difficult decisions, he is often in a state of panic that even his love of motorcycles and dream of owning one can’t subside. Nagumo herself is quite shy and unsure of herself too which creates some realistic awkward moments and interactions. But it gets even trickier when his friend and fellow bullying target Takai takes an aggressive approach to end the bullying whilst also lashing out at Ogino due to his growing frustration and jealousy.

Furuya has a perfect art style for this type of series that can alternate between realistic and zany. The more comedic moments and Ogino’s frequent freakouts provide some levity for the more depressing content, but Furuya slips very easily into a more subtle approach that relies on small details – with Ogino trying to keep himself composed as he endures terrible treatment from Taniwaki being a prime example.

Originally released in 2003, Ciguatera was definitely ahead of its time as it fits right in with the best manga released today that deals with more topical or serious subject matter. Anyone who has never experienced Furuya’s work need to give this series a look.

Ciguatera is out now from Vertical (9781647290580, p/b, £20.99)

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