Can you relate to yourself?
One Volume – Complete
A manga centering around just what the title implies – suicide. Based on the movie of the same name [usually referred to as Suicide Club], this is a disturbing and unnerving manga. Although as it takes only the opening scene from the movie, the stories are completely alternate to each other. And it must be noted that the movie is significantly more horrifying [not to take away from the effect of the manga].
Across Japan, there is a sudden correlation of suicides. At Shinjuku Station, in Tokyo, 54 girls jump to their deaths in font of a subway train. Here is where the story diverges from the film – there is one survivor. Saya Kota, disturbed, distraught, and utterly depressed, does not wish to go on with life. Her survival after such an incident only depresses her further. Her best friend, Kyoko, can only watch as she slowly slips from the glowing person she used to be. A cruel and mysterious pattern emerges, and the suicides take on more meaning than ever. This is a manga that puts a purpose to every little thing – from easily dismissed self-mutilation, to life itself.
The manga adaptation of the movie of the same name, running on an alternative storyline, and a similar [although completely unique] concept. A story of intense cruelty and depression, the likes of which aren’t seen in any other manga. This is one of the greatest, strangest, and most disturbing manga out there.
“Can you relate to yourself?” – a running line for both the movie and manga adaptation. This line itself takes such a strong and abstract meaning, and pulls through a huge portion of the concept. Do you know who you are? Do you know what you are? Is there even a reason for you to be here? Questions on existence itself arise – and send the characters on what can only be defined as a vicious cycle. The problems of life and mind coalesce into a mass of hatred and oblivion. Characters find restitution and resolution in each other, and go on to commit horrid acts. Mass suicides and murders – all done without a care in the world. This is the human mind in a strange and content state.
This manga accounts for the tale of two people – long time childhood friends, now a couple of high [middle?] school girls. Upon entering high school, Saya meets family and personal problems, and is brought into prostitution and a heavy depression. The girl puts a meaning to wrist slitting. Her friend, Kyoko, can do nothing but watch as she descends further and further into void. Then, Saya’s outlook suddenly changes. She discovers another person in the same situation, Mitsuko. Mitsuko begins to take over Saya’s life, and proves to be enigmatic in nature. Saya commits the same acts more frequently, and seems to enjoy it. She joins the secretive and acceptant club run by Mitsuko herself, and devotes her entire life to it’s goings on. Then, the unthinkable happens [to quote a cliche]. Saya, along with Mitsuko and 54 other school girls, commit mass suicide, by jumping in front of a subway train at Shinjuku Station.
Saya is utterly disappointed when she is the only survivor. Her attitude towards life once again takes it’s earlier disposition. She is plagued by the thought that she wasn’t worthy of death. The fact she wasn’t able to die with Mitsuko leaves her in tears. She is left in a depression greater than before, and finds it hard to go on with her life. And yet, her life once again takes the earlier turn. She seems less uplifted and more dead. She organizes the now departed club once again, and lets her life lead in the same direction. Here, a mystery element is brought in as Kyoko attempts to unveil the deeper reasons behind Saya’s acts and new persona. With this comes a revelation so strange that no character can make proper sense of it.
All this eventually comes down to a lovely concept. It can truly be explained as a vicious cycle. But in no way similar to that which first comes to mind. Mitsuko’s enigmatic and strange existence, a recurrence of events, and a correlation of suicides and deaths like no other. A strange website where the dead send messages post-mortem. Reasons to die, raison d’être, boundless drama, and psychological analysis. This manga has it all!
The characters are realistic and extreme. This is one of the manga that shows the human mind pushed into a corner and beaten. Quite well at that. You can truly feel for the characters in that sense – as their lives grow increasingly hellish, the reader can understand what they’re going through. Although some of the choices made by a few of the characters are nothing short of confusing. And despite of all this, each character remains as themselves to the bitter end. A point which is not made until the end itself. Perhaps that is the point made with “Can you relate to yourself?” – that one must remain true to themselves through thick and thin, lest they lose track of who they truly are, and no longer have a reason to live. The meaning of that caption remains cryptic even after you finish it. Which, of course, provokes the best kind of thought.
This relates to the movie through theme and content. Other than the opening scene, there is no correlation within the plotline or characters. Any fan of the movie will fall in love with this title.
[Reviewer: Simon A. Blake]