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Sunday, May 26, 2013

Manga Review: Short Program

Short Program
Mitsuru Adachi
Viz Media/Animerica Extra
288 pages
These eight short works by a master of manga storytelling, published for the first time in English, are rich with emotion and unexpected outcomes. Decidedly human, they deal with the kinks and quirks of love, lust, missed opportunity, fate, and temptation that make life both tragic and comic. (Source: Goodreads)
I've been a fan of Mitsuru Adachi since happening across his anthology Adventure Boys as well as his crossover one-shot with Rumiko Takahashi, telling the story of their involvement with the Shonen Sunday magazine. Then several summers ago, I started reading Cross Game, his series about baseball and adolescent, and I pretty much fell in love with Adachi's work. Apparently, so did the rest of y'all, since every review I've seen of Cross Game has been glowing and full of love.
Short Program, another collection of one-shots, is a hold over from the days of Animerica Extra, an imprint of Viz Media which has since turned defunct, the English language shojo manga magazine before Shojo Beat. It's a shame it's not around anymore if it was running boss manga like this and Banana Fish and X/1999.

In short (ha!), Short Program is pretty typical Mitsuru Adachi - short stories exploring the complexity of human relationships and growing up and the differences between men and women. Oh, and not so subtle references to himself and his other works (he even makes a few cameos throughout the book). I'm actually surprised there was no baseball in this one! Good thing 'typical Adachi' is also 'excellent Adachi', which this book certainly qualifies as.
My favorite story is probably Take Off, which is so Adachi: a guy comes over to his college friend's apartment in order to watch his television - specifically, to watch Satori Nakata do the high jump. It's incredibly poignant and the ending absolutely kills me. My least favorite would have to be the last story, Purple, which did absolutely nothing for me. I don't particularly fancy the fact that the bully girls are ugly, as if goodness is inherently beautiful, plus I don't exactly read Adachi for fist fights.
What I love about these stories are how believably awkward people are in them, whether it is the young man in At The Intersection who can't work up the nerve to talk to the girl he likes or the repairman in Plus I who can only get close to his classmate through the girl's stereo system. Then there's the guy in Short Program, who isn't so much awkward as very creepy, but that only proves that Adachi is good at creating characters who are interesting but certainly not good people.
I continue to adore Adachi's art style. The way his characters' expressions are so open and descriptive in absence of dialogue is ace, and he has a way with paneling and pacing that puts others to shame. Although I have to admit, sometimes characters do look the same, but that's what I get for marathoning through so many of his stories in one sitting.

If you're a Mitsuru Adachi fan and you haven't picked up Short Program yet, it is certainly worth the effort of finding a copy. I managed to find my copy at a secondhand book store that sells their manga at half price, but Amazon and Ebay are also good places to find them if you don't have such a place in your corner of the world. Apparently, there's a volume two, too! 
And pick up some Cross Game while you're at it! ♥