10 Jan / not simple by Natsume Ono, translated by Joe Yamazaki, English adaptation by Anne Ishii
First reaction: WOWOWOWOWOW! What a fabulous first manga for the new year. Indeed, nothing is simple about this all-in-one-volume story … except for a little wish that the pages might have lasted a little longer …
Open the first page and forget linear time. Jim, the journalist-turned-novelist, tells Ian, “Your life is amazing … I could make a movie about you and everyone would think it was fake. You’re going to be my next novel. A year from now…” So the story of Ian’s amazing life unfolds backwards – with a few zig-zags along the way … because as the title clearly warns, this story is ‘not simple.’
Ian lands at a diner with Irene, a teenager who literally picks him off the streets as a decoy for her real boyfriend with whom she plans to run away. Over coffee (for him), hot chocolate (for her), and french fries, Ian tells Irene about how he met a kind, older woman three years ago who also picked him up off the streets, fed him, and mutually shared life stories. The two strangers agreed they would meet once more three years later …
The coincidence is much more … and Irene amazingly turns out to be the niece of the older other woman … perhaps. In a case of mistaken identity, Ian’s story unexpectedly ends … but the manga continues, going backwards from the American diner to a London jail where Ian’s beloved sister is awaiting release to the Melbourne home of Ian’s Australian family that is all too quickly falling apart. Little is as it seems, of course … nothing is truly simple in life.
Using stark black-and-white drawings that capture some of the most expressive (over-large) eyes in print, Ono follows a young life haunted by disjointed relationships and missed connections. “I’m hoping we can all be together again,” Ian finally voices out loud. Just before he sets out on his final quest, he asks Jim, “If I have nothing but good experiences from here on … then the novel will have a happy ending too, right?” Such a fervent prayer for a never-simple ending …
Readers: Young Adult, Adult
Published: 2010 (United States)
not simple © Natsume Ono/Shogakukan
Original Japanese edition published by Shogakukan Inc.