Friday, October 12, 2012

Rosy's scrawled manga recommendation: Benkei in New York by MORI Jinpachi

Benkei in New York
MORI Jinpachi

Manga doesn't get much more noir than this. Benkei is just another expatriate Japanese arist living in the Big Apple. Or so it appears. As there "diabolical hard-boiled stories" show, surfaces aren't always what they seem. Flashbacks delve into sordid, secret past lives, and old scored, long festering, emerge without warning, asking to be settled.
And Benkei's secret? Maybe it's just that he's the only artist in town who isn't having fantasies of being a hitman-for-hire. He is one.
Each self-contained episode in this complete "Benkei" collection is a tighly plotted, beautifully rendered, psychologically harrowing ride into the heart of urban darkness. Hard-boiled tales of revenge, rendered in the tight-lipped, fine-line style of Taniguchi Jiro, one of the creators of Viz's "Hotel Harbour View".

Alternate names

New York no Benkei


Manga reader sites (free)

Rosy's scrawlings on Benkei in New York
This manga comic, which I'll just refer to as a manga, is short, anything but sweet and brutal in its body horror realism. Blood doesn't fountain, young gangsters don't sneer and stick their tongues out while their eyes roll with madness and the weapons are as functional as real weapons, with none of that "his sword is too big to even lift let alone wield" reaction to tangle with. In the blurb it is said that Benkei In New York is noir and it truly is. In terms of noir though, I was a little disappointed but in terms of a brutal and realistic tale of a quiet and calm (generally) middle aged hit man in New York I was mesmerised. Hard-boiled is absolutely the right way to describe this manga and it was a shame it ended so soon. Even though I have read many stories in between this one and now I still want to know more of Benkei's story. If wishes were horses...
Benkei, as mentioned, is a middle aged man who seems to be cut off from almost everyone. There's a chance meeting with a lady of the night and they do form a bond of sorts but otherwise, he's a loner who wanders in and out of people's lives and leaves a trail of bodies behind him. He's got scruples when it comes to taking on a job but they aren't what you'd expect. Benkei, overall, is a fascinating man, and you only get a glimpse at what might have been for him with the flashbacks. To be honest, seeing such potential for good and then such brutality from the same character is shocking and that, I suppose, is all part of the darkness that makes this manga hard-boiled and noirish.
As to the art, created by Taniguchi Jiro, at first I was a little discontented as the artwork is a series of stills. There's little movement or flow involved and I believe this is where some of my disappointment with regards to the noir description came int play. I was expecting more flowing darkness and depth, with lots of movement and 'soul'. What you get though does perfectly match a hard core, hard-boiled hit man story where the hit man is slow and steady as he goes, deadly in intent. It captures the stillness that's come over him and his personality since a particular incident in his past (I refuse to reveal too much as the story is short - you need surprises). So when I rid myself of those modern noir expectations I was left with a darkness of atmosphere rather than art, a reflection of a character rather than a city and a realistic style that graphically portrayed the far more than necessary realism in the deaths. So, my advice for this, get hooked on the hard-boiled description and leave the noir bit for dust, despite how close it comes.

I'd recommend this manga comic to: lovers of stark, realistic and horrific stories, noir, hard-boiled characters, hit man stories and even old detective stories. This will probably appeal more to men but I'd still recommend it to anyone capable of dealing with realistic violence.
The unrealistic violence spoon-fed to kids doesn't cut it as precedence. Please give this only to those who know a little medical knowledge and can accept such things happening to people. This is not for kids or unknowledgeable early teens, in other words (although I would have read it by age 14 or so if given the opportunity because I was thoroughly steeped in medico by then).

Notes on manga reader sites
The quality of manga readers can vary. The uploads are often done cheaply or as a serious hobby by a collective. Be aware that sometimes licence hasn't been given but the sites noted above, Manga Fox in particular, are extremely careful about adding and pulling mangas according to license agreements. So you shouldn't have to worry too much about the material being pirated. There are also translated works and non-translated. Amongst the translated works you will find that the quality of translation may vary according to the skills of the translators. Usually the works are perfectly readable anyway, with only a few added or dropped words or a word in the incorrect tense or with/out plurals. But sometimes the text becomes gobbledygook. In which case, either seek another version or give up and buy an official copy once a printed translation comes out. The other issue of note is you may need to expand the screen to read the text easily as sometimes the scans are minimised a little.
I find that if a page doesn't download properly or some other issue occurs (too slow or someone ordered the pages incorrectly etc.) with one reader then skipping across to another reader and picking up where I was is quite easy and rarely annoying.
Otherwise, enjoy and watch out you don't get too addicted you forget about the necessary things in life.

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