Monday, June 06, 2011

Manga Monday

The Quest For the Missing Girl
Jiro Taniguchi

This is the first work I've read by the acclaimed creator Jiro Taniguchi (The Walking Man, The Ice Wanderer and Other Stories), but it certainly won't be my last.  The Quest For the Missing Girl is a very satisfying read, with a real depth to the characters, stunning art, and an engaging mystery.

The Quest For the Missing Girl is about a man who oversees a mountain refuge, who comes into the city to look for the missing daughter of one of his old mountain climbing partners, who died twelve years earlier, since he looks out for the family left behind.  Shiga carries a lot of guilt over the death of his friend, especially when it comes to his own resentment of his dead friend's relationships (he gave up climbing to marry a woman that Shiga was sweet on).  Shiga has come to see Megumi, his friend's daughter, as a niece of sorts, so he takes it very seriously when her mother calls to tell him that Megumi never came home from school one day.  And so begins the journey of a man out of his element, dealing with the seedy underbelly of Tokyo as he searches for Megumi, and coming to learn what sort of girl she is as he tracks down how she disappeared.  The city throws up plenty of obstacles and walls to impede his progress, but like the mountain climber he is, he keeps his eye on the prize and keeps pushing, searching tirelessly for this important girl in his life.  During his search, there are plenty of flashbacks that give us a peak at a younger man, who had a close relationship with a fellow climber, and the guilt that eats away at him in the years following the accident that claimed his friend.  We also just spend a lot of time with this man and get to see his interactions with various people, friend and foe alike, giving us a full picture of the moral, determined man who has taken on this quest.  Taniguchi depicts this all beautifully, lovingly drawing mountainous nature scenes just as effortlessly as the cold impersonal city scenes, with a great attention to detail, and thoughtfully-arranged panels that never make the talking heads throughout the book seem boring or monotonous.  The mystery is an intriguing one, and Taniguchi demonstrates his masterful pacing as this story unfolds cinematically over the course of this 334-page single-volume work, bringing it all to a very satisfying, and really clever, conclusion.  Read this book if you wish to see one of the true masters of the medium in action.

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