Title: Genkaku Picasso
Author: Usamaru Furuya
Publisher: Viz Media (Shonen Jump)
Volume: Volume 2 (of 3), $9.99
Vintage: 2008 by Shueisha in Japan, February 2011 by Viz Media
Genre: Drama, psychological, art
Hikari “Picasso” Hamura was saved from death by helicopter crash when his best and only friend Chiaki prays that he will survive so that his talent at art will have a chance to touch many people in the future. Hikari is saved, but his renewed life comes with a price. Hikari must continually help others, or his body will rot. With the help of Chiaki, who has come back as a sort of guardian angel, Hikari sees the trouble in people’s hearts, draws their inner struggle on paper, and dives into the picture to enter their subconsciousness and help solve their problems. When the crisis is averted, they return to the real world, minus rotting limbs.
With his new found, and unwanted, power forcing him to interact with those around him, Hikari has been making many friends. Though he’s not thrilled about helping people, and finds the whole thing a nuisance that interrupts his art practice, he has no choice if he wants to live. Because his own spirit enters the subconscious mind of the person he helps, a bond forms between them and they inadvertently become Hikari’s friend. Now surrounded by people, it’s easier for Hikari to locate those in need, as they seem to flock toward him. The first story introduces a new classmate named Ota, who seems to be having trouble with his girlfriend. The trouble is that she doesn’t exist. Ota has taken a random girl from a random blog and created a relationship with her in his mind that he is unable to break free from. With some help from Hikari, though mostly from Sugiura, who confronts Ota in the real world, and Chiaki, who steps up and handles things in Ota’s mind, Ota is able to confess to the lie he has built up for so long and break free of his fantasy. The second story returns to Manba and Kotone, who are now dating. Manba seeks advice from Hikari (of all people), worried that his girlfriend, who only wants to talk about the Arengurion anime, is putting up a wall between them. From inside Kotone’s mind, Hikari and Chiaki discover that Kotone is obsessed with boys’ love and slash fiction, often writing her own stories that put her favorite male characters together. She doesn’t like the girls at all; in fact, she hates girls, and she hates herself. She hates the jealous way girls act when they’re in love, so she thinks being in love makes her dirty. With Arengurion protecting her heart, Hikari takes charge and helps Kotone break free. Another new character emerges, the effeminate Hishida. When some female objects (like makeup) are found in Hishida’s bag by the girls in class, everyone gangs up on him, thinking that he’s a pervert who stole from the girls. In Hishida’s heart is the image of a loan knight fighting off a large group of knights single-handedly. The loan knight’s name is Jeanne (ie: Joan of Arc), and is the inner female struggling within Hishida. Inside his mind, Hishida confesses his deepest secret to Chiaki, while outside Sugiura listens, soon joined by the entire class. Hishida feels like a girl trapped inside a boy’s body, but was told growing up that this was a “disease.” He struggled with his secret alone for so long, but with Hikari’s help, finally finds some understanding and acceptance. In the final story, Hikari is invited to go with Moe Sakura, Manba, and Kotone to a Disneyland-like theme park that Moe is obsessed with. However, inside Moe’s heart, a doll is stabbing and cutting up the park’s mascots. The attractions at the park continually pronounce that “dreams come true,” but Moe’s dream of becoming a singer did not come true, and she grew disappointed and disillusioned with her childhood heroes. The main story is accompanied by a handful of four panel comics and a short in-character advice column hosted by Hikari and Chiaki.
Now that we know how everything works, the second volume flows a bit better than the first. But it’s still pretty formulaic. Which is fine for a short series, like this will be. It’s fun to watch Hikari deal with misunderstanding after misunderstanding, caught in unfortunate places or positions as he tries to help his classmates. His obsession with working on his art continues, though Chiaki manages to convince him that helping others will help his art. And although Hikari still finds interacting with others an annoyance, he thoroughly enjoys his trip to the theme park. Sugiura seems to be taking Chiaki’s place as Hikari’s best friend, hanging out with him, eating lunch with him, and trying to understand him, though Hikari seems oblivious. It’s a little annoying how much of a back seat Hikari tends to take. He’s supposed to be helping people in return for his life, but Chiaki does most of the work, as well as Sugiura, who does a lot of the foot work and prodding in the real world. Hikari still has to be forced into action, even the little action he does manage to take. I’d like to see Hikari want to help people on his own, instead of because he’s forced to. The little twerp needs to grow up a bit and realize the world isn’t just him and his sketchbook. And learn that broadening his horizons will even help with his art. Stop being so self-centered, Hikari! Hopefully the group of people being drawn toward him will give him a push. You won’t escape it, Picasso!
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Review copy provided by Viz Media.