Writer and Artist – Ken Nimura
Henshin is a collection of loosely connected short manga tales dealing with a sort of change. In reality few of the stories rise to the overriding theme of the book, and many are downright awful.
Three of the stories revolve around the author surrogate’s obsession with cats and his desire to own one. He leaves out food for a mysterious neighbor cat, and is rewarded with knocked over pots and deposits of kitty poop. In one tale the taste of a stew he is preparing is improved by these deposits, turning it into a curry. There’s some attempt to relate this improvement to the coffee beans that go through civets, but personally I think this is just gross. Fart monsters as superheroes are also apparently a thing, though the ending to that story was at least funny.
A tale in which a man is delighted that he is able to communicate with a French person to obtain a hammer is ruined by the “twist” ending. The author seems to favor the dark or sinister forces ending in a lot of these tales. A tale about summer watermelon ends with a moral that suicide is something you should do alone. The aforementioned hammer tale ends with a man being beaten to death. And the bookend stories about a troubled kid staying with her uncle throw in mysterious Yakuza elements (in fluffy suits) with little explanation. A manic-pixie-dream-girl story is ruined by the main character’s crass jokes, inability to consume alcohol, and concluding moral that he should drink in the middle of work.
All that said, there are a couple of stories I liked. The story in which the author bikes through his town in order to string together narratives is actually pretty good, especially when he repeatedly comes up with concepts for stories already written. There’s a cute wordless tale about a girl enjoying the best things of summer even in the dead of winter. And a drunken crass tale of two men commiserating over a divorce, ends with a lifelong tale of friendship and baseball. A tale about foreigners living in Japan is imaginative and amusing when frustration manifests as twenty foot monsters.
The artwork varies from tale to tale, but all of it has a rough sketchy quality. Some character expressions are almost indecipherable (I swear an editor character looked like a cyclops).
All in all, you might find a story or two you like in here, but it’s probably not worth wading through all the muck.
(2.5 Stars | A couple of nice tales toward the end, but mostly forgettable)
* I received a free ARC of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.