Thursday, November 24, 2011

Review: Acony, vol. 1

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Acony isn't all that well documented in English, but at least the first few chapters have been scanilated on Manga Fox. Fortunately, artist Kei Toume has a pretty good write-up on wikipedia. Kei should be recognizable to western fans as the creator of Lament of the Lamb and Kurogane. Her art style is characterized by a thin, almost wavering line, and very cynical facial expressions. Her background scenes are highly detailed, and her characters are fairly dynamic. Acony is kind of a slice-of-life sitcom, so there's not a lot of action or any fighting at all. Most of the humor comes from a combination of dialog and the physical poses of the characters as they interact. Since you can read volume 1 on Manga Fox, I'm not going to get into too much of a story summary here.

Acony, by Kei Toume, Grade: A
13-year-old Motomi Utsuki has been shipped off by his mother to stay in a boarding house with his grandfather. His mother, Shizue, is described as a sort of headhunter for researchers, and spends a lot of time traveling to other countries, leaving Motomi more or less on his own. When he gets to the apartment building, he encounters various weirdnesses, such as an invisible landlord (he's a 100-year-old poltergeist), and a black-clad girl that plays with scissors and mice. His grandfather, a designer of box art for plastic model kits, doesn't help the boy's understanding of the situation much, just replying "it is what you see". As the weeks go by, Motomi slowly starts to fit in, but never quite completely

("Welcome to the neighborhood. Here's a gift.")

The girl is Acony Lanchester. She looks to be 13, but in fact she'd died in a laboratory explosion 10 years previously and was mysteriously reanimated. Her father is an American who writes gothic horror under a Japanese pen name. Her mother is Yuri Shikajima, a Japanese woman who had been born in the boarding house, but had traveled to the U.S. to attend a university in Massachusetts where she met and married Lanchester. After the explosion Yuri hasn't been seen since. While Acony looks to be a young girl with a lot of free time on her hands (for befriending the bats Chiru and Iru, and messing around with insects), she is in fact 23 and has been home-schooled by her father to qualify for entry into College de Sorbonne.

(Grandpa, Motomi, and Shizue)

There are two other occupants of the building that Motomi has seen so far: Misono and Satou. Misono is Lanchester's editor. During the day she's beautiful and lively. At night, she drinks and plays mahjong until dawn and then just looks like a mess. As for Satou, all we know as of the end of volume 1 is that there are 16 of him.


Acony is what we would have gotten if Charles Addams had created Wednesday as an only-child living with a single parent. The dark humor is great, and Acony is obviously at ease with her companions after death. On the other hand, she's starting to notice that after 10 years, her hair and fingernails are very slowly starting to grow again, which may be leading to complications in the future. My only comment is that the scar over her left eye is inconsistent, going over to the side of her face in some panels, and being almost invisible in others.

(Lanchester and Misono)

The characters are all oddballs in one way or another. Even the one "normal" school girl that comes to visit Motomi with two classmates turns out to be a war buff, recognizing the Soviet T-35 that Motomi's grandfather is drawing for his current work assignment. She leaves happily with a signed drawing from the artist. In volume 1, the first few pages are in glossy color, and act as little portraits of the girl, her father, and a doll that decides to own her. It's a fun story, if you like dark humor, and is a pretty easy read in Japanese. Definitely recommended.

Note: I don't really know the spelling for Acony's last name, since it's only given in katakana. The Manga Fox translation also gives it as "Lanchester". I'm going with this since it matches Elsa Lanchester, the actress who played the "Bride of Frankenstein" (1935) (she's also Miss Marbles in Murder by Death).

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