Title: Downfall Vol. 1
Author: Inio Asano
Publisher: Viz Media
Genre: Slice-of-Life, Drama
Publication Date: February 18, 2020
Inio Asano just has this amazing innate ability to capture the ugly side of life. He talks about the dirty parts most people hide, the realism of life and how we deal with it day-to-day. We saw that in Oyasumi Pun Pun and again in Dead Dead Demon’s Dededede Destruction. We are now treated to that once again in his one-shot called Downfall.
Downfall centers around a manga artist named Kaoru Fukasawa. His manga ended and he is in a bit of a mental slump. His marriage is falling apart, he’s spending his time at a love hotel to get his thrills, and he can’t find the motivation or the drive to even make a new series. To say that Fukasawa’s life is in a downward spiral is an understatement but, one has to wonder if this is more than just a glimpse into the life of a manga artist. I wonder if this was a call for help from Asano-san himself. That always weighed in the back of my mind as I flipped through the pages.
Tsugumi Ohba and Takeshi Obata gave us a glimpse into the manga world with Bakuman. They talked about the manga industry, what makes or breaks a series, popularity charts… everything. Who else would know about the manga industry than two people who are actually in it and experienced? Asano is no different and I see a lot of similarities between Bakuman and Downfall when it comes to manga being a popularity contest. Sure, it’s not a trade secret about how the manga industry works but when you take that same premise and put the dark, gritty spin on it that Asano is known for, it just leaps right off of the page.
Downfall gives you that look into the life of a manga artist. Sure, it’s not about an artist trying to marry the love of his life with a writer who’d do anything for him but it is about a mangaka who has all but given up on making something he considers to be a poison all while losing his wife and everything else around him. It’s that deep introspective that Asano offers which keeps you turning the pages! For a one-shot, this story was amazing and I’m actually sad that there won’t be any more of it.
Kaoru Fukasawa is a lethargic, apathetic middle-aged man who has lost his passion for making manga. In a sense, he’s also a free spirit because he does whatever he wants. How he just seemingly moves from woman to woman without a care in his heart shows just how apathetic he has become. He even recounts what it’s like to make manga between his teens, his 20’s, and his 30’s and how each phase of his life feels different when trying to put a pen to the page. You also want to feel sad for Kaoru but at the same time, you kind of loathe him. He has a nice duality to his character like that and he has been very entertaining to read.
Nozomi Machida is Kaoru’s wife. She is a manga editor for Young Lovers Monthly but she has been spending less and less time at home. She’s always running out for meetings with her clients and doesn’t really have time for listening to what Kaoru has to say. This drove him to the point of asking for a divorce… but Nozomi doesn’t want to split up. The series does go into the deeper reasons why but I won’t spoil it. Still, these two seemingly have no chemistry together, yet, Nozomi wants to hang onto Kaoru as if she’s hanging by a thread for some reason. It’s a really weird relationship and it’s one that, I too, would want out of if I were in it.
Tomika is just a side character but she is Kaoru’s assistant who is let go after Kaoru decides to give up on making manga. She goes on to make her own series but she’s kind of a nut job. First she complains about not doing assistant work, then she accuses Kaoru of harassment and threatens to sue him over it due to him smoking cigarettes and using his own bathroom during work hours. Then she tries to rub it in his face about how manga sales mean everything and his manga stopped selling which is why he quit. She’s highly unstable and just an overall oddball character… or completely normal in the world of Inio Asano!
Yui Chifuyu was probably my favorite character in the book. She’s a member of a sex club that Kaoru rents for a night. Somehow, because of her cat eye-like appearance, he finds her interesting. The two of them end up growing closer and closer together until Kaoru offers to go on a trip with her when she has to visit her sick grandmother. Yui mentions how she’s looking for a place to move to and Kaoru offers his place. After that, she gives him the ghost treatment as it is pretty obvious what had happened. Kaoru thought he had found someone but she was simply just doing her job and realized what was happening and decided to ditch before things got too deep. While Yui was probably right to do so, her character can be applied to so many situations. We’ve all tried to get close to someone who we thought had a connection to only for them to realize what was happening and just decided to end it right there and there before things got out of hand or misunderstood. At least, I know I’ve been there and it’s not a good feeling. Maybe that’s why Yui was my favorite character because I could relate to Kaoru when Yui just disappeared on him.
Again, this was absolutely incredible for a one-shot. I was turned onto Inio Asano with Oyasumi Punpun and now Downfall makes the third work from him that I’ve read and highly enjoyed. I’ve enjoyed Asano’s works more than I have any other mangaka thus far. It is because as such that I am officially declaring Inio Asano as my favorite manga artist. He just has this unique way of bringing the dark and gritty sides of the world to life. He doesn’t shy away from anything and he keeps things as real as possible. Even in sci-fi settings, he always has that grounded tone about him with all of his characters. Sure, his artwork and overall mentality for all of his characters seem the same but they each have their own flavors and nuances about them.
I often wonder if my love for his works is much like the Akari character in Downfall? Akari is the one and only fan that tweeted at him regularly. That stuck by him no matter what. That swore by his works and was deeply moved by anything he created. When she finally got to meet Kaoru at a book signing, Kaoru told her she was mistaken about a lot of things she assumed. I wonder if it’s the same way? I wonder is Asano feels that all of his fans are mistaken about their conceptions of him. If this manga is a personal message to all of his readers moreseo than just a one-shot story.
If there is one thing that Asano is a master at, it’s making you think about the true meaning of the words on the page. This time, it seems like the words are being spoken from Asano himself, channeled through Kaoru as a character. Maybe I’m reading too much into it but I wouldn’t put it past Asano to mask his feelings through one of his works.
All in all, this is completely worth the read! I highly recommend that you pick this one up!
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This item was provided for review by Viz Media