Title: Tokyo These Days Vol. 1
Author: Taiyo Matsumoto
Publisher: Viz Media
Publication Date: January 16, 2024
Tokyo These Days is pretty simple to explain. A manga editor named Shiozawa has decided to atone for a magazine he started getting dropped by quitting his job. He does a bit of soul-searching, visits a few people, and ultimately decides that he wants to return to making manga. After he decides this, he looks around and asks some people he knows if they would like to contribute to his project.
And that’s it. The story is extremely straightforward; however, the depth of it comes from all of the interactions between the characters, learning about their backstories, the struggles they are going through, and the events that they experience. While the overarching story is simplistic and goal-oriented, every chapter feels as if it could almost be its own series as you peer into each character’s life.
From Chosaku whose series is wrapping up and his health issues, to Arashiyama who came to loathe the manga industry and did everything possible to distance himself from it, each character’s story is unique and adds life to the world. Even if they are not directly involved in Shiozawa’s journey back to making manga, each character felt important and helped flesh out the world that the story takes place in!
There are quite a few characters here so let’s start from the top.
Shiozawa is more than just an editor who is repenting for his failure. Through the other characters, you get to understand how revered he was as an editor… especially with one of his former clients Aoki. Later on, you got a glimpse of how serious he was at his job, how he respected manga, and how he became an editor to find the perfect manga… something that seemed to be a lifelong goal of his. As for his personality, he’s pretty down-to-earth, a bit monotone as if nothing truly surprises him, though. It’s as if he takes in the world, processes it, and accepts what has been given to him without much of a range of emotions. Still, he’s not dull as you end up getting a sense of the life he led as an editor and how, despite the dryness, excited he is about the world of manga. That’s hard to capture, and yet, it was achieved perfectly here.
Next, we have Chosaku. He was one of Shiozawa’s clients whose series is failing. After quitting, Shiozawa paid him a visit and explained how his manga used to feel alive and now it’s as if there is no life left in it at all. Everything from the art to the dialogue seemed phoned in and it got Chosaku thinking. Chosaku seems to be the type to live his life on his terms with blinders on to the rest of the world. He ignores his doctor’s advice, and says and does what he wants; however, when Shiozawa gives him that advice, he listens. That alone shows you the level of respect he has for his former editor…. Even if they used to argue all the time. He’s a pretty solid character who appears sleazy; however, is actually more kind and respectful than what meets the eye.
Next, we have Hayashi. She is the editor who took over for Shiozawa on one of his clients, Aoki. The problem is that Aoki loved working with Shiozawa so he and Hayashi mix like oil and water. Hayashi does care about Aoki and turns to Shiozawa for advice on how to handle him; however, he encourages her to break through that barrier and find a path that works for them. She comes off as a newbie apprentice and, in a way, she is. She definitely lacks confidence and even though her advice is good, she lacks the experience to cater to a mangaka’s vision and this is where Aoki is struggling… however…
Speaking of Aoki, he’s the biggest part of the problem with Hayashi because he’s extremely stubborn, hot-headed, and has a jaded worldview when it comes to manga. So… even if Hayashi is a bit on the green side, it’s not like Aoki is making it easy for her to work with him. When he’s forced to make changes, he loses the ability to put himself on the page and when Shiozawa looks at the manuscript for his new series, he instantly recognizes that problem. Aoki also loves to drink and is not exactly the most pleasant person when drunk. He also has a bit of a rivalry/admiration for Chosaku, which is an interesting dynamic.
While those are the main characters so far, we are introduced to a few of them on Shiozawa’s journey to find people to help him with his return to manga. The first I touched upon earlier, who is Arashiyama; however, due to him growing to loathe the manga industry, he’s not going to be much help. The next is a woman named Kiso. She used to draw manga but now works at a retail store. Shiozawa tempts her by asking her to draw for him and you begin to see that spark of life return in her eyes… so much so that she begins to draw again to see if she still has what it takes.
Between her and Arashiyama, it’s like night and day. You learn that some people had that spark and they watched it die out before their very eyes, never to return, and others knew it died out and were waiting for the day when one little ember would flare and bring it back to life.
This first volume was quite the journey. Even though the main plot was simple and to the point, meeting all of these characters and seeing each of their stories and how they fit into the grand scheme of things was interesting. It’s more than just meeting these characters, though… like with Kiso, you get a glimpse into her life, the weird phase her son is going through, and her gamer husband… with Chosaku, you see a man who seems hellbent on doing things his way and then you see his darker side in the form of a gambling problem. The struggles between editor and client with Hayashi and Aoki, how Shiozawa almost took the same path as Arashiyama and almost gave up on manga only to decide to return to it.
There are many facets and layers to each character which add to the overall story. If you want a textbook on depth and how to present it straight out of the gate in the first volume of your series, then this is it. To be honest, this didn’t even feel like a first volume. It felt as if it were in the middle of the series with the way everything felt so fleshed out.
Plus, there isn’t much in the way of comedy or lightheartedness in this book, aside from the drunken Aoki scenes. This is a manga that takes itself seriously and tells a genuine story that doesn’t shy away from the darker parts of life. That’s probably why I enjoy it so much. Needless to say, this series is off to a fantastic start and I can’t wait to check out more of it!
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This item was provided for review by Viz Media