HomeComics/MangaMANGA REVIEW | "Ciguatera" - Volume One

MANGA REVIEW | "Ciguatera" - Volume One

MANGA REVIEW | "Ciguatera" - Volume One

Life and love can be filled with nauseating moments. Sometimes things look to be right in the world. But thinking of that feeling when the other shoe drops suddenly starts making you nervous, like you’re about to throw up or even shit yourself. Perhaps this is why Minoru Furuya named his 2003 series Ciguatera, as said feeling after eating bad puffer fish will do exactly the same thing.

Ciguatera follows Ogino, an average student who finds himself bullied alongside his friend Takai. Their passion for motorcycles gets them through the tough days, with Ogino going so far as to work on earning his biker’s license. At school, he catches the eye of fellow student Nagumo, whose friend tells him that she has a crush on him. Of course, no hot girl would have a thing for a scrawny guy like him, right?

Soon it becomes apparent that Nagumo does in fact have feelings for Ogino, who attempts to figure out just why she likes him. Although there’s no true answer given, Ogino finds himself finding joy that only motorcycles gave him in the past. But his bullying problems haven’t gone away, keeping him a meek guy who may have just a tiny bit of luck on his side. That’s when Takai stops coming to school, and their bully Taniwaki begins to act strangely…nice?

Despite it being written in 2003, Ciguatera has a very “now” vibe to it. After all, bullying is still a huge problem in society, to the point where it causes much more harm today, no thanks to the Internet. The character of Ogina can be seen very much as an Everyman, especially one who is treated like he belongs on the bottom of the food chain. But then, Nagumo appears, bringing a new feeling and purpose into Ogina’s life.

The story starts changing its tone, to the point where Ogina and Nagumo look like they belong in a Horimiya-styled rom-com. He’s nervous, she’s confident, and the two sometimes have a hard time finding a middle ground that benefits one another. But when Ogina explodes with feelings and emotions, Nagumo can’t help but think that his mannerisms — while questionable — can be kind of cute. As their chemistry makes the relationship believable, it’s hard not to root for these two to stick it out for the long haul.

However, beneath the lovey-dovey stuff is the grimmer elements of Ciguatera. Early on, it’s clear that Takai wants to rid the school of Taniwaki by any means necessary. He becomes obsessed with it, to the point where motorcycles are now the last thing on his mind. Instead, he teams up with a mysterious guy he meets online, and slowly seeks vengeance by leaving weird videos and kidnapping Taniwaki’s cat. On top of that, he starts to distance himself from Ogina due to possible jealously.

Furuya’s art style fits well both in the more disturbing and humorous parts of the narrative. For the latter, the scenes of Taniwaki tormenting Ogina and Takai can be rightfully unnerving. Their facial expressions give way to a lot of pain and internal damage that has been thrown at the two friends. When Takai snaps at Ogina, the shots of physical and mental anguish that falls on the two become the picture of a guy who has lost all his passion and reason to live.

It’s the more humorous perspective where Furuya’s drawings come to life. Ogina’s mental breakdowns over Nagumo are not just relatable; they’re also laugh-out-loud funny! Even when he’s got the best-looking girl by the arm, Ogina finds ways to look even more dorkier than before. As such, it makes the romantic moments feel sillier and sweeter in places.

There’s a sense that Ciguatera isn’t going to conclude with everyone having a happy ending. At the same time, there’s enough hearty moments that make this series one worthy to keep on riding towards. Heartache may happen, as could a traumatic situation (which is hinted at in the last couple of chapters of this volume). Nevertheless, even after nearly 20 years since it was first published, Ciguatera is still one captivating read that speaks volumes about today’s youth.

FINAL GRADE:

Promotional consideration provided by Tomo Tran of Kodansha Comics. In stores November 2!

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The J-POP king of America, Evan has been bringing the hottest sounds of the Land of the Rising Sun to the English-speaking public since his college radio days. He's also an expert in the gaming, anime, & manga realms, never afraid to get critical when the times call for it. For personal inquiries, contact Evan at evan@electricsistahood.com For press/band inquiries, write to us at thebastards@bostonbastardbrigade.com (Drawing by AFLM of Wicked Anime)