MANGA REVIEW | "Go With the Clouds, North-By-Northwest" - Vol. 5
Beauty, mystery, and darkness. That’s what I get when I read through Aki Irie’s Go With the Clouds, North-By-Northwest. The story of Kei searching for his estranged brother Michitaka in Iceland has that perfect blend of deep character development, which sometimes happens with barely a word being spoken. Volume Five finds itself seemingly concluding a main storyline, but leads to more questions about a certain person-of-interest.
Kei and Lilja wander through a cold valley, the ground beneath them lava frozen in place hundreds of years before. After bonding with Lilja’s “voice” in concert, Kei is greeted with an unexpected guest at his front door: Michitaka. The younger brother is allowed to live under Kei’s roof, albeit with some conditions. This leads to Kei’s first job in awhile, one involving a possible affair between an author an a fan.
Irie has this knack of bringing real beauty into every frame of Go With the Clouds, North-By-Northwest. There are two moments where this talent is evident. The first is where Kei and Lilja drive through the landscape surrounding the Craters of Laki. Despite it being a realm of seeming nothingness, there’s an air of sadness that’s apparent due to the history of Laki.
It’s in the chapter “Lilja’s Music” where Irie’s beauty is on its fullest display. For twenty pages, not a word is spoken as Kei watches Lilja plays her cello. In these moments, a heaping of emotion is pushed into Kei’s heart. The music and scenery of Iceland are showcased in this one scene, and while you have no idea what the song Lilja is playing, you will exactly know how the melody feels thanks to Irie’s visuals.
From a narrative perspective, this volume is where readers will get back on track with the main plot of the manga. Kei reuniting with Michitaka has been the moment many readers have been waiting for, and their meeting is at first treated as nonchalant. But as Michitaka gets comfortable in his new surroundings, that warm feeling his life has been missing finally encompasses him while simply making coffee and gyoza. It’s a simple scene, framed with such tender love and care.
Kei’s first assignment in awhile also shows why perceptions can be deceiving. A man is keeping a secret from his lover, and Kei trailing him finds him being enthralled with a certain Icelandic author. What follows is a tale that finds Kei finding just how far someone would go for their passion, albeit not in a creepy way! Although one may question why he’d keep his reasons for it a secret from his lover, there a certain romantic flare to it that makes the reveal a lot more heartfelt.
Go With the Clouds, North-By-Northwest isn’t just about the beauty of Iceland. It’s also about the beauty found in mystery, and the gorgeousness of when it’s been solved. With Michitaka and Kei finally reunited, one wonders what other mysteries the two of them will find themselves wrapped in. But first, there’s a little incident they need to take care of, as evident by the visitors at their front door…
Promotional consideration provided by Tomo Tran of Kodansha Manga