At Gatecrashers, we like to focus on how something works as an entry point for someone who is new to a particular title, a particular character, or maybe even an entire medium. Well, until a couple of days ago, I had never read any Manga before. I’d read things inspired by that medium, like Bryan Lee O’Malley’s Scott Pilgrim series. I’ve also watched anime adapted from Manga like “Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood”, but I hadn’t actually read an original Japanese Manga before. So whether you’re an enthusiast laughing at my naivete or a newbie like me, let’s see how “Let’s Go Karaoke” works as an entry point into this type of storytelling.
I was immediately hooked by the premise, which kicks off right away in the opening pages of this book by Yama Wayama. A nervous but talented school choir boy is recruited by a soldier in the Yakuza to help him with his singing to prepare for a quarterly Karaoke competition that the boss takes very seriously. I was so intrigued, that yes, it took me a few pages to realize that not only did I need to read the entire book right to left, but that the panels are laid out the same way. As I said, I’m new at this. The dialogue bubbles and the way the characters were placed made this apparent quickly, and it soon became second nature to read the story like this.
Satomi, the choir boy, is almost constantly in a state of panic and covered in sweat. There’s a lot of focus thematically on his journey through puberty, and how this situation with Kyouji, the Yakuza member, represents his growth and change as a person. It makes this story relatable for anyone who has made it to adulthood. If the plot sounds heavy, it shouldn’t, as it actually has a very breezy feel to it. Kyouji is so likable that you rarely feel like Satomi is in any kind of danger. And the story is short enough that the main focus throughout is on the strange friendship between the two of them.
The black and white art is simple but provides enough atmosphere to bring you into the world. Any sound effects written out in Japanese are also translated into English in the version I read, and that was also helpful in establishing what was going on. All depictions of Satomi aid in making him highly sympathetic, creating a driving interest in finding out if things work out for him or not.
There’s nothing incredibly groundbreaking in the story here, but it is a quick fun read that works well as someone’s first step into reading Manga. Personally, it made me interested in checking out more complex stories or something with a little more genre to it. I can also see this being even more effective for anyone involved in music, as there are a lot of funny critiques of how these mob lieutenants perform. I definitely have some notes now for when I next try to perform Enrique Iglesias’ Hero for a crowd.