I remember back in October, during New York Comic Con, I attended the Best & Worst Manga 2022 panel. The panelists mentioned Shy Vol. 1 by Bukimi Miki as one of their most anticipated manga. They discussed the premise: the rise of superheroes who embody their countries’ identities to achieve peace in the world. And the superhero in Japan is called Shy.
Manga is an opportunity for people from the western hemisphere to understand how people from a completely distinct background see many aspects of life. For example, religion, politics, equality, and more. In this case, how they view the rest of the world by creating a hero based on each country. It could even mean using stereotypes and vague generalizations, like making the Russian superhero someone who drinks a lot. But it doesn’t matter because it is a fresh perspective. So I was invested. I was curious. I wanted to see my country, Peru, represented in this manga.
The book’s protagonist is the Japanese hero, so the central perspective focuses on the Japanese and their society, embodied in Shy. However, it also shows how they view the rest of the world and themselves as part of a global society and the pros and cons of each country’s behaviors and traits.
Nevertheless, at its core, this book is a superhero story. The superhero origin of Teru Momijiyama/Shy, a 14-year-old introverted teenager who possesses great power and faces great responsibility. Bukimi gives her the young superhero treatment, having her participate in awkward encounters in the school halls while saving civilians from fires and malfunctioning roller coasters. In addition to finding her place as a hero, Shy needs to find her position as a person.
This book goes beyond Shy’s origin and tackles well-known superhero issues in American superhero comic books, such as: whether the government should register heroes or should they act freely. Is there an appropriate age to be a hero? Also, what happens when heroes get criticized? Should they stop and leave? Moreso, the self-doubt and realization that “you can’t save everyone” is here. All of these happen in the context of Shy being a young and clumsy hero compared to more established ones, which can lead to accidents when she attempts to rescue people. We have seen these debates and plots in Marvel Comics’ Civil War, with the young superhero team the Champions, and in the storyline Spider-man No More, among other tales.
The other part of the book sets the world heroes’ true goal on Earth: to keep humanity hopeful in times of peace. Humans have darkness inside them, so they need to shine a light on their actions and lives. The nature of humans, their psychology, and the pureness of their hearts is a tool that ultimately pits our heroes against some scary villains and sets the stage for what’s to come in future volumes.
Overall, this is a superhero book with innovative elements, such as the country’s hero and how heroes must protect humanity from themselves even though they have achieved world peace. But it is not a book about world society, as I thought initially. I didn’t see my country – this volume features just a few – but I saw a promising young hero trying to find herself in a world, which makes this book a great addition and a fresh perspective to the superhero genre.
This volume one is an excellent introduction to manga for new readers of the genre and for readers transitioning from superhero comics to manga, as it has the familiar feel of an age of heroes but with a touch of a more realistic and impactful message. A view on how superheroes can represent a society told from a young and inexperienced hero’s perspective.
For more manga content from reviews and podcast episodes click here!
If this review made you interested in learning more about Shy click here!