For a long time, I’ve wanted to dive into the manga of Inio Asano. His name isn’t a household name, but you hear about his works all over the place. Solanin and Goodnight Punpun have received widespread acclaim, and Dead Dead Demon's Dededede Destruction seems to continue that trend. His realist stories sound very appealing to me as a person who enjoys dramas. Now I get to see if his newest English release, Downfall, lives up to/deserves the same acclaim of his previous work.
If I was to pitch Downfall or describe it in a sentence, I would say it’s Bakuman for Osamu Dazai fans. Kaoru Fukazawa is a successful manga creator who is finishing up his series after eight years of hard work. The manga industry is a soul-sucking business, and it’s safe to say that Kaoru’s soul was sucked out long ago. He’s married, but they’re both too busy to offer support for one another. He has editors and fans, but their relationships are superficial at best. All anyone wants from him is a new series to consume. Now that he finally has the time to do anything. What will Kaoru do with that? Figure out what type of person he is? Start a new manga?
Kaoru decides to make a series of increasingly bad decisions until his true self is revealed. What once was passion for manga is now figuring out the formula to sell copies so he can live to... write more formulaic manga that sells copies. Any love he has for people is now gone because he focuses too much on his work. I’ve heard that Inio Asano stories were depressing, and this has it in spades. But it’s also very good. It’s a story that’s meant to open the eyes of people to the hardships of the manga industry, which isn’t really seen in manga or anime outside of Shirobako. Manga creators are often faceless people with a small fan base, struggling to pay the bills and struggling to have any work-life balance under the intense schedules that publishers place on them. Not everyone can be One Piece's Eiichiro Oda; most are like Hunter X Hunter's Yoshihiro Togashi, who has to take breaks for his health. And still, fans berate Toagshi for the next chapter.
Downfall’s heart-breaking story is beautifully rendered under Asano’s hand. The realistic backgrounds are able to show the everyday beauty of Tokyo and the countryside with the confined gloom of hotel rooms and apartments. The characters are also well drawn, mixing realistic and cartoony designs. It creates a surreal atmosphere that is able to heighten the realism of the scenes; the character's expressions wouldn’t be as impactful if they didn’t have the exaggerated features that Asano utilizes. In fact, realism is seen as a negative: you can tell how closed off from reality a character is by how realistic they look.
Is this manga sad? Very. Is this manga worth reading? Absolutely. Besides being eye-opening, Downfall is also self-reflective. It’s not a coincidence this was written after Asano finished Goodnight Punpun. Downfall helps the reader reflect on how they consume media and how audiences think about the artists behind their art.
Selling copies is the only thing that matters. So what if your first series just ended and you have no idea how to start the next one, your marriage is breaking up, your pure love of manga has been destroyed by the cruel reality of the industry and nothing seems to fill the sucking void inside you… Find the secret combo for a new hit manga series and everything will be okay. Right?Add to CartLearn More