What does it take to accomplish your dreams? That is the central question asked in Mujirush, which is a Japanese phrase for the sign of dreams. Kasumi and her Dad dream of striking it rich, but the Dad’s inability to make good decisions means they’re always in the dumps. That is, until a mysterious figure comes to them with a small proposition in Naoki Urasawa’s wackiest, silliest manga yet.
What do I mean by silly? In just the opening two chapters, Kasumi’s family tries to avoid taxes, gets audited, makes masks of a fictional politician that’s a bizarre mix of Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, no one buys the masks, they lose everything, the wife leaves, and the daughter and father stumble upon Iyami in an abandoned house. Iyami asks them to “borrow” a piece of art from the Louvre, and the next thing you know they’re in Paris.
Oh, and who’s this Iyami, you may ask? Why, none other than THE Iyami from the famed Osomatsu-san franchise. Don’t worry, I didn’t know his character either. But after reading this manga, I wish I did. If you were ever going to have a character cross over into your work about France, francophile Iyami would be your best option.
But wait, there’s even more plot! There are also subplots involving American politics, the Japanese police, and a French fireman. The story is all over the place, and the number of subplots can be overwhelming at the beginning. But when you’re reading a manga by Naoki Urasawa (for my money one of the best mangaka in the business), juggling subplots is kind of his thing. They may seem different but all the subplots contribute to the theme of dreams. Everyone in this manga has one, and they intersect in unexpected but wonderful ways. Everything clicks with an ending that took me by surprise.
Being a one volume story, it all comes together in the end. All the plots intersect and tie up each other’s loose ends. It’s here that the intentions and message of the book are fully revealed. It’s about dreams, art, and the intersection of the two. It also humanizes a cartoon character in a way I didn’t think possible. It’s touching and bittersweet, and made me rethink the whole story. It may require a second reading, but you will want to.
I wanted to reread it because of the character’s humanity and the love for France and the Louvre on display. France is beautifully rendered under Urasawa’s pen and ink, and depicts the Louvre with a haunting reverence. It appears Urasawa loves France as much as Iyami, or maybe Iyami’s love influences Urasawa.
The characters are a delight, with strong personalities and motivations. Kasumi in particular is a feisty firecracker, her eye’s always expressing her inner feelings. You really feel for her and her Dad, who just want to live a life that everyone wants but few get. Of course, there’s Iyami. He is not just a glorified cameo, he is essential to the plot and themes of the entire story. This manga wouldn’t have the same impact without his inclusion.
Mujirushi is a big turn from Urasawa’s usually dramatic fare, but it’s something worth hopping on for the ride. It’s wild, sure, but Urasawa can succeed at just about anything, visualizing his dreams to make it happen. I give it a rating of “Sheeh!”