I’ll Give It My All…Tomorrow Vol. 1 (VIZ Signature)

What’s the best life path for a lazy, directionless, unemployed fortysomething? If you’re Shizuo Oguro, the answer might just be "manga artist extraordinaire," talent or no talent.

208 pgs. B&W (2 pgs. in full color); $12.99
(W / A: Shunju Aono)
 
Many men go through a midlife crisis, but few screw up their life in as spectacular a fashion as Shizuo Oguro. After 15 years in a nondescript salaryman job, he hits age 40 and decides he just can’t stand the boredom anymore. He quits his job, embarking on a journey of self-discovery that ends up containing an awful lot of playing video games in his underwear while mooching off of his father and his 18-year-old daughter. “What do you want to do with yourself, anyway?” his father asks. Shizuo’s response? “I’m gonna be a manga artist.”
 
And hey, why not? Sure, he has zero artistic ability and completely lacks the motivation for the all-nighters a career in manga requires, but at least it shoves Shizuo in a direction. He starts flipping burgers at a fast food joint by day (his much younger coworkers jokingly call him Manager, based on age not job seniority) and pokes away at submissions by night. Each new short story brings encouragement from his editor, but will he ever be good enough to actually get published?
 
Given the American manga audience’s inexhaustible appetite for action-adventure and frilly romance, it’s unusual to see a manga released stateside that tackles the ennui of the fortysomething male, territory usually reserved for the American indie set. But that’s where Sigikki.com comes in, VIZ’s online branch of the alternative manga magazine Ikki that offers online translations of seinen (young men’s) manga that otherwise might never reach American shores. The more popular titles score print editions through the company’s Signature line, hence the release of something as idiosyncratic as I’ll Give It My All…Tomorrow.
 
Shizuo makes for a hard hero to root for. This is a guy whose first solution to writer’s block is to visit a whorehouse, a whorehouse where, unbeknownst to him, his daughter works. (His reaction to this news is atypical, to the say the least.) He’s clumsy, dim-witted, self-centered, doesn’t bathe often enough, and is so lacking in manga skillz that he’s left begging God for story ideas in his dreams. But of course this isn’t a quest manga, it’s a character study, and author Shunju Aono has a knack for getting inside of the head of this not-so-loveable loser. Aono’s finest moment comes in the bonus story “To Live,” where Shizuo is wandering through the woods when he stumbles across a woman about to commit suicide after a crushing debt forced her to star in a porno to make ends meet. At first, Shizuo is at his dickish worst, talking her out of ending it all just because witnessing her suicide would be traumatic for him. But when she sees the sad state of Shizuo’s own life, she can’t help but wonder how he gets out of bed every morning. His answer sums up his unique worldview so perfectly that it changes your entire perception of the character. It’s a neat trick.
 
Aono’s art is utilitarian, but it gets the job done. The pages aren’t particularly visually stimulating—with his consistently thin ink line and lack of screentones, the drawings lack weight, and the almost exclusive use of rectangular panels doesn’t exactly make the art pop off the page. But those layouts also make the book a breeze to read, and Aono’s quirky character designs (Shizuo, for example, has a shapeless body, a scruffy beard and an almost perfectly egg-shaped head) are eye-pleasing and original.
 
While my dislike for the lead character initially led me to be less than impressed with I’ll Give It My All…Tomorrow, by the end my only complaints were of the nitpicky variety. Aono has an obsession with using asides (little comments written in a different font either outside of the dialogue balloons or in the balloon’s margins, sometimes meant as a character’s thoughts and sometimes meant as an actual out-loud side comment). These asides can be a great way to impart extra information or character motivation, but Aono uses them relentlessly, frequently breaking up the flow of conversations. Also, the translation clumsily explains the joke behind Shizuo’s nickname by putting “Manager* (* Nickname)” right in the dialogue balloon…not just once, but every time the joke is made. Okay, we get it, he’s not really the manager, but couldn’t that foot note at least have been put in the margins instead of right there in the dialogue? It’s jarring.
 
Overall, I enjoyed the first volume of I’ll Give It My All…Tomorrow quite a bit. What it lacks in action and conflict, it makes up in originality and quirky appeal. | Jason Green
 
For more information and to read sample chapters of I’ll Give It My All…Tomorrow, visit http://www.sigikki.com/series/illgiveit/index.shtml

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