Not Simple

To Put It Simply

Hey guys, want to read a story where everything is terrible and nothing gets better ever?

I was planning on posting about Shades of Grey this week (the Jasper Fforde delight you dweebs), but apparently I’m not used to reading books that aren’t printed at sixty words per page and comprised of at least 80% dialogue. That is to say, this book has a thing they call paragraphs in it and I didn’t finish it in my allotted week, so it gets two.

Not Simple cover

Not Simple (2010) Natsume Oto

Not Simple is a manga (is it a manga?) that crossed my path on accident yesterday. I wouldn’t have picked it up for myself, since the story is the most depressing thing ever and the art style is a little grating at first. At least the art grew on me. I came away really enjoying Natsume Ono’s style – it very much fits the tone of the story. Which is, I guess, weird and sad.

So, Not Simple is the story of a guy named Ian, except it’s told backwards and through the frame of a novel based on his life. So our narrator is the novelist, so much as there is a narrator, and I guess it’s his fault the timeline got all Memento. I like backwards stories, and I think in this case it’s especially neat because it makes the story end on a relatively high note.

Ian is searching for his sister. Their family is spread across Australia, England and the United States after their parents split up and mishap after mishap ensue. They reunite briefly but she sends him away again so she can care for their batshit alcoholic mother. When she does, se tells Ian they can meet again only after he’s achieved his dream. I found this an interesting bleed over of what I’ve noticed to be a very Japanese theme into this mainly western-set piece. It’s kinda Whisper of the Heart-y, that being made worthy of something through achievement. It’s not something I think Westerners put much emphasis on, so it added to the uniqueness of the whole story.

Otherwise, it really is mostly “Oh hey, that was a shitty thing to happen. Here, let’s make it worse.” With a few bits of identity mystery thrown in.

It’s not a bad book, but don’t read it expecting something light or fun. It is sad. It is sad for everyone. It is sad in a way that might even be a little close to home for a lot of people, and I’m not sure if there’s any hope to find in it. It will keep you reading and it unfolds really nicely, but it is sad. So. Now you know.

Hopefully next week will yield more fun. It’ll be more colorful, at least!

Title: Not Simple
Author: Natsume Ono
Pages: 316
Rating: guys I don’t even have a clue

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