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If you’re looking for a crazy, weird, and psychologically thrilling manga to check out, then you might be interested in a title that I think fits what you’re looking for. Some of you may have heard of Jiro Matsumoto through Vertical’s English release of “Velveteen and Mandala” and also his latest manga, Joshi Kouhei, which Hideo Kojima wants to make a game out of. Before those titles and his other works, Matsumoto’s first big title was a psychological thriller manga published in Monthly IKKI Magazine called Freesia. Freesia details a world where getting revenge on people is as easy as 1-2-3.
In the world of Freesia, Japan is suffering from war and a lackluster economy. Criminals are running amok, causing mayhem to innocent citizens. A majority of those citizens crave vengeance against those who have hurt them. Who is there to cater to their wishes? Your local Japanese neighborhood vengeance proxy agencies! These agencies exist because of a law passed that grants people a chance for revenge. One such agency is detailed as three unique individuals join in on the fun. You have Hiroshi Kano, a former military soldier who goes through mental breakdowns and suffers from hallucinations. There’s also Mizoguchi, a “predator” who takes sadistic pride in hunting people down. And finally, you have Ichiro Yamada, a “goody two-shoes” who’s in for the shock of his life. Combine those three men with a mysterious woman named Mariko Higuchi and you have a drama that takes a dark, explicit, and philosophical look at humanity that pulls no punches whatsoever.
While the characters are all pretty interesting, the one who shines is Kano (the main character). It’s kind of funny that the guy who is mentally ill tends to be the most “normal” person in a series. Then again, Kano represents a majority of people that are trying to find a direction in life. He admits that he doesn’t know everything and wants to survive in the chaos surrounding him. The one thing that’s truly frightening about him is his extreme apathy towards others. There is a scene where he witnesses his girlfriend having sex with another man in his apartment and all he says is that they should be quiet since his mother was sleeping. Yup, this man is quite the upstanding citizen, isn’t he?
What drove my curiosity the most regarding the series is the title. Freesia is a type of bulbous plant found in Africa. Why Freesia? Perhaps because of this one trait: the blossoms tend to be beautiful when viewed from above. When you read this manga, you notice that people may look good on the surface. But once you start cracking into the roots and digging beneath the surface, you see ugliness and imperfection. You can say the same thing when you’re in the sky or space and you see how pretty the scenery is below you. Next thing you know, you go back down and see how nasty the environment is. I wonder if Jiro Matsumoto’s message from Freesia is that maybe we need innocence (a symbolic trait of the flower) to preserve our sense of optimism in a world that continues to be cruel.
As one of the first titles to debut on Monthly IKKI back in 2003 and a live-action movie made in 2007, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Freesia published in English in the near-future. Given the reception to Velveteen and Mandala, Freesia is another title that will kick gleeful readers in the gut repeatedly with every volume. I don’t think Jiro Matsumoto would have it any other way.
To quote the Velveteen and Mandala review on Otaku USA, I guess VIZ Media should be the next “equally gutsy American publisher” to make things happen, right?
You can check out IKKI’s section on Freesia at http://www.ikki-para.com/comix/freesia.html