Asadora! is the newest series by esteemed mangaka Naoki Urasawa, who is also the creator of many other well-known and celebrated series, such as 20th Century Boys and Monster. Like a lot of his work, Asadora! is full of mystery and highlights the plight of everyday people that, though ordinary, do remarkable things. While it showcases his masterful touch and style and has similar themes, Asadora! is different from anything he’s done before thanks to its tone and feel.
Asadora! starts out foreshadowing future events to come in Tokyo, but quickly flashes back to 1959 to tell us the story of Asa and her life in the town of Port Nagoya and the people that live there. There she lives with her large and still growing family. Since she is one of many children, the townspeople constantly call her by the wrong name. As a result, she feels not only forgotten by her own family but by the town as well. The only person who calls her by the right name is Shōta, who is in junior high and is training to run in the Olympics.
With her mother in labor, Asa runs through town to find a doctor in the midst of a typhoon. While on her way, she crosses paths with former pilot turned burglar, Kasuga. She tries to stop him on her own, but a series of events leads them to join forces.
Asadora! is a mysterious, monster story, but it’s also very historical as well since it’s set in post-war Japan and explores the effects that war still has on the characters in this story. And this is not just showcased by those who’ve been to war themselves, but also those from the younger generations who are indirectly affected by it as well. You have Kasuga, who was a pilot in the war and now struggles to make ends meet, but you also have characters like Shōta, who’s being pressured by his brothers and father to achieve the dreams they didn’t get to fulfill because of the war.
The characters introduced in Asadora!’s first volume is one of its biggest strengths; Each has stories of their own that are extremely well told, but how they interact together and how their issues and stories influence one another is even more expertly conveyed. There’s a lot of depth to the people in Asadora!. They’ve already overcome, or are still overcoming, a lot on their own, but they are going to have to come together yet again to face the hardships that are to come in the wake of a natural disaster.
While heavy issues and elements are explored in the first volume, the overall tone of the series remains bright thanks to Asa and her endless compassion for others. She sees the best in people no matter what they’ve done and helps them see the good within themselves that, while buried, was there all along. Because of her and her interaction with the characters, there are a lot of touching scenes in the series that make it a joy to read.
Another highlight of the series is Naoki Urasawa’s artwork. I have to mention how incredible the colored pages in the beginning look, but the black and white pages are strong as well. The textures featured throughout the panels in the buildings and landscapes are beautifully done. The expressions these characters have really bring their personalities and emotions to life, which made me that much more connected to them. There are panels that really make an impact visually but emotionally as well, and this is a strong reason as to why Naoki Urasawa’s work never ceases to amaze me.
Asadora!’s first volume featured a story that was full of hardship, but it also saw people rising up to be the best they could be. The mystery that is threaded throughout makes the series intriguing, but it’s also heartfelt due to the stories of its characters as well. While I’m still not quite sure as to where this one is headed, the first volume set it up in a way that made me invested in its story and it revealed just enough to keep me interested. There are sure to be a lot of twists and turns along the way and I’m excited to see how this one develops and continues to surprise me in the volumes to come.
Thank you to Netgalley, Viz, and Naoki Urasawa for a copy of Asadora!, Volume 1 in exchange for an honest review.
Also be sure to check out everything that’s releasing from Viz in 2021!