Jason checks out Hideki Ohwada's politically-charged mahjong manga, The Legend of Koizumi.
Reviewby Theron Martin, Feb 10th 2006
The Telepathic Wanderers
Nanase Hida, a beautiful young telepath who believes her gift to be a singular talent, returns to her home town after living in Tokyo for several years, only to have an ugly encounter with a former teacher who bears a powerful grudge against her. In the wake of that encounter she undertakes a journey with no fixed destination, one which brings her onto a train where she, to her amazement, discovers two other passengers with special talents! One, a young boy, shares her gift of telepathy, while a young man in a different car is precognitive – and, more importantly, he's predicted that the train will eventually derail.
The first tip-off that Telepathic Wanderers isn't your standard shojo or shounen fare is its cover art, which depicts a scantily-clad young woman drawn and posed in a more mature style than is normally seen in fare aimed at teen audiences. The picture is just a sampling of what's to come in this sexy, sophisticated paranormal drama about the life and journeys of a telepath, with an emphasis on the sexiness. That Nanase is gorgeous is actually an integral part of the storytelling rather than just typical window-dressing in this case, as her continuing efforts to deal with the barrage of lustful thoughts directed towards her by men are a regular topic (and a convenient excuse for inserting in a goodly amount of fan service, of course). Nanase claims in the story that she has conditioned herself to deal with these assaults and used them to set a very realistic self-image, but one gets the impression that the effort is wearing on her. And how does a pretty telepath who wants to keep her abilities a secret deal with the situation when those lustful thoughts turn in depraved directions?
The first volume is hardly all about that, though. Nanase also must use her telepathy to extricate herself from a very dangerous situation with a defamed former teacher and accidentally uses it to pick up on the prediction experienced by the precognitive young man, but the meat of the story comes in her encounter and bonding with the young boy, the first person she's ever run across who has an ability like hers. The telepathy may be the gimmick, but it's the human relationships which drive the story.
Telepathic Wanderers is the first manga writing effort for renowned Japanese sci-fi writer Yasutaka Tsutsui, who is pitched as “Japan's Issac Asimov” but may be better-known to diehard anime fans as the original writer of the novels on which Satoshi Kon's upcoming project Paprika is based. Although a little too emphatic at times and occasionally prone to melodrama, the writing tells a solid story with credible dialogue and character behavior. It does not in any sense have the look or feel of a sci-fi story, which is a credit to Mr. Tsutsui's talent.
Artistry for the manga is handled by Sayaka Yamazaki, an up-and-comer who is probably not yet known by American fans but will certainly attract some new attention between this project and her upcoming manga Haruka 17. Her well-defined drawings provide good detail and distinctive, realistically-proportioned character designs which capture both the beauty and the very ordinary in the story's characters. Not shading in Nanase's normally-dark hair is used to mark instances where her telepathy kicks in, an interesting and effective visual trick. Fan service is also appealingly-done, with a few bits of nudity in later chapters and numerous scenes of Nanase in undergarments in the first two chapters. The one negative on the artistic front is the way Ms. Yamazaki draws eyes. These are uniformly normal-sized eyes, but the way that they're drawn – whether it's because they're just a little too far apart or the way that they're shaped – doesn't sit quite right in many scenes. On a few occasions tricks with the eye designs are used quite effectively to highlight a panel or two, but on the whole eyes of the characters (Most especially Nanase) are disconcerting.
Tokyopop's production leaves sound effects untranslated but otherwise capably handles the English translation and typesetting. A smattering of profanity can be found amongst the translations, although the nudity and mature content alone assures the title of a higher rating. A preview of the second volume written from the perspective of the telepathic boy is also included.
Despite some minor flaws, Telepathic Wanderers stands as a worthy read whose short series length (only four volumes were ever released in Japan) will not require readers to make a major long-term investment. If sexy psychics appeal to you and/or you're looking for a more mature take on paranormal abilities then this is a title deserving of consideration.
Story : B+
Art : B+
+ Solid storytelling, goodly amounts of fan services.
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