I think everyone comes to that point in their life where they just want to run away. It’s tempting, isn’t it? The idea of dropping everything — bills, debts, responsibilities, homework — is such a beautiful thought that it feels like paradise. It must be paradise. It should be paradise, doesn’t it?
Natsume Ono attempts to capture this idea of fleeing with her comic, Nigeru Otoko (The Man who Ran Away). However, unlike the paradise she imagines, she places her fleeing character in a thick, dark forest. His paradise is seeping with mystery that eventually he owns a myth in the place.
I’ve actually been hesitating to pick up Nigeru Otoko because I’ve had my own perceptions of a Natsume Ono title. I felt that I had to be emotionally ready to read her works because it requires a pensive mind. Also, it requires a bit of concentration and attention because she has this way of taking you to places and if you don’t pay attention, you’ll get lost. But today, I thought, fuck it. It’s been a while and I was convinced by Jocelyne’s review that it’s bound to be interesting.
The comic begins with a myth of a bear that appears to children in some forest. A girl finds herself on a journey towards this forest and experiences this bear and the man behind its myth. As soon as she finds herself lured by the forest’s mystery, the only bridge that connects her towards this world is cut (quite literally) and she discovers that there is no myth with the bear but there must be a mysterious truth behind the forest, the bear, and the man she witnessed. From here, we discover more about this man and the reasons behind his friendly bear and his residence in the forest. It almost reads like it’s the man’s paradise but as you turn the pages, you realize that it has become his self-inflicted prison. More than fleeing towards paradise, this story is truly about abandonment — the very act of dropping everything and not giving a fuck anymore — and the burden of guilt that consumes you afterwards.
Reading it like that sounds like a boring read but it was surprisingly engaging as Natsume Ono draws this comic quite vividly, mixing a bit of her polished men from Gente and her BL and the wide-eyed scraggly characters from La Quinta Camera. I mean just look at these visuals.
It’s just bloody beautiful and honestly, I wouldn’t be arsed thinking of anything else but this man, this bear, and this forest. while reading this comic. Seriously, just look at that bear!
Perhaps Nigeru Otoko is the most visually engaging comic I’ve read from Ono outside of her BL. Her style in this story is a mix between her wide-eyed scraggly characters from La Quinta Camera and her more polished men in Gente or in her BL. It’s an interesting style because it matches the disarray, perhaps the abandon that comes with the place.
There’s also something collected and solid about this title. Everything just seems tied together and while I expected to get lost in the forest, I found myself getting deeply immersed and involved with the place, the bear, and the man in her setting. Nothing of this comic feels disjointed or hanging. It just has enough mystery to keep us glued to every page until you reach the end.
I’ve said before how Ono’s works always takes you towards a journey, an experience. This was one experience I hesitated to join in but I was drawn by the beauty of abandonment and eventually feared the overbearing sadness that fills up every page. There’s this pained lonely expression that comes with every page of her comic. It looks beautiful but it also looks very sad.
Nigeru Otoko is a beautiful expression of the other side of running away. The loneliness. The worry. The guilt that consumes you with every passing day.