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There’s a lot to talk about when it comes to an author like Shuzo Oshimi, much of which has already been discussed in various posts here on this blog. From his strange story beats to the way his characters exude emotion and insight out of every expression and panel. Given these strengths in his previous works (The Flowers of Evil, Inside Mari, etc.) it makes sense he would also attempt to leverage those skills into something even more sinister in subject matter: 2017’s Blood on the Tracks.
The first volume starts off normally enough, introducing Seiichi and his mom Seiko waking him up for school. His life is about as normal as any other middle schooler: a group of nerdy friends, a painfully obvious crush in Fukiishi, and his extended family which he is relatively close with. However, it becomes obvious through Oshimi’s illustrations that something about this famiily, more specifically Seiko, is not quite right.
Honestly, forget the rest of the series at this point, because this first volume has some of the most amazing build-up and payoff of any volume one out there. No, seriously. I had the idea a while back of making a video about how to write a good first episode of anime, my example of which was going to be The Promised Neverland. I were to attempt a similar video about manga, this would almost certainly be my primary example.
For starters, Oshimi does a great job at setting the scene for what would otherwise be a pretty normal middle school boy and his family. Seiichi gets up in the morning to his mom making breakfast and his dad going to work, he darts off to school and wants to hang out with his friends, he comes home to find his mom working on dinner. The extended family comes over for a dinner and Seiichi gets to see his cousin, Shigeru. Normal, everyday stuff.
However, it is in those tiny, seemingly unimportant moments where Oshimi arguably does the most important storytelling. Whereas Seiichi largely sees an overprotective mom who wants to love her kid, there is something else their, lingering behind Seiko’s eyes, which is payed off beautiful in the third act. The impact of her pushing Shigeru off the cliff was maybe a tad diminished because of prior knowledge , but it was still an incredibly powerful scene, to be sure.
Beautiful Character Writing
The aforementioned scene with Seiko and Shigeru is indeed a stand out moment of the first volume. However, nothing about that moment would succeed without Oshimi’s great character writing. I already briefly mentioned the interplay between Seiichi and his mother, but there are a lot of other great elements in that regard.
Seiichi’s extended family also feels fairly fleshed out even in the first volume. His aunt, while not outwardly rude, does seem the loud and obnoxious type, who takes small jabs but never wants to argue about it. Shigeru follow’s in his mom’s footsteps by being generally somewhat obnoxious. Even Seiichi’s own dad feels fairly conflict avertin and much more in like with his other family.
All of this sets scene for a mom that is clearly not mentally or emotionally stable. Nothing about her condition is necessarily confirmed to be caused by the behavior of everyone else, but Oshimi knows how to make people understand through his use of great facial expressions and writing. The subtlety of it all is what makes it all is what makes it that much more terrifying, because things family members slowly going crazy are not always so obvious.
Hit or Miss Art
While Oshimi’s character work is usually spot on, his backgrounds can be a bit more…inconsistent. Not to say that expansive world-building and setting are usually the most important part of his work, because they definitely are not. However, it does become a bit more noticeable in certain spots in contrast to the panels where his characters are being particularly expressive.
The sports where said contrast is most evident is in the scenes on the mountain, where some parts look beautifully and painstakingly drawn and shaded and others…kinda look like some squiggles that were supposed to be stand ins he would replace later, or are just missing entirely. It is not the biggest deal and honestly does not show up as much as I am probably leading on, but it is definitely something I hope does not rear its head too much going forward.
The Flowers of Evil was a thriller in a much lower stakes sense, where Kasuga is mentally hamstrung by his one decision up until the very end. Blood on the Tracks takes a bit of a different approach, throwing Seiichi into a decision which is definitely not his own and is likely to come with more severe consequences. Hard to say exactly where it will go, but there’s definitely feels like there is going to be some severe psychological damage.
How do you all feel about Blood on the Tracks? Let me know down in the comments. Also, feel free to read along with me if the series seems interesting to you. My plan is too put out one post on the series every one and a half to two weeks, so about every three to four posts I put out.
If you are interested in reading more from me, check under blog to read my most recent stuff, or look below for some related posts. Also, if you would like to support Animated Observations, consider donating on Ko-fi or through paypal, or pledging on Patreon. You can even support by just liking and sharing this post.
As Always, special thanks to Jenn for supporting the blog on Patreon.
If you can’t, or just don’t feel like it, no worries. Thank you all for reading, and goodbye, for now, friends!
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