Story & Art by Inio Asano
Translated by Jocelyne Allen
Touch-Up Art & Lettering by Joanna Estep
Design by Shawn Carrico
Edited by Pancha Diaz
Inio Asano has written numerous titles centered around depression and isolation and his recent series Downfall is no different. The story centers on Kaoru Fukazawa, a moderately successful mangaka who has recently ended his serialization. Even though he needs to urgently decide on his next series, he can’t find the motivation. Combined with his unstable marriage and waning love of manga, Fukazawa’s life has become aimless. It’s a recipe for what Asano does best and a fascinating one at that.
One of the most apparent aspects of Downfall is its critical view of the manga industry. Much like Asano himself, Fukazawa specializes in non-traditional manga centered around mature subject areas, but despite the attention they get, his popularity doesn’t translate into sales. As a result, members of the manga industry treat Fukazawa’s work as a lower priority, viewing him by his monetary value. It’s a harsh yet realistic world that Fukazawa finds himself in, and it contextualizes his cynical comments about manga throughout the story. The industry’s obsession with revenue has warped Fukazawa’s perception of manga, now believing that most series are pandering to their readers. The industry that Fukazawa had once loved has become the bane of his existence, leaving him weary and distant.
As the story progresses, it becomes less about Fukazawa’s struggles as a mangaka and more about his search for happiness. He once believed that drawing manga would make him happy, but now that he’s spent years in the industry, he’s begun to wonder whether his life went down the wrong path. This is shown best through Fukazawa’s frequent visits to sex clubs. Fukazawa’s obsession over the club worker Chifuyu conveys his desire to re-experience youth and be freed from the burdens that he currently faces. Fukazawa is trapped in a life that he no longer wants, longing for the return of his innocence and passion.
Interestingly, Asano opts to not give Fukazawa’s depression a clear resolution. Even when Fukazawa seemingly finds a path to happiness, it’s torn to shreds by the end of the story. Asano shows that there is no simple way to resolve Fukazawa’s struggle, nor can it easily disappear. Fukuzawa is faced with a sympathetic source of turmoil, struggling to find the answers he seeks in the hurdles of life.
As you’d expect from Asano, his artwork is simply gorgeous. Downfall is covered in realistic environments alongside simple yet realistic character designs that fit its mature subject matter. Fukazawa’s expressions are especially profound, conveying his disgust, despair, and exhaustion without any words necessary. Just like Asano’s narratives, he has created a visual style that will resonate with readers and keep them invested in his work.
Downfall is a depressing yet powerful manga that excels in its exploration of human struggle. Asano has once again created a series that is true to life and will surely captivate readers. If you are looking for a unique and emotionally relatable story, this manga may be what you need.