Story & Art by Naoki Urasawa
Translation & Adaptation by John Werry
Touch-Up Art & Lettering by Steve Dutro
Design by Alice Lewis
Edited by Karla Clark
Few mangaka are as acclaimed as Naoki Urasawa. He masterfully crafts stories filled with mystery and suspense that captivate readers at every turn. As you’d expect, Viz Media’s newest Urasawa title, Mujirushi, is no exception. While it’s only a single volume story, there’s still plenty to rave about.
Kamoda owns a small manufacturing company, but after a series of unfortunate events, he is left in crippling debt and his wife abandons him and his daughter Kasumi. On their last legs, Kamoda and Kasumi encounter an eccentric man named the Director, who claims they can solve all their problems by going to France with one job: make a painting from the Louvre disappear and leave a stone with a mysterious mark.
The immediate draw of Mujirushi is Kamoda’s desperation. Kamoda’s world has crumbled before his eyes, and it has taken away his will to live. That said, the manga makes it clear that Kamoda’s poverty is a result of his bad choices. He committed tax fraud to go on a luxury cruise, and when that failed, he attempted to make his money back by investing in political merchandise. Kamoda seeks an easy solution to his problems, but he only hurts himself further in his search. The Director’s proposal preys upon the greediness that led Kamoda to his predicament, and he can’t resist its allure.
Kamoda’s dangerous habits are contrasted by his daughter Kasumi’s caution. Kasumi serves as the conscience of the story, pointing out her father’s bad choices and urging him to live a better life. Even when confronting the Director, Kasumi doesn’t hesitate from pointing out his flawed rhetoric, even if it creates hostility. Kasumi reflects the reader’s frustrations over the story’s events, making her an easily relatable character.
Mujirushi’s supporting cast is small but has several standout figures. The most prominent of them is the Director of the French Enlightenment Institute. The Director is a visually amusing character, as Urasawa depicts him as Iyami from Mr. Osomatsu, referencing both characters’ obsession with France. That said, the Director is more than just a familiar face, and it’s hard to decipher which of his claims are fiction or reality. It turns the Director into a fascinating manipulator, controlling others from the shadows to hide his own secrets. Michel is another interesting character that Kamoda and Kasumi encounter when they reach France. Michel has a connection to the marked stone in Kamoda’s possession, but he also agrees with Kasumi that Kamoda shouldn’t commit a crime. This positions him as a neutral figure within the narrative, sharing a common interest with Kamoda while acknowledging Kasumi’s concerns.
What’s most impressive about Mujirushi is Urasawa’s handling of the story. Despite the manga’s short length, it manages to carry a number of plot threads without overwhelming the reader. Urasawa plants a number of scenes that may seem like singular references or gags at first glance, but as the story progresses, they all play a role in the eventual conclusion. It’s clear that a lot of planning went into ensuring that Mujirushi is cohesive, and it proves Urasawa’s skills are not limited to long-form storytelling. Mujirushi has the substance you’d expect from Urasawa in a bite sized package.
Urasawa has an art style that is immediately identifiable, and that brings a lot of charm to his series. The characters have a wide range of expressions, and each of their designs feels varied. The environments also have their unique qualities, with the buildings and streets of Japan having a distinct contrast to the rustic architecture of France. Urasawa’s depiction of the Louvre is especially impressive, emphasizing the awe of the museum and its famous works. This conveys the difficulty of Kamoda’s mission and creates a suspenseful tone. Urasawa is a fantastic artist, and it makes his stories a pleasure to read.
Mujirushi is another reminder of Urasawa’s immense talent, providing readers plenty of excitement and intrigue. Its meticulous plotting and compelling cast of characters makes the story a worthy investment for fans of Urasawa’s work. France may be far away, but as the Director would say: Et alors?