Story & Art by Naoki Urasawa
Translated by John Werry
Touch-Up Art & Lettering by Steve Dutro
Cover & Interior Design by Yukiko Whitley
Edited by Annette Roman
Naoki Urasawa is beloved by many, and is by far one of the most talented creators in manga. That said, readers aren’t always interested in a long-form story. With how little time there is in the day, we often want something short to pass the time. Viz Media’s most recent Urasawa release scratches this itch: Sneeze: Naoki Urasawa Story Collection. Can Urasawa continue to deliver in a smaller page count?
Sneeze compiles eight short stories from Urasawa’s career. While Urasawa is often associated with writing thriller manga, here he explores a much broader set of themes. There are certainly more traditional stories in this collection such as “DAMIYAN!” and “Throw Toward The Moon!”, but Urasawa balances them out with some surprising additions. One of my favorites was “Henry and Charles”, which focuses on two mice attempting to traverse a kitchen to get cake, all while avoiding a fearsome cat. It feels reminiscent of an old Warner Bros. cartoon, making it a humorous read from start to finish. Sneeze is a testament to Urasawa’s versatility as a writer, showing that he is more than a master of a single niche.
Urasawa also has a well-known passion for music, and it’s aptly showcased through “It’s a Beautiful Day” and “Music Nostra”. “It’s a Beautiful Day” centers a story told to Urasawa by the late musician Kenji Endo. While the story isn’t solely focused on music, you can see the admiration that Ursawa had for Endo and his peers during its opening pages, and how he was fascinated by the tale. Meanwhile, “Music Nostra” details Urasawa’s personal travels in Los Angeles, where he got to attend Woodstock and meet the former president of Apple Records Jack Oliver. Ursawa’s enthusiasm throughout the experience is infectious, and it’s easy to see why music has had such close ties to his work.
At this point, it should be no surprise that Urasawa’s artwork is beautiful. Each of his stories has a meticulous amount of detail, even in the minor mannerisms of characters. As “Henry and Charles” shows, this isn’t limited to human beings, as the mice in that story are just as expressive as the rest of Urasawa’s designs. He can bring a sense of realism to the most absurd of premises, making his work an addictive read. Urasawa is by far one of manga’s greatest talents, and Sneeze reminds readers of that on every page.
Sneeze is another brilliant manga from Naoki Urasawa, showcasing his skills in short-form storytelling. Readers will be impressed by the variety of stories showcased in the collection, and will be left wanting more by the end of their read. Bless you, Urasawa!