wApr 19, 2009

Translucent, vol. 1-3

Shizuka is a 14-year-old girl who suffers from Translucent Syndrome. This means that at times, her body goes completely transparent. There is no known cause or cure for Translucent Syndrome, which is unfortunate, as it affects Shizuka's life daily.

Shizuka longs to be normal, while many of her classmates are jealous of her condition without fully understanding it. People who are often the center of attention long to be able to fade away. Meanwhile, Shizuka is literally capable of fading away, but longs to become an actress when she grows up. She faces animosity about this choice: her father tries to dissuade her from it because of her unreliable body.

Shizuka is often sweet and polite, so watching her struggle with being shunted aside by society is heartbreaking. "I just want to yell out....Look at me! I'm right here!"

In addition to the classmates her own age, Shizuka befriends Keiko, an adult woman who also has Translucent Syndrome. I really liked Shizuka's ability to go and talk to Keiko about what it was like to be Translucent, when nobody else could fully understand what she was going to.

There are some scenes that are simple, and heartbreaking. Such as when Keiko puts on a wedding dress and asks, "Well? How do I look?"

Of course, there are a few things to dislike in this series. Shizuka's school nurse is a total creeper. At one point, she coerces Shizuka's love interest, Tadami, to walk in on Shizuka while she is undressed, and locks them in the room together.

Shizkua is also coerced by her female friend to sneak into Tadami's house to steal back her misplaced journal. Of course, to do this translucently, Shizuka sneaks in while naked.

These elements are pretty annoying in a series otherwise focused on telling an interesting story. They can probably be explained by the series' demographic, which is seinen. Unlike shoujo/shounen, which are aimed at the pre-teen and teenage populations, seinen is aimed at adult men. [Its female counterpart is josei, which accounts for titles like Honey & Clover and NANA].

If you're interested in the series but looking to avoid the annoying "Let's make awkward situations!" bits, I recommend the first volume. I thought it was the strongest with presenting a girl coping with a chronic disease, and minimal on the distracting bits.

Overall, the series does a good job with exploring the ways people cope with and react to disabilities. One chapter focuses on one of Shizuka's best friend feeling guilty after thinking, "I'm glad I'm not Shizuka."
While watching her favorite actress on TV, Shizuka becomes agonized, and thinks out loud, "Why me? Why am I translucent? Is this always going to depress me?"

There are 5 total volumes in this series, and I'd like to read the final 2 some day, just to see what happens to Shizuka. They have not yet been released by Dark Horse in the U.S., due to issues with finding new translators.

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scribbled mystickeeper at 9:59 AM

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