“The Time Is Ours” – The Hour of the Mice (manga) – 8/10 Snowballs

 

Mangaka: Kei Toume

Genre: Drama/Mystery/Psychological/Seinen

Review Status: Complete (4 Volume/4 Volumes)

Licensed: This manga is not licensed in the US.

Art: While the art does have some distinct manga-style characteristics, this tones it down to a more realistic level, much like Satoshi Kon or Naoki Urasawa’s work does. There is some great symbolic work in some of the scenes (we never see the faces of parents, for instance).

Summary: Maki Takano and his three best friends Ryo, Natsume and Mei are students at a private academy for highly gifted children. Like all the other students of this isolated and heavily guarded school, they have never seen the outside world since they were brought to the school at the young age of three.

When a new female student named Kiriko Hinatsu arrives, Maki has the strange feeling that he has met her before. However, he seems to be the only person who can remember the girl. When he confronts her with his discovery, Kiriko reveals the unbelievable truth about their existence: The school they have been living at all this time is actually an experimental facility and all the students are but guinea pigs who are being used for sophisticated neurological experiments.

Maki now has to decide: Will he continue his false but sheltered life or will he help Kiriko escape even if that means putting himself and his mental health at risk? (Kotonoha)

Review: The name, Hour of the Mice, will probably give you the impression that this is about mice, or that it’s a frantic escape story. Neither is correct. This is about mice, in the form of students that are experimental subjects, and it is about their escape into a new world, but this is more than the sum of its parts. Taken apart, this manga is fairly shallow and predictable. Kiriko is at the school right from the start, throwing the initial story’s vaguely uneasy tone into one of mystery. The students that follow her down the proverbial rabbit hole are characters that lack any particular depth, filling roles that were assigned them from the beginning, from Mei, the wishy-washy and clingy one, to Maki, the one who goes headstrong into the unknown. They play out these parts as could be expected, in a story that is predictable to a certain point.

It’s the plot that brings out what this story is really about- people. People and the past. These characters play out these themes in an emotionally-charged drama. Everything else is just mere trappings for showing how the past always affects us, how humans can be overcome by it, how weak we are when things truly must change- and how hard that change can be.

Hour of the Mice doesn’t do it this at once. This paces things so that the buildup of suspense is slow, with small things giving way to the bigger things that are going on. The next thing to happen might be obvious, but how it happens isn’t. The ties between characters and events seem obvious in hindsight, are occasionally obvious from the beginning, but the changes in them and the growth (or lack thereof) are often not. There are no grand revelations about life or anything like that, and I appreciated being able to draw my own conclusions from it.

Overall, this is something that might make you think about your own past, and it’s a good read for it.

Recommended: 13+. This deals a lot with drugs: the abuse of pharmaceuticals, the creation of illegal ones, etc. There is implied murder, and one character attempts suicide. There’s no gore, just a natural death, and the image of bandages on the wrist.

Other titles you might enjoy:

After School Nightmare (manga)

Arisa (manga)

Tokarev no Ayaui Shiro (manga)

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