“What We Can’t See” – Gogo monster (manga) – 8/10 Streamers

 

I was the kid next door’s imaginary friend. ~Emo Philips

Mangaka: Taiyo Masumoto

Genre: Fantasy/Supernatural/School

Review Status: Complete (1 Volume/1 Volume)

Licensed: Yes, this manga is licensed in the US.

Art: It looks very sketch-like, more like a pre-teen or teenager’s work than professional. But it still manages to convey a very creepy atmosphere when it needs to, with great panels that give a sense of emptiness or danger.

Summary: Yuki Tachibana, a withdrawn first grader, is convinced that the fourth floor of his school is home to supernatural creatures that few kids (and no adults) can see and he’s worried about a recent influx of new, less friendly creatures and about his ability to perceive the true shape of things waning as he gets older. Most of the other kids mock Yuki – they think he’s crazy due to his strange pronouncements and peculiar actions – and, aside from the creatures he sees, his only social interactions are with the school’s kindly and open-minded caretaker, a new transfer student named Makoto Suzuki who’s allocated the desk next to his and an enigmatic boy named IQ who always wears a box over his head. (MU)

Review: There’s a difference between this and the typical stories about kids with imaginary friends. Usually, they’re creatures to be tolerated, loved, and eventually, moved on from. Here, they are a more sinister thing. Told through the eyes of a transfer student named Makoto, who’s not quite sure what to make of his unusual classmate, Gogo Monster is a creature that’s sinister and dangerous- moreso than usual, since these things can hide in plain sight. And what’s worse? They’re at risk of destroying the school because of their nefarious tricks and ways of posessing people. At least, according to Yuki, the only one who’s able to see them.

Strange things start hapening at school. Windows break, plants start gorwing out of faucets, and little faces can be seen in water drops. This does really well at building atmosphere, these incidents contrasted with the normality of life as Makoto experiences it, dealing with Yuki’s strange behaviour and yet feeling that something is off, no matter how hard he tries to brush it off. When even his strange friends grow to be unreasonable, Makoto starts to really believe, the niggling belief he had in them surfacing. Makoto is really the strongest character, in many ways- Yuki is the strange friend that we all had, and Makoto is easily someone who’s shoes we can step into, still having thoughts about what is real and what isn’t, at the brink of becoming an adult, and yet unable to really make the transition.

It’s Yuki, though, who finally ends up dealing with the strange things that are taking over the school. In a way, this is fitting, since he’s always been the one who believes. The world he enters is strange and paradoxial, a place where he comes face to face with some of his darkest fears and defeat the invaders- which we ourselves do not see or deal with, because they aren’t ours. It’s a nice touch because what’s in there is left up to the reader, and our fears are all different. And, of course, afterwards life goes on. Things change, a new generation comes into the school… and the cycle begins again.

What’s interesting is how it focuses on growth and change rather than the monsters themselves. All the characters change a bit. Yuki notes it by saying that adults start to ‘rot and stink’, probably with the corruption and end end of innocense that adulthood brings, that he can sense beginning in himself. It connects with how Yuki isn’t the only one to see these creatures, and shows in how everyone relates to the story of the beings living in the school.

There are little things that really stick out if you’re familiar with Japanese culture that make this story even more unnerving, such as the invisible creatures living on the abandoned fourth floor (considered cursed or unlucky, so much so that often buildings will not have them), little things that really make this story stand out and somewhat more realistic than many of it’s peers. It was quite a ride

Overall, it’s a touch of strange, but really very fascinating.

Recommended: 15+. This has some rough language, and perhaps is a little too symbolic/strange for those younger to really get.

Overall Rating: 8/10. The reasons why things are happening- and the symbolism it has- isn’t really that clear until you go back and think about it. Still, this ends up being a fascinating look at how we forget our own childhoods and innocence.

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