Monday, October 17, 2022

On the Coffee Table: Old Boy

Title: Old Boy, Volume 7
Writer: Garon Tsuchiya
Artist: Nobuaki Minegeshi

via Amazon

The Old Boy manga has gained a lot more traction in world mainstream media than most, inspiring live action feature films by big name directors in both South Korea (Park Chan-wook) and the United States (Spike Lee).  The basic story: Goto, a gangster (presumably), is freed after 10 years of captivity in a private prison.  He doesn't know exactly who has done this to him or why.  The series follows his efforts to piece it all together.

I will admit, it's all rather difficult to follow.  Goto has friends and, evidently, a lover, too, but it's hard to tell whom he can actually trust - who truly is on his side and not also being manipulated.  Volume 7 covers issues #60-69, all originally published in 1997.  By this point in the overall story, Goto has discovered his nemesis, Kakinuma, who evidently holds a lifelong grudge from childhood.  But the full implications of the grudge are yet to be understood.

As confusing as the story is clearly intended to be, it's beautifully told and highly intriguing.  The series has gone out of traditional print in the United States but is still available digitally on Comixology.  So, I may dig further some day.  It was only by chance that this print copy fell into my hands and I'm glad it did.

The biggest treat for me personally is the strong sense of setting.  1997 Tokyo, you see, is my Tokyo.  I lived in nearby Yokohama from 1996-98 and spent a great deal of time in the capital.  I know the back streets of Shinjuku and Shibuya.  I know the landmarks: Tokyo Municipal Building, Almond in Roppongi.  I recognize the cell phones of the era.  It all looks and feels right in my nostalgic, ex-pat view.


  1. The idea of being in prison and not knowing why reminds me of Kafka. My parents lived in Kamakura from 1979-83. I was already in college but did visit there and enjoyed it.

    1. Kafka! That's a connection I hadn't made but it works. Thinking about it now, the typical central European take on such a situation is so different from the Japanese. European: the world is closing in on you. Japanese: the desperate loneliness and isolation of modern life.

      I adore Kamakura. I was just a short train ride away. It was a wonderful place to visit at different times of year.