GRAPHIC NOVEL
Othello
Volume 1

Author: Satomi Ikezawa
Artist: Satomi Ikezawa
Tanoshimi
RRP: 5.99, US $10.95
ISBN: 978 0 009 50645 4
Ages: 16+
Available 03 May 2007


Yaya is a shy, introverted sixteen years old girl, who, having lost her mother at a young age, lives with her over protective and emotionally invalidating father. School isn't much better as Yaya is the butt of her so-called friends jokes. Although very aware of this Yaya is too timid to fight back, only on the weekend, when she dresses in emulation of her favourite band Juliet and hangs around with similar people does she get respite from the horror that is her week. All this is about to change when Nana hits town, self assured and unafraid she watches Yaya's back and rights the wrongs done to her. They should be the best of friend, if only they could meet. The problem with that is that via a child's magic compact it is Yaya who, unbeknownst to her, transforms into Nana...

Volume One of Othello (winner of the Tanoshimi's Otuka Choice Competition 2007) is written and illustrated by Satomi Ikezawa, who is also known for Guru Guru Pon-Chan. Othello is a shoujo novel, but that shouldn't turn you off if you're not a young girl, as the themes are not only universal to teenagers but to anyone who wished they had better interpersonal skills. If you're looking for a metaphor then Yaya's compact, which turns her into the self assured Nana, has a direct correlation with the various drinks that adults consume for courage.

Yaya's life is indeed tragic. We are shown, in flashback, her mother who is presented as loving and supportive. Her father, however, is over protective and views his child's ambitions with some derision. Rather than allow Yaya to experience the world with his support, his over protective nature just disables her even more. It is not that he isn't a loving father, but his emotional distance is in stark contrast to her memories of her mother.

The attractive male student Moriyama is the love interest for Yaya and her friends. Initially, because of her emotional fragility, she views his natural offhand humour as just cruelty, but as the two get to know each other she discovers that beneath his brash exterior there lies a heart of gold.

Her main antagonists and, due to her fears of being alone, two best friends are Moe and Seri. They are not exactly evil, just two good-looking bitches who thoughtlessly torment Yaya for their own amusement and gain.

In fact it is the characterisations which sets this manga above many others. It deals with the type of situation which we all experienced as adolescents and, in a slightly different form, as adults (sorry kids it doesn't get any better, you just get older) its roots in reality just makes the pathos more painful and Nana's pay back all the more sweet.

Volume One contains the first four chapters, which set up the main characters and back-story very nicely and throws in a few extras for fans.

Overall this is a very impressive psychological manga that should be in any serious collection.

Charles Packer

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