30 Day Manga Challenge day 29 — a manga you read that was just plain weird
Watashi wa Shingo (My Name is Shingo) by Umezu Kazuo
Oh god, this is the WEIRDEST. SHIT. EVER. Umezu Kazuo is well known for his horror work even outside of Japan, but he has also worked in other genres; his famous Drifting Classroom is more sci-fi than horror, and he also wrote a hit comedy series, Makoto-chan. Watashi wa Shingo is squarely science fiction, and I believe that any hard-core Umezu fan will tell you it’s one of his masterpieces. Which is why I read it. I mean, I like sci-fi, and I don’t dislike Umezu, though some of his horror is a little too out there for me. So you’d think I’d enjoy this.
And I just. I can’t. Words fail me.
The story goes like this: Satoshi and Marin, two 12-year-olds from different backgrounds, meet and fall in love. They’re torn apart, however, when Marin’s father has to go abroad for work. So they decide that they will never become adults, and to make a child: Monroe, a crude industrial robot with an AI from Satoru’s father’s factory. But in order to make Monroe a read child, they must climb to the very top of the Tokyo Tower and jump off (because… just because). Which they do (onto a rescue helicopter), and at that exact moment, Monroe gains self-consciousness (just because).
Monroe takes off to find his mother, Marin, to pass on Satoru’s message to her. While Marin is abroad, she’s pursued by an adult male who insists that they must marry, which Marin doesn’t want, but which her parents don’t seem to think is a problem (because no explanation provided). Monroe discovers that he was not just a random industrial robot, but that he’s carrying around a blackbox containing blueprints for horrible weapons of mass destruction (who knows why he was sold to a tiny factory in Japan, then), and he considers this bad karma that’s hurting his mother, which makes him angst. Monroe goes through evolution and connects himself to all the computer networks on the planet (how? No one knows), gives himself the name Shingo, and heads for… Jerusalem (because).
Somehow both Marin and the creepy pedophile also end up in Jerusalem through a desert, and somehow the world is ending now (because!), and the pedophile ends up pushing Marin’s “switch that turns her into an adult” (which is the creepiest thing I’ve ever heard), and Marin screams, “THIS IS THE SOUND OF CHILDREN ENDING!” (what?!), and then Shingo destroys Jerusalem (I don’t even know!!!), and at that moment Shingo is reborn as a being which surpasses even god, which is… uh… a child. Yes. A child. This saves everything, and the world isn’t ending anymore (becaaaaause) and everything goes back to normal. Shingo never finds Marin, but he does meet Satoshi again, and when Shingo runs out of power, what’s left on his screen is… the letters “LOVE”.
I mean, I get it. I get it, intellectually, that Umezu is fascinated by children and considers children to be the most sacred of the sacred (I disagree 120%, but I do get it), and that he considers Shingo, a child born from children with no sexual intercourse, to be the ultimate sacred awesome amazing godly the-most-child-of-them-all child of all time. I get that jumping from the Tokyo Tower symbolizes Marin and Satoru’s love, a consummation without sex (although it sure is phallic), and I get that what Marin goes through symbolizes some weird form of female puberty, which Umezu apparently equates with rape by adult men.
I get that the “bad karma” and the weapons of mass destruction Shingo carries around symbolize the crimes of the past generations (you know, those evil adults) that no child can escape from, although children are pure and shouldn’t be saddled with that stuff. I get that Jerusalem had to be destroyed to… uh… something about the symbolic death of old gods so Shingo could become the new ultimate being, okay, probably something like that, who knows. I get that everything goes back to normal in the end because all that plot about Shingo the AI taking over computer networks of the world isn’t the point of the story, the point is all the shit going on symbolically. It’s fine, it’s not even particularly obscure. And I feel bad for being so reductionist, because I think this is a manga you’re supposed to enjoy by just being swept away by the incoherence — but a passionate incoherence! — of it all, but, you know, I get it!
But none of that makes this manga any less batshit insane. If anything, it makes it more insane! Who the hell sees the world like this? The female puberty bit just offends me, to be honest, and the obsession with children! Children! CHILDREN! (this word gets repeated constantly in the text) gets reeeeeally creepy really fast. Now this might very well not be true, Umezu could have carefully and consciously chosen every bit of storyline and symbolism he put into this manga to achieve the effect it has, but the effect it ends up having on me is, it feels like I opened the skull of some really weird person with really weird issues and stared right into those issues with no barrier or censor between me and his brain. It’s impressive, and I’m pretty sure it’s art, but it still makes me go “whaaaaat” and “bwaaaaah” alternatively. It is, without any competition, the weirdest piece of fiction I’ve ever read.