Alive by Hajime Taguchi is a short story collection centered upon the theme of being “Alive”. And in reading each of the stories, some short, some long, pondering what being alive means in this manga and how it relates to society and people in general, it doesn’t feel like it gets it right. With over 15 stories there might be something that would catch your eye, but it’s hard to gain meaning and understanding with any of them thanks to inconclusive endings, some stories ending too quickly, and easily art that tells me digital just isn’t the way to go. It’s 279 pages of inconsistent and lacking works.
The good of course is the variation of stories, and they all revolve around the theme of “Alive”. In this work, there are ordinary people who end up living ordinary, mundane lives, with a past that speaks to how life can seem so great at one point, but change just as quickly, and getting hurt is a possibility. In one story, a man no longer can cope with getting hurt/or hurting people in a relationship, so he not only shuts himself out of meeting a woman and trying to start anew, he ends up fulfilling whatever he desires with a doll. In another story, a young high school boy doesn’t know what his life holds for him anymore at one point, and instead wants to be killed (that admittedly, does lead to a nice moment where he tries to get himself run over by a car, asks for the driver to hit him, and then asks the driver does he have to live. The driver responds by saying no, but if he hits him, he’d have to go through the court system. Yeah that kills someone’s enthusiasm!).
Then there just happens to be ordinary people in Alive who end up living lives that can only be cased as surreal, out of touch with reality, and downright crazy. The very first story revolves around a high school girl who just doesn’t want to see things she hates anymore ever again, so she ends up getting glasses that turns everything she hates into mosaics. You can guess this backfires to an extent. Then there is one wacky story that ends up having a man make a daring attempt to climb over a wall, only to discover what lies behind the wall is civilization, and he has to make a choice whether to listen to his loved one and come back down or take a chance and discover what lies in the unknown.
With all these assortment of stories, something in it should stand out, except for Alive’s case, I can’t say any of them turned out to be memorable to me. One story in this collection — 69th Street Mary — is probably the best example of what was interesting about this collection but also is holding it back. An old hag — ok, an old transvestite — ends up suckering you, the reader, as it is drawn in that perspective, into paying her tab as she bemoans and yells at the state of affairs in society nowadays, while also sharing how terrible a parent she was. The art was what ruined it. That made reading the short story surprisingly interesting, but I mostly could not take any of it seriously.
And that is one of the bigger problems of Alive, and that is the art. It is not good. It really looks like it was all done digitally, with little care for proportions and refinement in most of the characters that were drawn. Some backgrounds placed in the work looked out of place and distracting. If the stories were solid to amazing this easily could have been overlooked, except some of the works had forgotten there needed to be an ending, and some of the stories ended up taking visual cues that left me wondering where the story planned to go. In this case, it might have just been better to have normal slice of life stories revolving around the theme instead of getting into territory that was abnormal. That is what kills Alive, and Alive is something you don’t have to read.
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