December 21, 2011

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Series Review: I'll Give It My All...Tomorrow Volumes 1 to 3

 Written by Shunju Aono
Illustrated by Shunju Aono
Viz

What do you do when you're forty years old and realize you've been wasting your life?  It's a question many people face, but few act on the impulse.  Shizuo Oguro does, however.  Quitting his solid job to become a manga-ka at an age when other artists consider retirement.  But Oguro never was very good at self-motivation, and will his slacking nature take control and destroy his dreams of seeing print?  Watch as Oguro tries to overcome his own many shortcomings, the brow-beatings of his father, and the doubts of those around him.  He'll be sure to give it his all...tomorrow.


This is one of those books that probably is best served by reading the first few volumes together, as I did.  If you only read the first volume, Oguro comes off as a loser who doesn't really want to work, so he ends up trying to be a manga artist with no discernible talent other than to be the Ed Wood of manga--using all sorts of genres to comedically bad effect.  He's terrible at his fast food job and earns the scorn of those around him.  We only get a glimmer of what's to come when Oguro wrestles with God in his mind and shows a flicker of the depth of character that's coming in the later chapters.

As our story moves forward, we learn a bit more about why Oguro is the way he is.  Seemingly dumb things like having his entire soccer team look like (and be named after) him are not signs of being a loser, but an attempt to show that he's worth something.  When that, too, is taken away, it's a powerful moment.  We get more scenes in Oguro's head, too, as we see that he's always been a bit directionless, doing whatever was easiest for him and refusing to take chances.  That's why this move is so important to him.  Giving up on manga would be yet another defeat.  Returning to the salary man job would be just as deadly as a knife.

Aono clearly dislikes the way society tries to make people conform.  We see those who are able to make it in the business world are cruel and heartless, making fun of others and looking down on the less fortunate.  Oguro's father, who made an impulsive decision of his own, now berates his child for doing the same.  Oguro is not the only character unhappy with his lot in life, as we find out, especially in the third volume.  In fact, ironically, it's Oguro himself who might have just inspired his way right out of the very chance he's dreamed of, depending on how things go in volume four.

It's always a bit weird for me when an artist writes about how others should follow their dreams and be an artist, too.  Sure, you can say that, because you're in the industry and have steady work.  But for every successful manga-ka, there's probably a hundred who can't make ends meet except by working at their day jobs.  I found it a bit arrogant when James Kochalka put forth this argument, and I find it the same here.  In order for your art to be supported, other people have to do the office jobs to get the money to buy them.

It's tricky territory, to be sure, and I'm not sure how I feel about the message being played here.  It's clear that Oguro really isn't all that good, no matter how hard he tries.  He has a good heart, but it's like watching a minor league ballplayer try to make it in the majors.  They really aren't going to be successful.  At what point should they hang up the spikes?  At what point should Oguro give up?  That seems to be the logical conclusion that follows, but I worry Aono might try to give this story a happy ending to back up his thesis.

Talent is in the eye of the beholder, and even Aono personifies that.  His work is two-dimensional at times, with a rough hew we only see in manga that's offered in a non-traditional format, such as Viz Signature.  He reminds me a bit of Jeffrey Brown, given the introspection of the main character and the less than perfect art.  It's funny because you can't help but wonder how many of the comments thrown Oguro's way were first delivered to Aono.  The big difference, however, is that while Brown, Aono, and others keep working through the odds, it seems like Oguro's dedication won't hold, no matter how hard he tries.  The series title become a mantra, but it's not sticking very well.  Time will tell if that continues to be the case.

I'll Give It My All...Tomorrow takes a character with not a lot of redeeming value and tries to make him sympathetic.  We are meant less to feel sorry for him than to root for him to overcome his problems and finally reach his dreams.  I don't think he should, but I'd be okay if he does.  It's a story of exploration of the culture of success and how we define it.  Aono wants us to see it's more than money that makes life worth living.  In theory I agree, but in practice, the world is a far colder place.  I'll be very curious to see how this story plays out over the rest of the volumes.  Viz Signature has once again found a gem of a series that might not otherwise have reached Western eyes.  I'm glad we got the chance to see if Oguro finally gets his.