by Usamaru Furuya
Hikari Hamura is obsessed with becoming a great master of art like Leonardo da Vinci, whom he idolizes. His classmates, however, have nicknamed him Picasso, and it is this name that he is known by. His only friend is Chiaki, who joins him in the afternoons on the riverside, reading psychology books while he sketches. On one such afternoon, the tranquility is shattered when a helicopter comes crashing down on top of them. Chiaki is killed, but Picasso suffers only the light injuries. He soon learns that he did not escape unscathed; Picasso’s body is rotting away, and the only way he can reverse the decomposition is through using his artistic talent to perform good deeds. Chiaki’s angel, now only six inches tall, has returned to help Picasso reach out to those in need, even though he’d much rather be keep to himself and draw.
The story quickly settles into a pattern. In each chapter, Picasso finds someone at his school with a dark aura, and this becomes the boy or girl he has to save. He ‘draws’ their heart – a power bestowed upon him at the accident – and then enters into the picture. This is really cool, because the art style suddenly changes. Instead of the polished ink and screentones used on the rest of the pages that is typical of manga, the art becomes sketchier pencil lines (surely rendered with Picasso’s beloved 2B). The detail of the penciled panels is amazing and rich, and it really helps to contrast the psychological world of the heart vs. the clean, uncluttered panels of the ‘real’ world.
Picasso is so antisocial that it’s comical. He doesn’t want to talk to his classmates and help them with their problems; he just wants to become a great artist. Yet as the story rolls along, you can see his art improving as his different encounters force new ideas to flow through his pencil. He may hate every step of it, but Chiaki’s dying wish to “save his talent” is slowly coming to fruition. It’s a fun story, and I’m looking forward to reading more of it.
One small thing, though…the artist uses screentones to color the lips of his characters, and the net result of this is that it looks like everyone is wearing a thick coat of lip gloss. Drove me nuts.
4 out of 5 stars
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