A lot of manga artists, contrary to how it seems, have a lot of manga under their belts at the end of their careers. The more successful manga artists have their most successful work headlining their contribution to the industry, and the mistake that fans make is that they get the idea that the headliner title is the only manga the artist has written. This is false – authors get many ideas and some are materialised and some not.
One mangaka who has produced several different works is Oshimi Shuuzou, the Gunma-born mind behind the psychological shounen romance, Aku no Hana (Flowers of Evil). Oshimi’s works go beyond the success attributed to him for Aku no Hana and in fact, he is lauded for several other works which have been adapted into various other media. Oshimi’s works share his narrative style, which consists of quirky main characters and a male-female relationship in the works. This relationship unfolds, but unlike what we’re used to – the development is usually through uncomfortable, even disturbing situations that the characters must navigate. His favourite themes are of coming-of-age and perversion and in his most notable work, Aku no Hana, this is prevalent.
The man is a genius and it is reflected in his work, the best of which are the focal point today. So, let’s get to it – the top 3 by Oshimi Shuuzou!
- Genres: Drama, School, Shounen, Vampire
- Volumes: TBC
- Published: February 2015 -
Okazaki Makoto is an average high school student. Well, except for the fact that he gets bullied and he’s a bit of a pervert behind closed doors. One night, on his way to return a DVD he borrowed from a friend, Makoto took note of a human form standing on a nearby rooftop. Suddenly, the shadowy figure pounced – biting his neck and drinking his blood. The strange figure turns out to be a beautiful girl who, after helping herself to Makoto’s blood, asks him a chilling question: “Do you want to die, or would you rather become like me?” Dazed, Makoto chooses life. Little did he know that the life he lived and the life he chose are completely different.
Happiness follows Okazaki Makoto after the incident and, in classic Oshimi Shuuzou fashion, things quickly spiral out of control. More people experience the same thing Makoto experienced and of course, this leads to more of them. Makoto’s life had changed from the night of his attack because the attack turned him into a supernatural entity, specifically, a vampire. After this attack, Makoto begins to exhibit strange symptoms at school, due to the blood thirst he develops after becoming a vampire. The worst part of these symptoms is that he meets Gosho Yukiko, a girl whom Makoto later befriends, ushering in the second of Oshimi’s famous male-female relationships in the manga, the first being that of Makoto and the female vampire responsible for turning him.
Happiness is ironically named. Makoto’s life after the attack is a violent and messy existence and honestly, things just get worse for the main character as the story progresses. However, Oshimi’s artistry is on display with this work – the art is great, the plot, as generic and run of the mill as it may sound, houses a brilliant story which any manga fan should try at least once.
2. Hyouryuu Net Café (Drifting Net Café)
- Genres: Action, Mystery, Romance, Sci-Fi, Seinen
- Volumes: 7
- Published: February 2009 – June 2011
29-year-old Touki Kouichi is a married man with a baby on the way. However, for some reason, he can’t help but think that he isn’t completely happy in his settled-down life, nor can he shake the feeling of regret from never developing the relationship with his teenage crush, Touno Kaho. Unwilling to head straight home after work one day, Touki decides to kill time at nearby internet café. There he runs into a blast from the past: Touno Kaho. However, their reunion is cut short by the strange behaviour of the technology in the net café. Everyone present soon comes to the realisation that they are no longer in town – the entire net café has disappeared and reappeared in a strange realm, cut off from what they once knew.
Again, Oshimi Shuuzou makes use of a male and female character to carry his story forth. Touki, like many other Oshimi main characters, has a bit of a pervert streak, and his trustworthiness is questionable considering his reaction to running into his teenage crush. What Hyouryuu Net Café does well is that it puts a number of different characters into bizarre and testing circumstances, much like titles like Gantz. Naturally, this situation tries Touki’s resolve and overall concern for the home life he created for himself. Oshimi Shuuzou explores themes of perversion through his works and that shines through in Hyouryuu Net Café, through the main character, Touki. Oshimi himself believes that perversion is a trait shared by everyone, tainted by the stigma surrounding it.
1. Aku no Hana (Flowers of Evil)
- Genres: Drama, Romance, School, Shounen, Psychological
- Volumes: 11
- Published: September 2009 – May 2014
Kasuga Takao is an awkward middle schooler who finds refuge in the books he reads, particularly Baudelaire’s Les Fleurs du Mal. Kasuga has a crush on Saeki Nanako, the cutest girl in his class, but he cannot get himself to talk to her so he admires her from a distance. Seki is his muse. One day, Kasuga forgets his copy of Les Fleurs du Mal in the classroom, so he goes back to get it. Alone in the classroom, he finds his book, but he finds something else too: Saeki Nanako’s gym uniform.
On impulse, Kasuga steals it. Upon discovering that her gym uniform has been taken, the whole class goes on a manhunt for the “pervert” responsible. Ashamed and guilty, Kasuga holds his breath as his classmates try to get to the bottom of the situation; however, to his horror, someone witnessed his crime. Nakamura, the quiet and friendless girl in the class, saw Kasuga take the uniform, but instead of turning him in, she blackmails him and uses the incident to control his life. With everything spiralling out of control, is it still possible for Kasuga to draw closer to his muse, Saeki, or will Nakamura’s influence bring everything to ruin?
Of anything Oshimi has ever published, Aku no Hana is the most incredible piece of work. The manga shamelessly explores themes of friendship, angst, perversion and romance with amazing guile and conviction. Reading it, each crazy twist brought on by Nakamura’s demands causes stomachs to churn and tie knots in suspense. Some of the events are truly cringe-worthy and strangely innocent, but before long, things become increasingly dark and convoluted, in classic Oshimi Shuuzou fashion.
The relationship that develops between Nakamura and Kasuga is unlike any we’ve seen before, and the complexity of the relationship is truly telling of Oshimi’s abilities as an author. Aku no Hana is the kind of manga one picks up on a whim and finds themselves unable to put it down, it is an immersive psychological experience that has a profound effect on those who read it.
Most casual anime/manga fans won’t hear much about Oshimi Shuuzou due to the fact that only one of his works has been adapted into an anime, and the anime itself is not very well known. However, that is in direct contradiction of the man’s ability to mould and create some of the most incredible stories out of seemingly average parts. His extensive ability to produce intricate human relationships in between characters allows him to use character development to flesh out stories. There is a mysterious darkness to Oshimi’s works, which makes them wildly beguiling and impossible to forget once they’re through. That’s one of his greatest abilities – the stories he creates have the ability to change you, to scar you, to stay with you. His top 3 works are more than enough proof of his artistry. We hope that everyone gives his work a chance – that’s all they need.