Almost made me sick of reading.
Having read manga for well over ten years now, I have in my time as a fan developed a fairly good rule – don’t blind buy. Sure, I break with it occasionally, but its one of those things I think of as a cardinal rule. The only time I ever break with it is when it comes to Vertical titles; even when it doesn’t sound much up my alley, I’ve generally found I can’t go wrong with picking up a manga Vertical has licensed.
Well, my dears – no more. Sickness Unto Death was a complete and total waste of my time.
Certainly, maybe this was my own fault, ultimately – this manga didn’t have a story that sounded much like it would be my thing. “But its Vertical,” I thought, “They don’t license crap.” And, hell, the title was a direct reference to Kierkegaard! But, here, let me tell you a little bit about the story itself.
Sickness Unto Death is about new-arrival to Tokyo, Kazuma Futaba, a fairly bright-eyed young man who has come to Tokyo to study psychology in college. Unlike many of his peers, though, Kazuma will not be living the fancy-free life of the kids who opt for cheap apartments, but has instead taken a post as a caretaker in exchange for a rent-free room. Expecting an older person, Kazuma is surprised when his charge turns out to be eighteen year old Emiru, a woman who suffers from such despair that she can barely handle going out alone, and who is plagued by feverish fits and other mysterious physical ailments. Kazuma finds himself entranced by the prospect of helping her overcome her extreme melancholy, psychology student that he is, but he slowly finds himself charmed by what he perceives of as Emiru’s beauty. And, of course, occasionally Kazuma is so good as to remind the readers that trying to treat a mentally ill person when one is a student is a bad idea, as is falling in love with a person you are attempting to provide counseling to.
Honestly, while some of the elements of the basic story are completely troped out, what prevents Sickness Unto Death from working at all is that it wants to have its cake and eat it, too. Author Hikaru Asada wants to be delivering a tale of a young man who is totally in over his head and who is going to end up burning himself, truly, and the author is also interested in examining just what it is that has brought on the seemingly-impenetrable fog of grief that surrounds Emiru. But she is also unwilling to dispense with tropes that bring only to mind the most tired of shoujo and seinen romance contrivances, from the whole matter of Emiru and Kazuma living together, to Kazuma accidentally walking in on Emiru after she’s gotten out of a bath. And did I mention the panty-shots? Yes, really – panty-shots.
The scene wherein Kazuma accidentally sees Emiru naked is the most telling, though. Actually, Kazuma doesn’t do so accidentally, exactly – he is worried she’s passed out from the heat of the tub as he knows she has incredibly low blood pressure and is very physically weak. So he barges in when she doesn’t answer immediately. But even with such noble intent on the part of our hero, we are treated to the sight of Emiru’s naked breasts and her crotch, a towel barely concealing a small patch of her skin.
Sorry, but you can’t really have it both ways in this case – you can’t have pretensions toward being a serious story about a depressed woman while you simultaneously let us leer at her boobs and underpants.
Vertical’s release is, as usual, solid, although the effort is wasted.
Certainly can’t recommend this at all.