Sickness Unto Death Review


sickness unto death


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.

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7 Responses to Sickness Unto Death Review

  1. supervamp78t says:

    You can’t honestly say you want a serious story when you en d up paying more attention and being bothered by panties shots or nudity.

    • A Day Without Me says:

      Actually, bro, quite honestly I can say that, and I did. If you’re down with tit shots of a dangerously mentally ill person, that’s your business, but I think its gross.

  2. dm00 says:

    Thank you. Kierkegaard + Vertical almost had me blind-buy this, too.

    Lately, I’ve been using the library a lot to preview manga, but that requires a lot of patience as brand new titles may not make it into the system for a while. Of course, the problem this presents for publishers is that a lot of manga isn’t actually worth owning, just reading through once and passing it on.

    • Ah, too bad! And it seemed to have such an interesting premise, too. Though it wasn’t under nearly such awkward circumstances, I had a job like the one described here. But it really does seem like a shame that something serious gets drowned out by list of tropes we’ve seen a million times in anime and manga.

      Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy my panty shots. I just find the idea of getting them from a girl who sounds like she may be suicidal a little tasteless.

      • A Day Without Me says:

        I’m not one for panty shots and boob shots myself, but in a different manga I doubt I’d be making much noise about it, as there isn’t a huge amount of it. However, like you said, its pretty tasteless. I just wish the story had been put in someone else’s hands.

    • A Day Without Me says:

      I’ve found that review sites have made a huuuge difference in my ratios of hits to misses when it comes to manga – sites like Manga Bookshelf, and its affiliated sites. I also find reading samples a little helpful, and a lot of the publishers do provide those now on their own websites, and when it comes to e-book editions, you can often get samples from the likes of Barnes & Noble or Amazon.

      I also buy a lot of my manga used now, which takes some of the pinch out of buying manga that I end up not liking much or not at all. Gotta be careful if you’re buying used online, though, obviously, and I’d advise against buying without seeing pictures of the item first.

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