The souls of Edo, Review: ancient Tokyo, between realism and mythology

After offering you our review of I doni di Edo, we return to present a further work signed by Koichi Masahara, Japanese mangaka specialized in the genre Jidai Geki. As we have already pointed out, this expression indicates a form of narration that aims to recall a specific moment in Japanese history, generally coinciding with theIt was Tokugawa. Between 1603 and 1868, the latter was characterized by the affirmation of the prestige of the Shogun, whose influence and authority became progressively more relevant than those of the Emperor.

And it is precisely in this fascinating historical era that the new stories narrated and illustrated by Masahara are placed. To propose them to Italian readers is once again BAO Publishingpart of the necklace in a self-contained volume Aiken, the publisher's line entirely dedicated to Japanese comics: The souls of Edo.

Lost souls

As already done for Edo's gifts, the mangaka collects in this second self-contained volume nine short stories, essentially independent of each other. The main objective remains to immortalize individual moments of lived life, contained portions of existence of characters who move, act, reflect and mature against the background of an ancient Edo deeply alive. The Japanese capital gradually takes shape with the incision of the stories, as if each of them shaped a single district, contributing to compose a rich and multifaceted final picture. As in the previous work, the protagonists of the stories narrated by Masahara are people of different conditions and social backgrounds: to unite their destinies, in this case we find the need to to investigate one's soul to face a feeling. Brotherly love, guilt and fear of change are among the emotions that dwell in the spectrum of sensations painted delicately in The souls of Edo.

This second collection proposes an intimate approach to storytelling, a trend already seen in The Gifts of Edo, but here further accentuated, also thanks to stories that, while remaining contained in the extension, offer a more articulated narrative structure.

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Although set in a past that dates back centuries, each short story can offer universal reflections in terms of time and space: the events told put in fact at the center figures such as mothers determined to recover the relationship with their children, now mature men fearful of facing a new phase of life, human beings who find in lie a tool to generate serenity or, again, young unaware of the villainy and the dramatic consequences of envy-led actions.

Also noteworthy is one decidedly more marked presence of the fantastic element: if in the first volume the Japanese folklore was reduced to the sporadic sighting of a kappa, in The souls of Edo the legends of ancient Japan take shape on multiple occasions. Among ghosts, strange events and hidden divinities, the new tales of Koichi Masahara are enriched with a new dimension, which contributes to increasing their charm.

Between real and surreal

In the volume, the stylistic component adapts to the changing narrative proposed by the mangaka. The element that immediately catches the eye is the propensity to adopt more varied solutions, with traits that become more surreal in stories in which the fantastic element is dominant. Overall, the author's tendency to create dramatic effects through a fondness for representation of extended and marked shadows within their tables. The choice to set multiple sections of the work in nocturnal contexts contributes to reinforcing this element, which become particularly evocative especially when enriched by an incessant flow of rain on the destinies of the inhabitants of Edo.

Finally, the stylistic dualism of the mangaka. The representations of men and women are in fact even more essential, even caricatured in certain situations, while the realism with which the city of Edo is shaped is accentuated, with great care for the construction of buildings, roads, vegetation and panoramas. Once again, however, this discrepancy is not alienating, but absolutely effective in accompanying the narrative.

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