Traditional manga reads from right–to–left in order to maintain the original Japanese style, but this one was translated left–to–right to fit into an American format. Personally, I prefer manga in its original form, but I won’t let that affect my opinion of the story.
Also not traditional to Japanese manga is the lack of clean, elegant, and eye-pleasing illustrations. The ones in Black & White are very rough, crewed, and may make one feel as if a kid drew them. This I will let my opinion be affected over.
It wasn’t until I read a little about the author that I understood the reason for his artistic approach. It appears that Matsumoto traveled throughout France to refine his techniques, and so the French comic style leaked into his own. This helped me to forgive the poor style graphics, at least somewhat . . .
Two young boys (I’m guessing between the ages of ten and twelve) live on the streets of a town called “Treasure Town.” Their bed is the inside of an abandoned car, and their means of survival comes from mugging those unlucky enough to cross their paths.
Their names are Black and White (resembling no skin or other features). White is a simple minded boy who is a follower of Black (Black seems to be the reason White can stay alive) whereas Black is intelligent and perceptive (White seems to be the only one who can keep Black somewhat human).
When a mob tries to move into town, Black takes it upon himself to force them out (yes, these boys are young, but brutally effective). In the process Black finds himself entering deeper into the ‘dark side’ (so to say) while White wishes and dreams of the life of a normal boy.
At first, I could barely stand reading this one. The awful illustrations, the despicable characters, the poor dialog, and the confusing and seemingly pointless story had me forcing myself to turn the pages. It wasn’t until the end that I actually saw a redemptive ray of hope. Still, it wasn’t enough to make me want to read the next book in the series. Not with so many others that have more potential. That does not mean there is not a following and those who have the taste buds for this sort of thing, but this one was not for me.
Things to consider:
Warning. This is not a good manga for kids. I read it because it was on a list of popular manga, and since the story resides around children, it is easy to assume it is safe for children to read. Do not believe this. The language is adult, the situations are crude and brutal, and the drawings sometimes graphic. I wouldn’t rate this for anyone under Young Adult, and even then I’d caution them to not waste their time.
Opportunities for discussion:
The theme seems to surround the evil heart of the boy Black and the simple heart of White; a parallel to the Japanese Yin-Yang balance of good versus evil. It is hard to see the good side of White until we get closer to the end of the story when he tells an old, homeless drunk, “When I hurts people bad and when I lies then I tells God I’m sorry. I says, I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I won’t never do it again. I says I’m sorry a lot, but it don’t do no good. Cuz I just keeps on hurtin’ peole and lyin’. God is probably mad at me, right gramps?” To which the old man replies, “Hmm . . . Yeah. Probably. You’re usually right.” Now, here’s the thing. Take this into a Christian perspective. As believers we often struggle with our nature as does White, and we cannot give up on saying we are sorry. The only difference here is that instead of saying, “I’m sorry, I’m sorry! I won’t do it no more! I won’t do it no more!” we say, “I’m sorry, please help me to change.” Relying on his own strength is what makes White unable to move forward, where we have the helping hand of Christ.