According to Wiki, this manga is a science fiction / mystery. It won the 2001 Kodansha Manga Award in the General category, an Excellence Prize at the 2002 Japan Media Arts Festival, and the 2003 Shogakukan Manga Award in the General category.
Sounded impressive so I checked it out.
We find ourselves moving between 1969 and 1997 (and perhaps the future?) The story follows the man-version and boy-version of Kenji, along with his friends from the present and the past. In the present, Kenji takes care of his sister’s infant, Kanna, whom she abandoned before disappearing. Along with this he has taken over the family liquor store and turned it into a convenience store.
One day Kenji stumbles across a strange symbol of an eye in the center of a hand pointing upwards. He vaguely remembers this symbol from somewhere, but gives it little thought until one of his old childhood pals (Donkey) commits suicide. Shortly after receiving news of his friend, a letter from Donkey (apparently written shortly before his death) arrives asking Kenji if he remembered the symbol.
It appears as if a mysterious cult is using it as their logo. The man in charge is only ever seen in shadows, and is oddly known as “Friend.” Kenji goes on a hunt to discover the meaning behind the symbol and find answers to Donkey’s mysterious suicide. In the process he reunites with some of his childhood buddies (who came for the funeral) as they try and recall the past.
At first I didn’t care for the artwork, obnoxious characters, and the jumping back and forth between present and past, but by the end I saw the brilliance in it. The story is real. No, not real as in it really happened, but as in the situations, people, and dialog all being believable. In one sense this is a coming of age story; in another it is for adults to remember what it was like to be a child. The plot has intrigued me enough to make me want to check out the next volume.
Things to consider:
I have a hard time seeing this as being appropriate for children. Later teens perhaps, or young adult, but it just doesn’t settle right for anyone younger. The age rating from Viz Media is: “TEEN PLUS. May be suitable for older teens and adults. For example, may contain intense and/or gory violence, sexual content, frequent strong language, alcohol, tobacco and/or other substance use.” This does indeed contain most of those elements, except for gory violence and perhaps tobacco use (I can’t remember). That said, strangely enough, these elements contributed well to the realism of the story rather than just being there for poor taste. This I’m willing to forgive as long as the audience is the right age group.
Opportunities for discussion:
There is a suggestion and mention of cults. I would use this opportunity to discuss with your teen the deceiving nature of cults and for them to be wary of them. Tell them the signs to watch for and the deceiving nature behind cults as they contort and twist truths for their own gain.