CITY, Vol. 1

By Keiichi Arawi. Released in Japan by Kodansha, serialization ongoing in the magazine Weekly Morning. Released in North America by Vertical Comics. Translated by Jenny McKeon.

It’s always interesting when an established author ends their popular title and moves to a new company to start something new. In the case of Keiichi Arawi, creator of Nichijou, he’s moved to Weekly Morning for this new series, which has a significantly older readership than Young Ace, his former home. That said, I don’t think Nichijou fans need to worry too much about things getting overly serious or normal. CITY contains most of what readers love about Arawi – bizarre situations, a cast filled with overreacting idiots, and the occasional page that reminds you that the author may be at his best when designing backgrounds. And if you already miss Yukko and Mio from his previous series, rest assured, Midori and Ayumu will have you scratching you head and saying “they seem strangely familiar”. Basically, everything you liked before is here again, except perhaps for Mai. (I miss Mai.)

As the title suggests, this is a story of various characters living in the midst of a reasonable-sized city. And I say ‘characters’ rather than people because it’s obvious from the first that funny gags are what’s on the menu. Midori is sort of a main character, the way Yukko was sort of the main character of Nichijou, but as the book goes on it shows itself as more of an ensemble piece. Which is for the best, most likely, as Midori can be difficult to take in large doses. She’s lazy, conniving, and hyperactive, and also has a streak of bad luck, all things that make her very funny, but we haven’t really had any of the heartwarming moments in Nichijou that made us open up to the cast. Probably as this first book is establishing said cast and locale, rather than expanding on them.

There are others in the cast. I mentioned Midiori’s best friend Ayumu, who is meant to be the “normal” one by contrast, but seems to have a few silly interests. There’s a family restaurant, which Midori starts to work at in an effort to pay her rent, staffed by a boy who relies a bit too much on horoscopes. There’s an over-earnest police officer who tries to do the right thing but frequently ends up way over his head. There’s a young woman whose name isn’t given but who is basically Nano from Nichijou without a screw in her back, and she’s sweet and ditzy and obsessed with point cards. There’s even a manga artist and editor, though given the manga artist’s series gets cancelled in this first volume and they replace him with someone far more famous, I’m not sure how long that will last.

CITY likely needs a few more volumes to play out before I know whether I’ll enjoy it as much as I did Nichijou. But the basic elements are all still there, and I still found myself smiling as I read it. Arawin fans will definitely want to check this out, as will fans of “quirky” manga.

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