Not Simple: Sadness, secrets and missed meetings
This is a sad manga. And I don't mean sad as in weepy romantic drama which makes you cry only for it to pull back and grant its heroes. I mean sad as in the story revolves around its sympathetic protagonist being consistently screwed out of happiness. Only the fact that Natsume Ono, the writer and artist of this manga, obviously likes her main character Ian (even as she messes with him) makes this manga bearable and transforms its misery into a strange and tragic beauty.
Ian is a young Australian who has had a terrible life. His mother is an alcoholic his father is so emotionally distant as to be neglectful, and his older sister Kylie, the only member of his immediate family who seems to care about him, is in prison. By the time she gets out, Kylie and Ian's parents have split up and their mother has moved with Ian to London.
As the story goes on, Ian and Kylie chase each other from England to America and back to Australia. The manga mostly follows Ian as he journeys from place to place, encountering people and learning secrets about his family. He tells his adventures to his friend Jack, a journalist and novelist living in New York, who turns the stories into a novel.
The manga jumps backward and forward in time, so that the first section actually happens last. This makes the story even more sad, as the reader is shown Ian's final fate and then shown how he gets to that point. The inevitability of it all just makes it all the more sad.
A gripe I have in this novel is the relative coldness of characters. People generally underreact in this story, which makes the story somewhat detached. It also makes Ian's parents, who are probably the two characters who react the least in the manga, all the more monstrous as they barely show emotion while doing and saying terrible things.
There really is only one part of the story where I though Natsume Ono wasn't playing fair. At one point in the story we are given an obvious way that Ian and Kylie could be reunited but Ono refuses to take it, instead pulling a bizarre twist that seems to come out of nowhere. This is also basically the only time (besides a few times when characters are unnaturally cold to one another) when Ono's Western characters read as more Japanese, as it seems like something two Japanese people might do but that I can't image two Australians doing.
All in all, the manga is extremely depressing, but most of the time Ian's almost uncrushable attitude, and the love that certain characters (mostly Kylie and Jack) have for him transforms the story into one of beautiful tragedy when it could have been cruel gloating over Ian's misfortunes. If you hate sad stories this is probably not for you, but if you can stand misery you should definitely give this manga a look-see, as it is definitely interesting