Asadora! Volume 1 is written by mangaka Naoki Urasawa and is published by Viz Media. What drew me to the title, initially, was the cover art that reminded me of the artwork of one of my favorite mangaka Inio Asano with its hyper-realistic artwork on polaroids. All I knew about Asadora! Volume 1 was that our main character gets kidnapped while a typhoon occurs. However, what I encountered was an insightful manga that explores the ideas of poverty, natural disaster, and war.
This book starts off with our main protagonist Asada running around town with her friend. She’s only a small girl, but she already understands her place in the world. She is one of 5 children, with a sixth child on the way. Urasawa does not write Asada to be a sad or tragic character, instead, she speaks matter of factly. She recognizes that her parents don’t have time for her and instead of dwelling, she takes control of her life and what she does. However, this puts her in a dangerous spot as she is trying to get home in time while her mother goes into labor. A typhoon hits her small town of Nagoya, Japan. Right before the typhoon hits, Asada gets kidnapped.
Given that the blurb for Asadora! Volume 1 mentions she was kidnapped, I would have expected the story to follow a traditional kidnapping thriller. Instead, Urasawa invites readers into a human drama filled with intricate detail and intense poignancy. This kidnapper mistakes Asada for a rich person’s daughter and was expecting to use her as a ransom for money as he is extremely impoverished. He doesn’t want to be a criminal, and cannot afford to be one either, but describes how he’s run out of options. As Asada and he are trapped in a building together after the typhoon, Urasawa provides backstory on an army pilot in World War II. This hints that our story takes place in post-war Japan with the rise of the baby boom. The focus on the kidnapper’s backstory is never about glory, fame, or how many Americans were killed but rather about camaraderie. He laments on how he never wanted to be involved in the war but just wanted to be a pilot. When he was in the war, he just wanted to make it out alive. There’s something so fragile and insightful about this fact that makes Asadora! Volume 1 a look into survival.
The artwork as the story progresses is beautiful, even while depicting tragedy. The typhoon has virtually drowned their hometown. House is completely underwater. Asada doesn’t know whether or not her parents are alive. While readers know that this story takes place in 1959, Urasawa’s art style feels chic and modern with clean lines and photo-realism that places readers right at the center of the story. While there is nothing inherently exciting about his character designs, his set design is breath-taking. He does not need to write about the people’s pain and suffering but is able to use his artistic ability to deliver impactful story beats. Facial expressions, detailed pieces of people’s houses, baby clothes floating in the water is enough to key readers into how natural disasters can wreak havoc on a town.
What continues to be the strength of Asadora! Volume 1 is his characterization. Asada does not know whether or not her family is alive and is able to convince her kidnapper to use his wartime experience to deliver aid to the people of her town. She does not want to cry or break down because it doesn’t do anyone any good. It’s this tenacity and strength that is both heart-warming and also extremely disheartening. In the face of adversity, at such a young age, her selflessness puts her emotional needs at the back burner as she traverses through an event she has yet to understand or process. Throughout the volume, the small inklings describing the post-war effort and how it has affected families, the economy of small towns, and people’s attitudes towards one another. Whether it is the reluctance to share resources, the distrust to helping others you think are lost causes, or penny-saving for the end of times, it showcases Urawsa’s strength as a storyteller. He is able to depict so much simply through his artwork and small dialogue. Panels are never cluttered and his lettering is easy to follow and read making Asadora! Volume 1 a manga you can quickly consume in one sitting.
While I was expecting an intense thriller, I have come out with nothing but awe at this quietly brilliant work from mangaka Naoki Urasawa. Asadora! Volume One demands that you follow Asada through her adversity and root for her along the way in post-war Japan.
You can read Asadora! Volume 1 any place manga is sold on January 19th, 2021, or pre-order through our Bookshop affiliate link here.
'Asadora!,' Volume 1
While I was expecting an intense thriller, I have come out with nothing but awe at this quietly brilliant work from mangaka Naoki Urasawa. Asadora! Volume 1 demands that you follow Asada through her adversity and root for her along the way in post-war Japan.