Story & Art: Naoki Urasawa
Translation & Adaptation: John Werry
Touch-up Art & Lettering: Steve Dutro
Design: Alice Lewis
Editor: Karla Clark
Publisher: VIZ Media
Naoki Urasawa is well known here in the United States, with series like Monster and 20th Century Boys ranking among the favorites of many comic lovers. Those readers can rejoice, because VIZ Media has reestablished their commitment to bringing English-reading fans more Urasawa with their most recent publication, Mujirushi: The Sign of Dreams.
Kamoda is the kind of guy who likes to buy into a get-rich-quick scheme. Hoping to take his wife on a cruise, he evades taxes only to get randomly audited. His wife abandons him and their daughter, Kasumi, running off to go on the cruise by herself, fed up with her husband’s antics. Desperately trying to get his life back on track, Kamoda agrees to make masks of a United States’ presidential candidate, Beverly Duncan, whose resemblance — both physically and politically — to current president Donald Trump is uncanny. The election does not go as anticipated (partially because of Kamoda’s wife) and the masks inevitably fail. Kamoda follows a strange symbol throughout town and finds himself drawn to a mysterious buck-toothed man who refers to himself as the Director.
The Director tasks the father and daughter pair with going to Paris to swap out a priceless painting, and to leave a strange rock with his strange symbol on it on top of an ancient Egyptian statue, promising them that they will achieve all their dreams this way. Canny Kasumi senses that the Director is a charlatan, but she has no choice but to follow her desperate, credulous father. And thus begins a bizarre journey to the Louvre, and to the discovery of the Director’s past.
Despite the tension of tax evasion, debt, and major art theft, Mujirushi is actually a warm and funny manga, teeming with Urasawa’s signature style and skill. His satirization of American politics feels especially apt when the premise of the story is the sale of unattainable dreams, the Director himself a smooth-talking confidence man. Though perhaps not as engrossing or complex as some of Urasawa’s other offerings, Mujirushi does leave the reader with that familiar feeling of awe at a master’s manipulation of line, panel, and story. There are echoes of Urasawa’s mystery series Master Keaton, as Kamoda and Kasumi stumble upon the people and places that all lead back to the Director somehow. It is a fun jaunt into an absurd reality where one man’s hope touches the lives of many, drawing them together in circumstances beyond that which they could have ever imagined for themselves.