Story & Art by Naoki Yamamoto
Chapters: 47 – Spans 4 Volumes
Summary: This is the story of the Suzuki family. A father, a mother, and their two daughters. And when father comes home after being away for a few years on an extended business trip, he finds his family in complete disarray. Having been invaded and defiled by miscreants; Father must now spend his time attempting to put his family back together.
Review: Arigatou is not a happy story. I wish I could sit here and say that it’s incredibly uplifting, but Yamamoto decides to tell an even deeper, and even more real, and intricate story than that. Because not every story has a happy ending, sometimes people get pulled into never-ending whirlpools, and while sometimes you get a break from the tides, you don’t always come out on the top side of the water.
Ichiro is the father of the story, along with his daughter Takako, they make up roughly the main leads of the series. With his second daughter Akiko and wife Sakura making up the secondary main characters. But everyone gets a storyline. In only 47 chapters Yamamoto sweeps through several years of their lives, with the majority of it taking place in a year. He takes the family through the ringer, focusing on ideas and themes revolving around PTSD after being a slave to a bunch of rape culture thugs, teenage rebellion, cult societies, and the measures one will go to see his own family finally become whole again. Even if they’re extreme and wholly unnecessary.
The themes are intense, and yes there are graphic situations. There is a lot of sex, and a lot of nudity but never for titillation. Not once did I feel the satisfaction of seeing intercourse be had, but instead remorse and guilt over seeing such lovely characters get taken advantage of. This isn’t a hentai story though, as the sex does NOT become the plot, but when it happens it exists to further the plot.
The characters seem real enough, but there are times when the story is taken to an extreme to emphasize the unreality of all of this, as if to remind the reader “Hey, it’s fantasy. Don’t forget that.” Because never would an entire, hundred-plus biker gang be able to bare itself outside of a single house for days without other neighbors or the police intervening. There are other examples I could use, but I like to keep my reviews as spoiler-free as possible. Those moments when the story does hit more towards the “this could only happen in a comic” kind of events it drags me out of the story a bit, just because it’s supposed to be a “real” story. If that makes sense.
The art is okay, it’s nothing spectacular but it does fit the overall “real” tone of Arigatou. Every character feels “real” and thought out in their looks instead of everyone being pretty and petite all the time, or the perfect, young looking man. A lot of the time the characters will look distorted and awkward, but it gets better as the series goes.
Arigatou is not a happy story. It is, however, a moving story, at least in this reviewers eyes. It isn’t perfect. Some story lines could be longer or more effective, and some shorter and less intrusive (like the opening storyline which is, oddly enough, about intruders). Some of the character’s motives and actions could’ve been fleshed out and explored better, like Takako’s overall rebellion arc. I think her story is perhaps the weakest of the three, sadly.
You won’t feel great relief when you come out of this story, but I still consider it worth a try. Especially if you’re looking for something new to try out. Something a lot more adult, a lot less apologetic about what it is. Arigatou means “Thank You” in Japanese. And I think its a fitting title.
Final Score: 3.5 Dysfunctional Family Members out of 5
Derrick is a born and raised otaku with a love for comics, anime, manga and movies. The full list is pretty long, but that’s just the basics. Stories set in space are his bread and butter.
You can find more of his writing at IndieComix.net