The Suicide Forest #1
Aokigahara has taken on a life that nature never intended it to have. What happens when that life begins to birth horrors that haven’t been seen before?
In any language, there are very few words that jump out at you, as the word Suicide does, whenever its mentioned. In fact, if you ever want to point to a way that our understanding of human psychology has evolved, one only has to point out how this act is viewed. No longer is Suicide solely viewed as a Coward’s Way Out, or a One Way Ticket to Hell in Western Society (though many still believe any combination of both), but as something that has its roots in symptoms that can be dealt with as long as both ways of the street meet with each other. Despite all of our advancements in this area, it doesn’t mean that we have toned down the seriousness of the matter. In fact, one could say that our acknowledgment of it beyond the knee-jerk reactions show how serious and destructive the action can end up being. These notions especially hit home in Japan, where a region that has become synonymous with the act.
Depending on how much you know Japanese Culture, Aokigahara is a word that can range from meaning nothing, to becoming the name of one of the most morbid places in the world. Nestled at the base of Mount Fuji, Aokigahara is renowned for its geographical diversity, whose combination with its natural beauty has made it popular tourist spot. At the same time, Aokigahara cannot escape the fact that is has become a symbol for death in one way or another. In ancient times, the forest had become the central place where the very old and very young would be left to die during times of crisis, a practice known as Ubasute. In Post World War II Japan, it has not been able to escape its death filled histoy, as it has become the 2nd most popular destination in the world (behind the Golden Gate Bridge) for someone to end their life, despite the warnings littered throughout the its landscape. Its reputation has also lended itself to be the subject of literary works such “Kuroi Jukai” (Black Sea of Trees) published in 1963 & “The Complete Suicide Manual” released in 1993. “The Suicide Forest” joins those two infamous works, and becomes the first major Graphic Novel to be about this setting. How does the first chapter stand up? Very Well, despite a couple of small flaws.
"The Suicide Forest" follows two separate storylines. The first storyline involves two Park Workers who have been charged with the responsibility of keeping the corpses from littering the main tourist walkways, while the second storyline follows an American Expatriate, who has finally broken it off with his Native Girlfriend, and ends up being where the main set up for this storyline takes place. Surprisingly, this comic is not as dense text wise as one would expect, but that doesn’t take away from the story, as the dialogue is extremely well written from start to finish, and whatever parts of the storyline that aren’t conveyed in the text is conveyed in the art, as both components work very well to enhance the setting, especially coming together where you get the feeling that two scenes happen at the same time. A technique that I wished was used more in this medium. Ed Torres does a great job in getting his readers to stand up, take notice and care about what happens next, winning a major victory in selling this story to his readers.
When it comes to the Graphic Novel Medium, the debate about whether Story or Art is more important rages on endlessly without coming close to being resolved. However, when one gets enough experience about how comics are created, they realize that the best comic books have both of these important aspects work together to bring the best piece of work possible with this Comic Book proving that point in spades. The Art hits all the right notes as its transports you to a world where the themes are properly served by the dark backgrounds and drawings. The characters emotions and actions are masterfully conveyed as Gabriel Hernandez gives a detail to each character that gives them all uniquely individual looks, and like the writer in this book, the Artist should be given props for the 2 pivotal scenes in this book, which would not have carried the same weight without his work, giving this great package another sterling positive.
If there is anything that can be considered a strike against this first Issue, It would have to be that it felt like it ended too fast, as the book ends at point that leaves us wanting more, and can leave some people feeling shortchanged on the first read. We’re also left wanting more from Ryoko, who is obviously the character who knows the most about Aokigahara, but beyond that we know very little about her motivations, and why she’s may be obsessed with the legends of the Forest. Despite that significant strike, the creators do an excellent job in presenting Japan in a Manner that doesn’t make it look like some crazy planet that’s not on Earth, while not whitewashing the region in accomplishing this feat. Overall, The Suicide Forest #1 satisfies those who like to read their comics more than once, and keeps us more than interested to come back and see how the entire thing ends. A potentially underrated classic could be upon us.
Final Judgment: 8.5
Last edited by SilverPhoenix
on Sun Jan 02, 2011 11:04 pm, edited 2 times in total.