Genkaku Picasso, Volume 3

Genkaku Picasso, Volume 3Creator: Usamaru Furuya
U.S. publisher: Viz Media
ISBN: 9781421539201
Released: May 2011
Original release: 2010

The third and final volume of Usamaru Furuya’s short manga series Genkaku Picasso was originally published in Japan in 2010. Viz Media released the English-language edition of the volume in 2011 under its Shonen Jump imprint. Genkaku Picasso was initially serialized in the manga magazine Jump SQ. Furuya mentions in the series’ afterword that he was somewhat surprised to have been approached to create a manga by one of the Jump SQ editors since he didn’t consider his previous work to have had much popular, mass appeal. (Furuya made his debut in the alternative manga magazine Garo and is particularly well-known for some of his more avant-garde work.) Genkaku Picasso was originally intended to be only two volumes long. Happily, Furuya was able to expand the series to three volumes, which allowed him to tie everything together in the way that he wanted. Although I enjoyed the first volume of Genkaku Picasso the manga starts out a little unsteady. But by the end, Furuya has created a fantastic series.

For most of his life, Hikari Hamura has been content to keep to himself and concentrate on his drawing. He’s earned himself the nickname of Picasso from his classmates (much to his dismay as he greatly prefers the work of Leonardo da Vinci), but up until recently they have mostly ignored him. Picasso is as strange and gloomy as he ever was, if not more so, but many of his classmates are beginning to feel drawn to him for some unknown reason. What they don’t realize is that Picasso has been helping to solve their personal problems. After nearly dying in a bizarre accident Picasso has gained a strange ability that allows him to see and draw the darkness that exists in another person’s heart. He can enter into those sketches, and by changing them he influences his classmates lives, hopefully for the better. This power is something that Picasso has tried to keep hidden from the others but it becomes difficult for them to disregard his increasingly odd behaviour, especially when he seems to know things that they would never reveal to someone else.

Genkaku Picasso starts out as a fairly episodic series. Generally, I found the longer stories—those lasting several chapters—to be more successful than the shorter ones as they feel less rushed and more thoroughly developed. It’s only really during the second volume that it becomes clear that there is also an overarching plot. The details of that larger story are completely reveled in the third volume of Genkaku Picasso. With a little bit of a lead in, “Hikari’s Story” takes up nearly half of Genkaku Picasso, Volume 3. It’s the longest story in Genkaku Picasso and is what pulls together the entire series. Up until this point in the manga, while Picasso has certainly been the protagonist, the stories have largely focused on his classmates and the issues that they are struggling with. But in “Hikari’s Story” their roles are reversed and it’s Picasso who needs help. It’s an extremely effective turn of events that brings the series full circle quite nicely.

The ending of Genkaku Picasso is actually a little heart-wrenching. Picasso starts the series almost a complete loner. Except for Chiaki, who hung out with him despite his protests, most of his classmates simply took no notice of him. Picasso was perfectly fine with this, or at least that’s what he told himself. As Genkaku Picasso progresses, Picasso slowly gathers people around him as he helps them with their problems. But it’s not until the third volume that he actually admits that he has friends and that he actually wants friends. Picasso has to be completely honest with himself and with the others, which in reality is a very terrifying thing to have to do. With “Hikari’s Story” the entire series becomes about Picasso and shows the tremendous amount of growth that he has gone through. I’m very glad that Furuya was able to extend Genkaku Picasso and give it a marvelous conclusion. Even considering its somewhat awkward start, Genkaku Picasso is a wonderful series. I thoroughly enjoyed its quirky humor and characters, its engaging artwork, and its somewhat peculiar but ultimately heartfelt story.

Genkaku Picasso, Volume 2

Genkaku Picasso, Volume 2Creator: Usamaru Furuya
U.S. publisher: Viz Media
ISBN: 9781421537542
Released: February 2011
Original release: 2009

Genkaku Picasso was the second multi-volume manga series by Usamaru Furuya to be released in English. The first was a seinen gag manga called Short Cuts which, like Genkaku Picasso, was published by Viz Media. Genkaku Picasso is very different from Short Cuts. It’s an example of one of Furuya’s few shōnen manga and is currently his only shōnen series available in English. Furuya is an extremely versatile artist, changing styles, genres, and demographics to suit his needs. He had his start in alternative manga, but Genkaku Picasso, while quirky, is a more mainstream title. Initially serialized in Jump SQ, the second volume of Genkaku Picasso was released in Japan in 2009. Viz Media published Genkaku Picasso, Volume 2 under its Shonen Jump imprint in 2011. I found the first volume of Genkaku Picasso to be intriguing, but more uneven and less compelling than some of the other manga by Furuya that I had read. But with the second volume, the series finds its footing.

After a bizarre near-death experience, Hikari Hamura, given the nickname Picasso by his classmates, finds himself in an even stranger predicament. Chiaki Yamamoto, a victim of the same accident that nearly killed Picasso, is now small enough to fit in his pocket and is sporting angel wings. Picasso himself has gained the ability to see into people’s hearts and minds. Compelled to draw what he sees, he can literally enter into the psyches of others through his illustrations. Using this newfound power, Picasso is able to help his fellow classmates. Not that he really wants to go to all that effort. In fact, he’d much rather be left alone to concentrate on his artwork. But unless he wants to let his arm rot away—another peculiar consequence of his accident—Picasso must do what he can to help those around him. With Chiaki’s assistance and prodding he has successfully resolved some of his classmates problems and has even gained a few friends in the process, but Picasso is still incredibly reluctant to get involved.

Although there has always been an ongoing story in the series, the beginning of Genkaku Picasso felt fairly episodic. However, with the second volume the series starts to become a bit more cohesive. The stories in the first volume seemed to be resolved a little too simply and cleanly, but as Genkaku Picasso progresses it becomes apparent that it’s not really that easy. Picasso has helped some of his classmates (though they are only aware of that subconsciously) but they continue to have problems; he hasn’t solved everything for them. The first volume’s stories had a “one and done” sort of feel to them while the issues in the second volume, even after they are initially resolved, are long-lasting challenges. They are things that the characters may very well struggle with for the rest of their lives. I much prefer this approach since realistically matters of the heart and mind are not so easily mended. I think Genkaku Picasso becomes a stronger, better series with the inclusion of these more complicated and nuanced narratives.

From the very beginning one of Genkaku Picasso‘s strengths has been its artwork, something that continues to be a highlight in the second volume. Furuya uses a variety of art styles in the series. Picasso enters the drawings he creates of other people’s hearts. They are filled with beautiful, surreal, and even disturbing imagery, allowing Furuya to creatively illustrate and explore the characters’ internal states of mind. But probably the greatest reason that I find the second volume of Genkaku Picasso to be more effective than the first is that the problems that Picasso must help to try to solve happen to be more relevant to me personally. For me, many of the stories in the first volume were little far-fetched while those in the second volume are a bit more realistic and universal. Most of them focus on love, romance, gender, or sexuality which are themes that I have a particular interest in. I could personally identify with the characters in Genkaku Picasso, Volume 2 in ways that I previously couldn’t. I did enjoy the first volume of Genkaku Picasso, but I was able to appreciate the second volume even more.

Manga Giveaway: Genkaku Picasso Giveaway Winner

And the winner of the Genkaku Picasso Giveaway is…Ikari!

As the winner, Ikari will be receiving a brand new copy of Usamaru Furuya’s Genkaku Picasso, Volume 1. Last week, Experiments in Manga hosted the Usamaru Furuya Manga Moveable Feast. I decided to coordinate this month’s giveaway with the Feast by selecting one of Furuya’s manga.

For the giveaway, I wanted to learn a little bit about how other people were first introduced to Furuya and his works. Check out the Genkaku Picasso Giveaway comments for some great stories. I was surprised by how many people’s first experience was Short Cuts, although I probably shouldn’t have been. Personally, I didn’t find out about Furuya until Lychee Light Club was licensed. I think I can safely say that I’ve made up for it since then, though.

Usamaru Furuya’s Manga in English
Genkaku Picasso
Lychee Light Club
No Longer Human
Palepoli (excerpted in Japan Edge and Secret Comics Japan) 
Short Cuts

Genkaku Picasso, Volume 1

Creator: Usamaru Furuya
U.S. publisher: Viz Media
ISBN: 9781421536750
Released: November 2010
Original release: 2009

After a seven year drought, Genkaku Picasso became the first in a (very small) flood of new titles by Usamaru Furuya to be translated into English. The first volume of Genkaku Picasso was released in Japan in 2009; the entire series was originally serialized in the manga magazine Jump SQ between 2008 and 2010. The English edition of Genkaku Picasso started publication in 2010. Once again, it was Viz Media that brought Furuya’s work to English-reading audiences, having previously published Short Cuts and excerpts from his debut manga, Palepoli. I’ve had Genkaku Picasso sitting on my shelf for quite some time, but it’s only now for the Usamaru Furuya Manga Moveable Feast that I’ve finally gotten around to reading it. Furuya is well known for his work in underground and alternative manga, but Genkaku Picasso is one of his more mainstream series.

Hikari Hamura, nicknamed Picasso by his classmates (much to his frustration), would much prefer that everyone would just leave him alone to his drawing. However, after a strange accident leaves him with the even stranger ability to visualize the contents of another person’s heart, Picasso must learn to use his artistic talents to help others or else he’ll rot away. Drawing what he sees, he can dive into the artwork and their subconscious. The problem is that the visions aren’t particularly straightforward. That and Picasso doesn’t really feel like reaching out to others and is much more comfortable keeping to himself. It’s not easy, and there tends to be quite a few misunderstandings, but Picasso doesn’t seem to have much of a choice. He might not want to, but he has to get to know his classmates better even if he does find them and the prospect terribly annoying.

One of the things that impresses me the most about Furuya’s work as whole is that he deliberately creates a particular aesthetic to fit an individual manga and story. In the case of Genkaku Picasso, Furuya primarily uses two different art styles. The first, representing reality, is a more mainstream, slightly stylized manga style which utilizes screentone and such. The other is based on the approach of pencil sketches and includes hand shading techniques and crosshatching. Used for Picasso’s artwork and the characters’ subconsciouses, it is also a reflection of Furuya’s own fine arts background. I find it interesting that the more realistic style is used to capture the unreal in Genkaku Picasso while the comic style is used to show the ordinary. Granted, even Picasso’s “ordinary” is slightly off-balance and surreal, which the artwork helps to show.

I wouldn’t exactly say that I was disappointed with the first volume of Genkaku Picasso, but I didn’t find it nearly as captivating or compelling as the other works of his that I have read. I really like the premise of the series, but after one volume I haven’t been convinced by the manga itself, yet. I feel like it wants to be deep and profound, but the first volume somehow comes across as superficial, even when Picasso is delving into the supposed darkness of other people’s hearts. The problems are resolved too quickly and easily. Still, there are plenty of elements in Genkaku Picasso that I enjoy. Although there hasn’t been much real development yet, I do like the characters. Picasso and his classmates Sugiura and Akane make an amusing trio (quartet if you count Chiaki). Genkaku Picasso also has a quirky sense of humor that shows up frequently. Picasso’s social awkwardness (mostly self-imposed) and bluntness is delightfully endearing. So while I may not have been overwhelmed by the first volume of Genkaku Picasso, it does intrigue me and I do want to continue on with the series.

Manga Giveaway: Genkaku Picasso Giveaway

It’s nearing the end of the month, so it’s time for another manga giveaway! In honor of the Usamaru Furuya Manga Moveable Feast, which is being hosted right here at Experiments in Manga, I’ll be giving away a new copy of Furuya’s Genkaku Picasso, Volume 1 as published by Viz Media. As always, the contest is open world-wide, so please enter!

I first learned about Usamaru Furuya when I saw a cover preview for Lychee Light Club. I had never heard of Furuya before, and I had certainly never heard of Lychee Light Club, but I adored that cover (and still do). For some reason (and I’m not sure that anybody else actually is aware of this), I volunteered to host the Usamaru Furuya Manga Moveable Feast before I had even read a single thing by him. Since then, I’ve devoured Lychee Light Club as well as everything else of his that is currently available in English. It’s been a lot of fun and a very satisfying experience to research and completely immerse myself in Furuya and his work. I’d love to see more of his manga translated into English.

So, you may be wondering, how can you win Genkaku Picasso, Volume 1?

1) In the comments below, tell me about how you were introduced to Usamaru Furuya or his work.
2) For a second entry tell me which, if any, of Furuya’s manga you have read and if you have a personal favorite. (If you haven’t read any, you can just mention that.)
3) If you’re on Twitter, you can earn a bonus entry by tweeting about the contest. Make sure to include a link to this post and @PhoenixTerran (that’s me).

Each person can earn up to three entries for this giveaway. As usual, you have one week to get your comments in. If you have any trouble leaving comments, or if you would prefer, you can e-mail your entry to me at phoenixterran(at)gmail(dot)com and I will post it. The winner will be randomly selected and announced on February 1, 2012.

VERY IMPORTANT: Include some way that I can contact you. This can be an e-mail address, link to your website, Twitter username, or whatever. If I can’t figure out how to get a hold of you and you win, I’ll just draw another name.

Contest winner announced—Manga Giveaway: Genkaku Picasso Giveaway Winner