Neun Review: Seeking Yourself in Nazi Germany

Neun Review: Seeking Yourself in Nazi Germany

Neun Review

If you are not at least thirty, it is difficult for the name of Tsutomu Takahashi to tickle your appetite for reading. After all, Takahashi, net of an almost continuous publication of his works in our country (although the prerogative of various publishing labels), has never really been on the crest of the wave for the Italian public, although it is true that he has given us some of the best readings of the last 30 years, at least for what concerns the manga market and it is sad, to be honest, that the name of this artist is only remembered through one of his assistants, namely Tsutomu Nihei who, first with Blame! and then with Knights of Sidonia he consecrated himself to the world as one of the most important authors of the Japanese market.

Well know that Tsutomu Takahashi really has nothing to envy to Nihei and indeed, considering what has been written and drawn since the his beginnings, Takahashi deserves more than ever to be considered in complete autonomy from his (former) assistant, having helped to create some of the most intense, raw and at the same time touching stories in Japanese figurative literature. Starting from that unforgettable Jiraishin, up to the most famous Sidooh, Takahashi has in fact made some of the roughest, most tragic and violent stories in the world of comics, making school (literally) also from a stylistic point of view, thanks to his scratched style, hyperkinetic and very dark, in which there seems to be no room for light and, consequently, for hope.

What is Neun?

Neun is not the last work of Takahashi, an extremely prolific author and never anchored to a specific genre (his latest work, Guitar Shop Rosie, is currently being published in Japan and, as per tradition for the author, it focuses on completely different themes: music), but it is certainly a work of summa, capable of collecting the signs, and above all the themes, that the the artist has matured in a career spanning 30 years now; but let's go step by step.

Neun is a self-concluding series of only 6 volumes, brought to Italy by the always brilliant intuitiveness of J-Pop who, net of the decidedly controversial topic, has taken on the courage to bring comic shop a series that has Nazism as its central theme and which, without hiding it, is proposed with covers at the center of which is a huge swastika on a red background. An idea that might seem absurd but which, like similar works, such as The Story of the Three Adolfs by Maestro Tezuka, uses the theme of Nazism to quickly turn to something else, although war, its horrors and its senseless barbarism. they will remain very present from beginning to end, almost never as a background and more the same as the central part of the story.

The drama of war

Set in 1940, and therefore at the height of hegemony Nazi in Germany, Neun is the story of Franz Neun, a nine-year-old boy born from an experiment designed to offer the Millennial Reich a worthy heir to the Fuhrer. Neun was in fact born by means of artificial insemination and from Hitler's DNA and, together with him, 13 other children were born, all children of Hitler, and all raised anonymously so that they can, one day, carry on the legacy of their biological father. Information that we will obtain practically immediately, at the beginning of the first issue in which, a council headed by Himmler, will start a purge mission to find and kill each of these heirs for reasons that, slowly, will already be revealed in the course of the second volume.

Neun, therefore, is the story of little Franz's escape from the death threat of the Reich and of what will be a path of growth and, if you like, of acceptance by the boy who, page after page, he will have to deal with what is the awareness and, above all, the inheritance that comes from being "the son of the devil". Defenseless and weak, little Franz will however be able to count on the help of Theo Becker, an elected officer of the S.S. whose job is to protect it from any threat. An order that Becker shares with other similar agents, one for each child, and which he will continue to carry out despite the order arrived from Himmler, proving to be cold, cynical and essentially devoid of any scruple, although animated by feelings that, for some reason, they seem to have dozed off in his heart.

This, in summary, is the plot of Neun even if, given the very recent release of the second volume (and the third is in the home straight), it is obvious that we could have told you so much more. The point is that in just 2 volumes the plot runs so fast, and in such an exciting way that, almost certainly, offering you narrative passages, even minimal, would constitute an unforgivable spoiler. Neun is in fact a decidedly quick manga in reading, thanks to a style, that of Takahashi, which does not get too lost in chatter and which rather aims to sublimate to the maximum what is anxiety, anguish and, above all, violence. expressed not only by the story, but by the entire context in which it is immersed, namely that of Nazi Germany.

In the sign of violence

Powerful in images, as well as in the representation of symbols, the stretch of Takahashi is nothing short of delightful to admire, especially when it gets lost in the details that are useful for the construction of the world of the story. From weapons to uniforms, passing through buckles, heavy vehicles, belts or even just the various badges that distinguish military ranks, Takahashi gives us designs of disarming beauty, even when the pages explode in bloody and disconcerting violence, without ever expiring too much. in the gore although, as expected, this does not fail to peep out between one chapter and another.

In general the whole work is pervaded by a sense of anguish, pain and oppression, expressed not only from the theme and from the story, but above all from a drawing by Takahashi, whose stroke gives clean, almost gentle and soft lines (especially when it comes to representing the most childish moments in Franz Neun's life), only to then suddenly transform into rougher images , at times deliberately indefinite and heavy, in which an overabundance of blacks and grays generates an almost suffocating effect, as if the air breathed by the characters were heavy, if not poisonous. A sensation that is not easy to transpose on paper and that instead Takahashi packs with a brilliant result, certainly helped by the heaviness of the theme that is the background to the story, of course, but still proving to be an authentic Master in the graphic rendering of what, after all , is a "sensation" that you want to instill in the reader and that, therefore, requires a mastery that does not simply space in the stroke, but must be sought in the way in which the drawing is first set, from the frames to the nuances, to the size and arrangement of the cartoons, which on the other hand seem to have fun finding space in the pages as if the concept of "grid" did not exist.

Neun, in this sense, is a work of rare technicality, in which every detail seems designed to act as a support to the remaining elements of the story including, not least, its themes, which range from some of the themes most dear to the author: looking for one's place in the world, making sense of one's own he existence and, at the same time, surviving in violence are just some of Neun's themes. Themes that Takahashi has been exploring for years and to which, from time to time, he seems to propose different dispositions, both to his characters and to his readers, cloaking everything in an unshakeable nihilism as if, even if there was room for a little light, this could only filter through a thick, dirty window. You can feel the air breathed in the splendid Zankyo - Reverberation, a work in 2 volumes in which a boy finds himself dealing with an unexpected and sudden inheritance: the gun of a Yakuza, having to find - through it - his place in the world.

In the same way Franz Neun will have to deal with the same weight, that of a terrible inheritance that no one would want but with which, inevitably, he has to deal with the awareness that while hiding this it will be a burden that could devastate the soul. Meanwhile there is the horror of war, the need to survive and, as in Zankyo - Reverberation, the intrinsic need for every human being to build a family that can be a refuge and a shield from pain. Each one as he or she can, in his own way.

A work, therefore, which seems free from defects but which, perhaps, shows its side to a certain haste, as if by force of circumstances one had wanted to concentrate everything on a few volumes when, on the other hand, the story might have deserved a different breath in certain situations. This feeling occurs, for example, around the middle of the second issue, when some revelations begin to present themselves to the reader with some haste. This, in fact, is a problem common to Takahashi's works which, as mentioned, often develop in a few volumes and which in the same way have shown the side, even in the most recent past, to interesting but sometimes hasty developments. . In any case, with its 2 first volumes, and with 4 others in sight before the conclusion, Neun itself is one of the most interesting and, in some ways, courageous readings of recent years. It is not a read for everyone, of course, but it is still your best opportunity to discover the genius and, above all, the eclecticism of what is one of the most important mangakas of the last 30 years.

Powered by Blogger.