“Doesn’t it bother you that everyone says you’re creepy and weird? How can you stand to keep coming to school?”
“Super Star, Chance and lots, lots more … I’ve got lots of friends here.”
Yuki Tachibana sees things. Strange things that no one else can see. At least, no one else at school can see them. He knows they used to peacefully coexist with his own reality, until the others showed up. They don’t understand the rules, and they don’t know who’s boss.
Makoto Suzuki joined Yuki’s class because his old school got shut down. Yuki says it’s because of the others. Makoto sits next to Yuki in class, watching him draw strange creatures on his desk. While he is encouraged by other kids (and probably teachers) not to hang out with Yuki because he’s “strange” and “weird,” he can’t seem to stop paying very close attention to him. Yuki seems to hold secrets about the school that no one else knows. Yuki tells Makoto about Super Star, the boss of the other side, and how he is worried that Super Star has stopped talking to him because he’s growing older: “I’m turning into a grown-up. I feel them less and less. Before long, I won’t be able to see anything.”
Eventually, the others begin to cause more trouble, and Yuki and his friends have to help Super Star before the other side causes irreparable damage to the school, the children, and nature itself.
Drawing for the senses is what Matsumoto does best. Reading his graphic novels, I can hear a group of students gossiping in the background, the screams from the school playground, the planes flying overhead. It’s amazing: a symphony on a silent page. And I can smell the flowers, the school; and imagine rain pelting my raincoat.
I’ve read reviews that mention GoGo Monster being entirely dissimilar to Matsumoto’s earlier work, Tekkon Kinkreet in particular, but I think everything he draws contains many multi-sensory experiences. When Tekkon Kinkreet was first released as a serial manga, some people complained that his drawing style was too strange, too loose, too experimental. However, many people, upon getting over the initial realization that this isn’t normal manga, now consider it to be one of the best.
Almost all of his works have children as protagonists, and most are lacking parents in some form. After reading an interview with Matsumoto, and his most recent comic (a fictionalized autobiography) Sunny, I learned that Matsumoto was an orphan himself. In GoGo Monster, we aren’t sure what the deal is with Yuki’s parents, but we know that he has a close relationship with the school groundskeeper, Ganz, who acts as a sort of father or grandfather type. He even cuts Yuki’s hair.
A message to take from this graphic novel, if any, is to help out those in need. Makoto isn’t sure Yuki can actually see invisible monsters, but he is willing to be his friend anyway. If there are really monsters or not is up to the reader, but the struggle with darkness that Yuki Tachibana experiences is very real. “If someone has a problem, extend a helping hand,” is the message the principal leaves with students at the end of the school year.
Even if you haven’t read anything else by Matsumoto, you will enjoy Gogo Monster. It’s charming, original, and beautifully drawn. Following Yuki’s journey through the year of the warring sides is fascinating, heartbreaking, and full of imagination.
This post was written by Stacia Oparowski, a library assistant in technical services. Besides reading and reviewing graphic novels, she also participates each year in NaNoWriMo and writes the November updates. If you have a suggestion for a graphic novel she should review or if you would like a graphic novel recommendation, please email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.