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Member since May 2011 · 2485 posts · Location: Brisbane
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Subject: Sanctuary - A Review
Two boys are orphaned in Cambodia's killing fields, their families annihilated in front of them, and they're forced to team up and work together to escape.  They're repatriated to Japan and find the Japanese to be uninspired, with lifeless eyes, and they set out to build their sanctuary together, a place where everyone is alive again.  They both sail through school until they part ways, one joining the Yakuza and another entering politics, each determined to change either the legitimate or the hidden face of Japan.

The book flits between them as they work together to change things.  Hojo's violent rise through the Yakuza swiftly makes him an untouchable power within the gang.  The police have no evidence against him but are always watching him closely.  Meanwhile Asami's climb through the arcane political system has him butting heads with the old men governing Japan.

The book accurately reflects many facets of Japan with accuracy: the LDP's 'democratic' rule of Japan with only token opposition and no meaningful representation of the will of the people in the government's actions.  It's also credited with cleaning up the image of the Yakuza: when the book portrayed the scruffy real-world yakuza as suit-wearing gangsters with honour, the real Yakuza started emulating the book and wearing suits themselves.

It's a fascinating story written by Sho Fumimura (Fist of the North Star), with believable situations and all too real frustrations for the main characters. 

The art, by Ryoichi Ikegami (Crying Freeman), is mostly excellent.  He relies too often on clip art, or traced photographs, which compromise the beauty of the people he illustrates, but it is never really annoying. 

The books were released in English by Viz, with an exceptional translation by Matt Thorn.

I cannot recommend this book enough.
BLEARGH
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Member since Oct 2007 · 316 posts
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I received the entire English release of the Sanctuary manga set from my lovely girlfriend for Christmas a few years ago. Given what how much Koizumi's administration changed Japan's political climate, the events of Sanctuary are a little less plausible now (in much the same way the West Wing is now viewed as dated.) Still a compelling read, and a lot of the social issues are still relevant today.

I imagine that in another generation, a similar story will make it to print that challenges issues of sexism and gender equity in Japan. One of the things that stinks about Sanctuary is how servile and helpless the female characters are, which is an unfortunate and probably accurate reflection of how Japanese society places and values women in general.
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Member since May 2011 · 2485 posts · Location: Brisbane
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I never really found Sanctuary's women to be servile, so much as secondary.  The ones that were used solely for titillation were hostesses or similar anyway - NPCs, so to speak - and were little more than decoration.  The females who were not had legitimate roles to play: Tokai's wife, who understood that her husband was perhaps shortsighted but committed herself to sharing the same dream; Inspector Ishihara, a strong character but for the writer's inability to realistically portray her as a love interest.  Even the throwaway characters, like Hojo's unnamed reporter who we only ever really saw naked, was a wheeler-deeler satisfying her own needs.

There were several 'crutches' throughout the book though, it was by no means perfect.  One that pervaded the story was people who could size up and form permanent bonds with other people based solely on appearances.  A large portion of the story revolved around peoples' reactions to other peoples' eyes and auras, moreso than their words or deeds.

Your comment about the changing political scene is curious: I never really found Koizumi's time in office to have really changed things for Japan, and now that he's gone I don't see any evidence of lasting changes.  Do you have specific examples in mind?
BLEARGH
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Member since Oct 2007 · 316 posts
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About Koizumi? Nothing specific, just the fact that an Elvis fan with a perm ended up as the head of the LDP. Maybe his policies and politics weren't groundbreaking, but he did manage to break the image of the stolid, dour LDP party chair that we were used to seeing in the news. He inspired a (small) portion of youth culture in Japan to be more aware of government, the way that wrestler Jesse Ventura did for Americans when he became governor of the state of Minnesota.

Of course, now that Fukuda is PM it looks like politics in Japan are back to normal. Doubly so, since he's intended to be a boring, reliable guy that cleans up the mess after all the recent corruption. It's going to take someone like Koizumi in another party to really shake things up.
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Member since May 2011 · 2485 posts · Location: Brisbane
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Some visual aids!  Apologies for the curviness, I took snapshots of the books with the camera.  It's damnably tricky.   

[Image: http://nfgworld.com/grafx/sankchu1.jpg]

These next two should be read in sequence.

[Image: http://nfgworld.com/grafx/sankchu2.jpg]

[Image: http://nfgworld.com/grafx/sankchu3.jpg]
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