Sneeze is a manga collection of Naoki Urasawa’s short stories from all over his career and a wide range of genres. For any fan of Urasawa, this is a must read. There isn’t a bad story in the bunch, it’s just one after another of interesting stories. There’s a real mix of stories, aimed at adults and children, including a few autobiographical stories about music.
The book opens with ‘DAMIYAN!’, a story about a man with supernatural abilities who is hired by a Yakuza to take someone out. Straight away the characters are really strong in this story, as they talk in a diner about the job. In 40 pages Urasawa is able to tell a story packed with twists, interesting characters and a moral about life and death.
The other stories include a fun little children’s story, ‘Henry and Charles’, about two mice trying to get to a cake without waking a cat. ‘It’s a Beautiful Day’ is based on an anecdote from musician Kenji Endo where he saw a woman walking with a stroller, and the scene looked similar to his band’s albums cover. Endo actually asked Urasawa to make a manga about the story, but sadly he didn’t get around to it before Endo died. Each story has a little paragraph towards the end of the book with Urasawa’s thoughts on the story, which are really interesting to read.
The most interesting part of the book is ‘Musica Nostra’, which is an autobiographical series of shorts about music. It features things like Urasawa travelling to the legendary Sunset Sounds studio and recording a song that was passed on to Ringo Starr, which is a brief but interesting story. He also writes about some of concerts that he went to, including one Bob Dylan played in Tokyo where his sound system broke down three songs in, and the Desert Trip concert where he saw Paul McCartney and Neil Young (although he was stuck in the merchandise line for some of Young’s set). You can feel Urasawa’s love of music shining through the little snippets.
Naoki Urasawa’s story collection is essential reading for any fan. He’s a masterful creator, and each story showcases a different style and focus. They’re funny, heartfelt, mysterious, and all a joy to read.
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