A young man haunted by a pervasive boredom that has rendered him dull, chooses one day to skip work and build a ship to sail away from his troubles. This departure marks the beginning of a fantastic voyage that pits the man against pirates, cannibals, human traffickers and a jury of his own peers.
To preface this review and to avoid any further confusion, “Nishioka Kyoudai” is the pseudonym of the siblings Satoru Nishioka, and Chiaki Nishioka. As such, their work is often credited under different names, (“Nisioka Bro-Sis”, “Sandy Crossword”) as well as their given names. This review will refer to the author under their most common credited name ‘Nishioka Kyoudai’, but make reference to them as a ‘duo’ or ‘siblings’.
“Journey to the End of the World” is a hard series to pin down genre wise, with the most base choice being to classify it as horror. Even if this title suites a lot of the themes tackled, Nisioka Kyoudai brings their own unique flair that makes it hard to pigeonhole the duo. In spite of the gruesomeness of subjects the siblings have tackled in this and other projects, the actual approach in narrative and art create a tone more reflective of childlike curiosity.
In approaching the narrative, the story has a similar structure to a fable aimed at children, since, everything is explained ‘matter of fact’ and emotions are presented as muted or ignored. This flow of juvenile wonderment is present from the beginning and never deviates, regardless of the sensationalism of events that occur. Ultimately, this structure allows for the violence depicted to be numbed, and the atrocities committed by the protagonists not asking for immediate interpretation on a moral level. Themes such as sex, murder, suicide, cannibalism, racism are ever prevalent within the narrative, but manage to only offend on a surface level through keeping such a light tone.
The visual styling of the siblings is rather unorthodox within the realm of manga, striking a similar resemblance to the work of “Edward Gorey”. The use of elongated figures and shading done with excessive use of lines has taken on a dark romantic aesthetic, largely in part to Tim Burton’s ‘Gorey’ inspired works such as ” A Nightmare Before Christmas”. From a western perspective, it becomes difficult to interpret the illustrations as anything other than ‘Gothic romantic’, even when the narrative is bleak or nihilistic in approach. The conflict between visuals and subject matter creates a disorienting experience, which will either be abhorred or celebrated by readers. In particular, the soft visuals and aforementioned narrative approach help soften the more atrocious presented to the reader, which arguably can be seen as a way to mask the severity of its subjects’ actions.
The juxtaposition of an innocuous presentation and disturbing narrative, exists at the forefront of the bulk of the siblings’ bibliography. It is a wonderfully disorienting ride of madness, that has left me rather enchanted to the duo’s work. At the same time, I am aware that some of their themes of violence being subverted on such a level could be seen as disparaging to others, and exists as a valid critique of their work.
Nishioka Kyoudai has not seen much recognition here in the west, with none of their works seeing a proper English release. I decided to tackle this work in order to shed some light on the siblings, since their vision is wholly original and fascinating at the same time. It is my hopes that some of their work makes its way west, with the deepening interest in manga aimed at a mature audience. With unique creators such as Shintaro Kago (“Dementia 21“) recently seeing more western recognition through quality printed editions, the world of manga would only be enriched by giving ‘Nisioka Kyoudai’ the same treatment.