Mujirushi: The Sign of Dreams
An eccentric art heist caper comedy about second chances and luck, this is a unique manga that feels like a blend of Japanese comedy and French movies that’s warm, funny and gleefully eccentric.
Mujirushi: The Sign of Dreams is another unusual manga by Naoki Urusawa. It’s a satire about dreamers and con men, an art heist caper, a Magical Realist tale about romantic yearning, art lovers, and second chances with some political commentary thrown in. It’s like a stew cooked from lots of leftover ingredients and spices.
Kumiko is a sensible 10-year-old watching her family fall apart. Her gullible dope of a father has blown the family’s money on one get-rich-quick scheme after another, and her mother has taken off in frustration, taking what’s left of her money to go on a cruise to get away from it all. Her dad is ready to end it all when the two of them follow an odd trail left by a crow to a France-loving dandy with big buck teeth who calls himself the Director of the obscure French Research Institute who offers them a chance at a big payday. He wants them to fly to Paris, go to the Louvre, and temporarily steal Vermeer’s painting “The Lacemaker.” True to form, dad agrees to it, and a reluctant Kumiko has to go with him to try to stop things from going completely off the rails. Meanwhile, back in Tokyo, a cop is onto the Director and starts closing the net around him.
Naoki Urusawa is a manga-ka with interests that seem more European than Japanese. Even his drawing and storytelling styles take mix techniques from European graphic novels with the dynamism of manga conventions. Mujirushi celebrates French culture and the Louvre and throws in a shaggy dog comedy that references art heist movies, madcap farce, and soft-centered political commentary. Urusawa is fond of lovable losers like Kumiko’s dad, even as he makes Kumiko the point of view character, her sensible, no-nonsense exasperation with the whims and silliness of adults grounds the story in emotional reality. There’s the grizzled cop determined to catch his bad guy, the jolly French stereotypes, and even the guest spot from a popular character from another popular manga in a major role in the story. The oddest part of the story is a bit of soft political satire featuring the gender-swapped version of the current US President whose somewhat easy downfall is part of the story’s tapestry of farce and coincidence.
The result is a unique manga that feels like a blend of Japanese comedy and French movies that’s warm, funny, and gleefully eccentric.
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