This single volume manga by Hideji Oda, originally published in 2005, and translated and published in the west in 2006 by the Anglo-French manga company fanfare/protent mon under their “Nouvelle manga” line, is in fact a sequel to an earlier work of Oda’s, called ironically ku’s world [which has yet to receive a western release] but it’s able to stand pretty well on its own, giving us enough background story for the characters involved to get us in the know – in fact it wasn’t until later on that i discovered that it was even a sequel at all!
The story itself introduces us to Renei, an art college student whose life seems complex enough, what with her affair with one of her college lecturers and her increasingly sense of apathy towards both the world. And yet her life is further complicated by the fact that Renei is seeing her childhood friend Kaya, who always seem to goad her towards joining her.
Except Kaya died about 10 years earlier…….
further complications come in the form of “ Ku’s world” a dreamlike fairytale world that she often dreamed of as a child, but which is not only returning to her dreams, but is also encroaching into the real world.
But is this real? Is Renei going insane? or is there something else altogether different happening…..
The artwork [as I’ve found with other work by Hideji Oda] seems to have a pencil sketched, half-finished style that extenuates the other-worldliness of “Ku’s world” and makes the real world look more unreal, even ethereal, at times. The characters themselves are believable yet, with the exception of Renei, we only get a basic background for them, with some just appearing out of nowhere and equally disappearing into thin air with only the most minimal of reason.
The writing at times seems to mire itself in existentialism, with the characters carrying on for whole pages about life the universe and everything else, but with no real point to the plot itself – even high school age Kaya and Renei gets up to it. This also means that this manga is not a light read – you need to give this book your whole attention to understand the twists and various plot threads of this story.
While the creatures [from the bizarre, sheep like creatures, to the deceptively ominous Teppa – strange, wavy paper like things that can slice you apart like a knife through butter] seem to be a result of rejected concepts from a Miyazaki film, the writing of this series though gives them a much darker, more unsettling aspect.
Finally, and this may be the main deal-breaker for some, this manga never makes any definite indications whether “ku’s world” is real, or merely a figment of Renei’s increasingly fragile Psyche – Now you see the Satoshi Kon/ Hayo Miyazaki refernce I made earlier.
In conclusion A patch of dreams, while trying for a perfect blue meets spirited away in manga form succeeds in one sense….. and yet never seems paced to have enough time to develop either world or the characters with the confines of one volume.
For those still interested, A patch of dreams is available either from ponentmon/ Fanfares main website, or from all good bookshops,