Weekly Japanese Pop Culture Thread (August 16, 2023)

Welcome to The Avocado’s weekly discussion of Japanese pop culture! I finished reading Basara, and now I am on a mission to get as many people as possible to read it too. When I started reading it, I was immediately taken in by the story, characters, and art, and I was shocked that I hadn’t heard more about this manga before. After completing it, I’m even more shocked because everyone should be talking about this series because it really seems like the kind of thing so many manga fans would like. Ok, so what is Basara?

The story is set in a post-apocalyptic Japan. Resources are scarce, the ruling monarchy is cruel and constantly fighting for power amongst themselves, but there is a spark of hope in the “child of destiny”. However, as the manga shows, sometimes destiny is a choice. Honestly, this isn’t the kind of story I’d usually enjoy. Fighting? Violence? Post-apocalyptic? Really, not my thing. But I knew I was in good hands with Yumi Tamura, so I took the plunge. Sarasa, our main character and ultimate heroine, takes up the sword (literally, there is a sword of destiny too) to protect her loved ones and those who cannot defend themselves. But it’s not easy on her, and it’s not the path she wanted. It wasn’t even her path to begin with. Circumstances forced her to assume this identity and role. Killing, violence, revenge, hate, all of those things are treated as seriously as they should be in this story, and Sarasa grapples with them in such a real and heart wrenching way. And this is where the true brilliance of this manga is revealed. This story will change you. These characters will move you and force you to ask tough questions about “good” and “evil” and everything in between.

Of course, this is a story of war, so there is plenty of action (beautifully illustrated by Yumi Tamura). Similarly, this manga doesn’t shy away from the worst aspects of war, so there are some content warnings (<– hover over text to view) to consider before you jump in. But Yumi Tamura treats all of these moments with care, and she isn’t using these acts as simple plot devices or to shock or upset her readings. Everything feels intentional and carefully considered. And in the midst of all of this, there is love and joy and even quite a bit of humor. So your heart will soar just as much as it aches. You will love these characters. Sometimes they will suffer. But you will love them. Some examples of the art are below, if you’re curious. Spent literally an hour choosing these (why am I like this?) because I wanted to showcase the way Yumi Tamura draws eyes and tears but didn’t want to include any spoilers.

So please, if any of this sounds interesting to you, give Basara a try. You can read the first three chapters for free through Viz Manga, and after that it’s only $2 a month. Read Basara. Be transformed.

What have you been watching/reading/playing/eating/listening to lately?

Happy Wednesday! 🙂