Kokou no Hito, Volume 1-17 by Shinichi Sakamoto
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Read from June 20 to 28, 2014, read count: 1
Dark, dramatic and powerfully captivating. Absolutely not a typical sports manga.
Kokou no Hito is a unique manga experience with dark and complex storytelling combined with breathtaking artwork that captivates the mind and soul. Since this manga was a Seinen category, both the plot and the theme focused on heavy subjects which are intense as well as disturbing in nature. The story explores role of emotion, morality, rationality in human reason when pushed to to the edge of survival. The mountains is no place for the weak, the same goes for those below the mountains. Above or below, only the fittest will survive and prosper.
This riveting manga series was inspired by Kato Buntaro, he is one of Japan's famous solo mountaineer of the early 20th century. Buntaro began his winter solo moutaineering career in February 1928 in the Hyōnosen mountains and from then on he couldn't stop climbing until he drew his last breath on Mount Yari.
In Kokou no Hito we follow an extremely introverted protagonist, Mori Buntarou as he progress from high school climbing to professional high-altitude mountaineering and later as a challenger of the untrodden K2 East Face. K2 was known as the holy grail of mountaineering and also as 'The Savage Mountain' due to countless lives lost to it. Even though it was only the second highest mountain in the world, it was far more hazardous than Everest. Until now the eastern face of K2 was untrodden land because it has the hardest and deadliest routes.
As opposed to many other readers who finds it hard to relate to the protagonist, I am completely enamored by him for I truly admire his character and personality despite his shortcomings. I do believe he can't function well with people around him due to severe anthropophobia. This makes him a true loner and an outcast to society. And it is also one of the reason why is he drawn to the mountains all the time. I find him fascinating and quite a romantic person. Romantic not in the sense of being in relationships but the sentimentality of his being. His heartstrings quivers at the slightest provocation and sometimes this trait of his maddens me. I am torn between wanting to embrace and protect him from harm and wishing to knock some sense into him, hard.
Despite not being a sports fan myself, I was highly intrigued by the mountaineering technical details presented in this series. The mangaka did so well with it that a layman like me finds it easy to follow and appreciate the mountaineering aspect of the story. The realistic portrayal of mental and physical challenges faced by the mountaineers was insightful and eye-opening. Apart from that what makes this manga unputdownable was the thrilling conflicts sparked by feuds and controversies in Mori's life especially in the world of mountain climbing. When it comes to extreme sport like mountaineering, your life literally lies in the hands of your teammates and theirs in yours. Therefore mountaineering as a team could potentially turn into harsh trial of humanity where ethics and morality are stretched as thin as the air in high-altitude.
I would highly recommend this manga to matured readers especially to those with broad-minds and appreciative of visual metaphors. I am glad to learn that Kokou no Hito won an award at the 14th Japan Media Arts Festival in year 2010. This exceptional manga absolutely excels in terms of its fine artwork, amazing character arc, compelling storyline and its great sense of place. There's also good balance between the sport and slice of life aspect, both elements blended really well together. I wish I could watch a film adaptation of this manga in the near future. I already felt like I am missing out because I couldn't read the original novel of this story by Jiro Nitta sensei as it was in Japanese and there's no translation for it at the moment. But I do count my blessings for the existence of this manga in English scanlation. I vow to own the entire series in paperback should one day Kokou no Hito was ever licensed in English. It is totally worth collecting.
Title: Kokou no Hito (The Climber)
Associated Names: 孤高の人 / 孤高之人 / 고고한 사람 / Ascension / Koko no Hito / The Climber
Mangaka: Shinichi Sakamoto
Author: Shinichi Sakamoto (art and story from volume 4 onwards), Yoshiro Nabeda, Hiroshi Takano
Publication Date: 2007
Type: Serialized Manga (17 Volumes) based on the novel by Jiro Nitta
Genre: Seinen, Sports, Drama, Slice of Life, Contemporary
dead friend(s), death, accidents, suicide, deliberate loner, guilt, hiking, loneliness, loner protagonist, rock climbing, mountaineering, soul searching, social outcast, time skip, tragedy, mature
On his first day of transferring to a new high school, a loner named Mori Buntarou, is cajoled by a classmate into climbing the school building. Despite knowing that one misstep could send him spiraling to his death, he moves forward, and upon finally reaching the top, Mori experiences a sense of fulfillment. That feeling, which seems to be telling him, "You're alive!" gives birth to an adrenaline for rock-climbing.
*From volume 4 on, Sakamoto Shinichi has done both story and art.
* Reviewed on July 2nd, 2014
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