Time Paradox Ghostwriter has been an interesting read. A manga that centers on a mangaka and his desire to draw the most entertaining manga seemed different and interesting. However, you then add the concept of a strange time machine that delivers issues of Shonen Jump from the future and now you have my attention!
Kenji Ichima explores the mangaka’s desire to make the most perfect and entertaining manga. Ichima examines what makes a manga perfect. There is also the moral question of plagiarism. On top of all of that, there is a bizarre twist that we got in Chapter 8. We learned that Teppei Sasaki must continue to plagiarize the manga White Knight that he gets from issues of Shonen Jump from the future or else Itsuki Aino will die. There is so much going on with this manga.
Ichima has evolved Time Paradox Ghostwriter into a complex story. I am sure that we will get another fascinating read with Chapter 10. Let’s go ahead and hit this review!
Words: Kenji Ichima
Art: Tsunehiro Date
Story Rating: 8 Night Girls out of 10
Art Rating: 7 Night Girls out of 10
Overall Rating: 7.5 Night Girls out of 10
Teppei Sasaki: Teppei is an aspiring mangaka. Unfortunately, he has no original or unique ideas for a manga. So, Teppei is constantly rejected by his publisher as not being creative enough. However, one day there is an electrical accident in Teppei’s apartment that causes his microwave to turn into a time machine. Once a week, Teppei’s time machine microwave delivers him an issue of Shonen Jump from ten years in the future! Teppei is blown away by a hot new manga called White Knight. To make his dreams come true, Teppei plagiarizes the future stories of White Knight and achieves great success in the present.
Itsuki Aino: Itsuki is an incredibly talented mangaka who publishes White Knight ten years in the future. Upon seeing Teppei’s White Knight manga she realizes that it is much better than the current White Knight manga that she had been creating. Itsuki decides to become an artist on Teppei’s staff to learn from him and then create a manga even better than Teppei’s White Knight.
Genki Akaishi: Genki is brash and loud. He is also one of Teppei’s artist assistants. Genki is ambitious and wants to become a great mangaka.
Jiro Yamane: Jiro is an experienced editor who joins Teppei’s team. Jiro is a calming and wise influence on Teppei’s team.
Hajime Igarashi: Hajime is a stoic artist assistant on Teppei’s team. Hajime credits Teppei’s White Night with inspiring him to continue in his quest to become a successful mangaka.
Synopsis: We begin with a flashback scene to when Itsuki was a little girl. She arrives at the park and sits next to a mysterious old man who has all the issues of Jump going back to the very first one. He sits there each day looking for buyers. Itsuki is friends with the old man and sits next to him in the park.
Itsuki opens up a manga she is reading. The old man asks if it is a good manga. The old man says that he used to be a great mangaka but that he is now retired. Itsuki tells the old man that she is going to be a great mangaka one day. That she is going to draw manga and entertain everyone around the world.
The old man just stared at Itsuki like he had a sudden epiphany. The old man then said that he wanted to do the same thing when he was young: To draw a manga that all humanity would enjoy. But, it never quite worked out. The old man says that he hopes she finds her way and draws whatever she wants and enjoys doing it.
We fast-forward to the day that Itsuki never saw the old man again. On the bench where they used to sit were all his supply of Jump comics and a Mirai, the Robot from the Future toy. (The same robot toy that was given to Teppei back in Chapter 1.) There was a note from the old man that said he is embarking on a new chapter in life. That he leaves his entire collection to Itsuki as well as a toy that was precious to him, too. The old man writes that he hopes she will keep the robot as a good luck charm.
We shift to Itsuki drawing manga at her desk. We see her aging over the years and still drawing manga with ever-increasing intensity. Itsuki lifts a completed volume of manga. She looks at it and says that she cannot compromise and must aim higher.
Itsuki says that her personality is leaking into the manga. That personality is an important aspect of a creator that can make a manga entertaining. But, in a negative sense, it can also make the manga too eccentric. The more personality the more the story will or won’t appeal to individual readers.
Itsuki thinks that if it is possible to create the ultimate manga that all humanity can enjoy then it has to be without personality, but still be the most entertaining thing in the world. Itsuki says that she has to be more transparent and suppress herself.
We then cut to Itsuki reading an issue of Jump and wondering what her White Knight is doing in it. Itsuki says that Teppei’s White Knight was elevated many times past Itsuki’s level. Itsuki says that Teppei’s White Knight felt like the answer she was seeking. Like someone tried to draw the purest example of a shonen manga. A transparent masterpiece.
Itsuki realizes that her White Knight is so inferior to Teppei’s White Knight. Itsuki says that she has to find out if she can draw this well. That maybe she and Teppei are two of a kind.
We cut to Itsuki working as an artist assistant on Teppei’s team. We then zip forward Itsuki getting a phone call that her manga, Anima, is going to be published as a series. Itsuki realizes that this is her chance to draw the perfect manga that is even better than White Knight.
We see Itsuki drawing like a possessed maniac. We see her editor telling her that Anima has been the #1 manga for 30 straight weeks. The editor realizes that Itsuki has let go of her artist’s assistants. Itsuki says that she will be drawing on her own since it improves the finished product. The editor is worried that Itsuki will break down. Itsuki brushes off his concerns. She then says that the rest of her pages will be sent by courier and will conduct their meetings via email from now on.
We shift to Itsuki drawing and realizing that she can draw the transparent masterpiece. A manga that entertains all humanity. Suddenly, Itsuki looks up and asks why is she drawing manga, again?
We cut back to the first day that Itsuki as a little girl met the old man in the park. The old man asks if he is on her bench. Itsuki tells him not to leave. Itsuki says that there is no place in the world for a person like her. The old man asks if she likes manga. Itsuki says that her dad won’t let her read manga. The old man smiles and gives Itsuki a copy of Jump and says that she looks like she needs it.
We zip back to the present. We see Itsuki passed out on the floor with her pen still in her hand and ink and pages spilled across the floor. End of chapter.
The Good: Time Paradox Ghostwriter Chapter 10 is another excellent read. Kenji Ichima continues to deliver a thought-provoking read that pulls the reader deep into an intricate world of the artist. Time Paradox Ghostwriter continues to be a highly introspective read. This is its strength and what makes it such a compelling manga.
Over the first nine chapters, Ichima has focused on Teppei as our main viewpoint for the story. Ichima has only allowed us to access Teppei’s inner thoughts. However, Ichima switches things up with Chapter 10 and finally gives us the story from Itsuki’s viewpoint. The reader finally gains access to Itsuki’s thoughts. This surprising change of viewpoints makes Time Paradox Ghostwriter that much more fascinating and adds another layer of complexity to the story.
Until this point, I have had zero interest in Itsuki’s character. There was just nothing there to get me invested in her at all. However, Ichima changes all of that with Chapter 10. By getting delve into Itsuki’s mind and understanding the depth of her single-minded passion for creating the perfect manga I now find Itsuki to be a more compelling character. The glimpse into Itsuki’s past also adds another layer of intrigue to her character as well as creating the foundation for what drives her to become such an accomplished mangaka.
The revelation that as a young child, Itsuki felt she had no place in this world is important. This is amplified by the fact that her father did not allow her to read manga since they are full of nonsense. Ichima presents the reader with the classic conflict of an eccentric artist who feels out of place in a world that is ruled by the sensible and business-like non-artistic people of the world. First, manga gives Itsuki an imaginary world to escape to where she can be herself. Second, manga provides Itsuki her inspiration for the concept of the transparent masterpiece and the drive for her to try and create it.
This look into Itsuki’s mind and her past explain her obsession to become the greatest mangaka. Ichima delves into Itsuki’s mind and conveys her spiraling down as her ambitious drive to write a transparent masterpiece descends into a manic state as madness completely overwhelms her. Ichima creates a visceral moment that envelops the reader as we watch Itsuki losing her grip on reality. It is a powerful and captivating moment in Chapter 10. Itsuki’s manic state is punctuated by the moment when Itsuki looks up and asks, “Why am I drawing manga, again…?” This is the highlight of the chapter for me. Ichima slowly builds in a logical and natural manner to this climactic moment. The reader is pulled deeper into the story as Ichima wraps Itsuki’s crumbling psyche around the reader. This is such an immersive and intimate journey for the reader to take throughout Chapter 10.
Outside the excellent character work and the introspective nature of this manga, the other strength of Time Paradox Ghostwriter is the examination of the creative process itself. While past chapters have touched on what makes the perfect manga, Ichima really delves deeply into this concept in Chapter 10. I found the discussion of the transparent masterpiece to be such an elegant and intelligent examination into the creative process of making a manga/comic book. What is even more fascinating is the subjugation of the ego in this examination.
This view is completely opposite of the general American view of the creative process of comic books. Since 2000, American comic book creators have placed the focus more on them than the characters and stories. Many American comic book creators are more concerned with getting themselves over with the audience and building their “brand” rather than getting over the characters and stories. Many American comic book creators also increasingly look at comic books as a vehicle to get across their social and political views first and then as entertainment second.
Ichima touches on this by saying that the creator must strip out their personality from their work. That too much personality can cause the manga to be a failure or moderately successful due to it being too eccentric. That the more of the creator’s personality leaks into the story the more the story will or will not appeal to individual readers.
A good example of this is Brian Bendis. Bendis has never subjugated himself for the benefit of his story or the characters. Bendis is all about himself first and his story second. That is why all of his characters sound identical to each other. Bendis allows his personality to be grafted to every character that he writes. The result is a comic book that is highly divisive. Also, Bendis’ comics have not posted big sales numbers for a long time because of this fact. And when Bendis writes a comic that is creator-owned, instead of a comic like Avengers or Superman that has a large built-in readership, then those comics post tiny sales numbers.
To be fair, this same examination can be turned on a writer that I have great admiration for: Grant Morrison. Again, Morrison’s personality seeps into everything he writes. Therefore, Morrison’s stories are usually quite eclectic. This is exactly what Ichima is talking about in Chapter 10. That eclectic nature to the stories leads to most of Morrison’s stories having a much smaller readership.
Ichima points out that the transparent masterpiece is the magna/comic book that is without the creator’s personality but is still the most entertaining story in the world. With the creator suppressing themselves and being transparent they can create a masterpiece of a story that can be enjoyed by anyone in all of humanity. There is truth to this approach. The more the creator removes themselves from the story and focuses more on the characters and on presenting a form of entertainment then the more likely the product will appeal to a larger group of readers.
Of course, the transparent masterpiece is mythic and unattainable in the real world. Even manga/comics that focus purely on entertainment and do not put over the creator first still are limited in how large of a group of readers they will appeal to. Ichima having Itsuki striving to achieve this impossible goal is what makes her character so special. This also explains why Itsuki descends into madness in trying to achieve this elusive perfection.
Chapter 10 is a spotlight issue on Itsuki, so the rest of the cast does not get any panel time. However, we do get to meet a new character in the old man in the park. It is interesting to note that the old man as a Mirai, the Robot from the Future toy. This is the same toy that Teppei is given in Chapter 1. This is also the same robot toy that fuses to the microwave to form the time machine in Teppei’s apartment. The old man also comments on how he wanted to make the perfect manga. The old man says that he never achieved that dream, but that he still had fun. This is reminiscent of Teppei’s dream and how his career has been panning out.
All of this evidence makes me wonder if the old man is a time-traveling Teppei. You never know! This is an interesting wrinkle and there are too many connections between Teppei and the old man to ignore them. At any rate, this is a fun little mystery that adds more excitement to this story.
Of course, Time Paradox Ghostwriter is not just a great story. Tsunehiro Date supplies tons of excellent artwork in Chapter 10. It is no easy task to deliver gripping artwork in a chapter that has zero action. Date does a great job with the character’s facial expressions and is able to bring so much emotion to Ichima’s story.
The Bad: I have no criticisms of this chapter.
Overall: Time Paradox Ghostwriter Chapter 10 is a cerebral and intimate read. I love the introspective nature of Ichima’s story. This is a manga that treats the reader with a wonderfully constructed and complex story. I will admit that this is not a manga for action fans. However, if you love interesting stories with good character work and stories that make you think then Time Paradox Ghostwriter is definitely worth checking out.
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