Shinjuku, with words by Mink, also known as Christopher Morrison, and pictures by Yoshitaka Amano, is a gorgeous hybrid graphic novel set in the future. The at times surreal and always beautiful art is paired with an incoherent, unfocused story riddled with predictable characters and clichéd dialogue.
Not surprisingly, Shinjuku is, on some level, about the region of Tokyo known as Shinjuku. It is mostly set in the year 2020 and is about a futuristic bounty hunter, Daniel Legend, who heads to Tokyo on the hunch that his missing and estranged sister Angela is hiding out there. When he arrives, he almost immediately has a run in with one of the criminal triads that controls the Shinjuku region. More specifically, he runs afoul of Shi, a seemingly demonic crime boss featured in the prologue, who is collecting poppies for a nefarious purpose.
The story is pretty straightforward at this point, however it quickly goes off the rails. Suffice it to say that not everything is as it seems in Shinjuku and Daniel’s parents have glimpsed something in their scientific research that happens to be a very important and never really explained plot point involving tattoos and the multiverse. The entire text and story should really be seen as a back drop for the art on the individual pages. Stylistically, the graphical elements are quite varied and impressive.
This comic is painstakingly illustrated and colored, mostly in blacks and red. The artist uses a multitude of line thicknesses which has the result of creating a mysterious beauty in his female figures and a mysterious horror in his villainous characters. He does a number of more complex compositions that incorporate other hues along with a background of some sort.
Most of Amano’s pieces in this hybrid book tend to focus on characters. His first illustrated scene in the novel proper is of a washed out Shinjuku with the figures seemingly moving toward the foreground. He then settles in on an all black and white version of the main villain of the story, Shi. The next image is of Shi seated at a coffeehouse, the steam drifting up toward him in inky black lines. Now his eyes are colored. They are red and his facial expression is verging on the demonic. Then we see a closer up version of Shi, eyes ablaze in red, body seemingly lashed in tattoos and faces and movement. Ready to kill.
Yoshitaka Amano is the only reason a library should pick this book up. His art is that impressive. It’s a shame that the story doesn’t live up to the art.
Art by Yoshitaka Amano
Dark Horse, 2010