Othello Vol. 1

Othello Vol. 1
By Satomi Ikezawa
208 pages, black and white
Published by Del Rey

Before you get your hopes up, I feel it should be pointed out that Othello is not an adaptation of the same-titled play by William Shakespeare, nor is it about the competitive world of playing the game of Othello (like other game mangas such as Hikaru no Go). It does refer to the black and white two-sided pieces of Othello, though, with opposites existing in the same unit. So it’s not such a bad title after all.

Yaya Higuchi is a pretty pathetic person. Her only two friends aren’t really her friends at all, instead keeping her around so they’ll always have someone to mock, even as Yaya smiles and takes the abuse. Her father is overly protective and doesn’t let her do anything fun at all. Worst of all, she can barely even speak to the boy she’s infatuated with, she’s so shy. Then Yaya’s other personality Nana is unleashed, and where Yaya is meek and shy and retiring, Nana is anything but. No one’s quite ready for what’s going to happen once Nana enters the scene…

At first, I found myself pretty intrigued by Othello. Satomi Ikezawa makes Yaya such a truly sad person (in all senses of the word) that knowing another side of Yaya is going to appear is something to look forward to. Sure enough, when Nana makes her first handful of appearances it’s a lot of fun seeing her give comeuppance to Yaya’s fake friends Moe and Seri, and finally make a move on Moriyama who she’s been quietly pining for. The problem is, once you’ve read the first chapter or two of Othello, you’ve really read the whole book. Ikezawa chooses to keep Yaya unaware of her second personality, and so Othello quickly dissolves into a set pattern:

  • Yaya is humiliated by Moe and Seri who in the process keep her away from Moriyama
  • Yaya, upset, lets Moe and Seri get whatever they want from Yaya
  • Nana appears, rights the wrongs, flirts with Moriyama, and greatly angers Moe and Seri
  • Yaya doesn’t remember any of it and is surprised that Moe and Seri are so mad at her

By the fourth iteration in Othello, it’s no longer fun, it’s just annoying. Yaya never grows from Nana’s actions, so the status quo is unchanged after each new chapter. Without any real character growth, you’re just going in circles and the idea of doing so for multiple volumes is just too much to bear.

The one real saving grace of Othello is that Ikezawa has some beautiful art on display here. The majority of Othello is actually pretty standard sh˘jo-style art, with wispy hair and sweet rounded faces all framed in very easy-to-follow pages. But then, every once in a while, Ikezawa’s art takes a turn and we’re treated to what feels almost like portraits of the characters. The lines are softer, the faces more carefully drawn, and the body language near-perfect. Scenes like Nana approaching Moriyama while he’s on stage, or Nana’s smirking after humiliating Moe and Seri in front of all the cosplayers are so much more richly rendered that you’d think it was a different artist. (Quite possibly the difference between pages drawn entirely by Ikezawa, versus ones where her assistants worked on the pages as well.) Getting to those pages made me happy I’d kept reading Othello.

Ultimately, Othello is good as a short-term diversion, but doesn’t look good when it comes to running as an ongoing serial. Unless Ikezawa makes some changes to the format of Othello, and fast, this one-note story’s going to get very tiring to read. If that happens, I’ll be quite happy because with some character growth being allowed to occur, Othello has real potential. Just know going into Othello Volume 1 that you may need to pretend that there was never a second volume in order to stay happy with the experience.

Purchase Links: Amazon.com

Comments are closed.