I'll give it my all.. Tomorrow (or Tomorrow, as I will call it to save space) was bought during a hedonistic time when I found myself in London and unexpectedly flush with cash. "I know," I said to myself, "I'll blind-buy a load of first volumes of manga and see if there's anything interesting." Tomorrow is one the of things I bought in this frenzy of capitalist silliness.
The manga follows the exploits of Shizuo Oguro, a useless fourty-year old layabout who quits his stable desk job in order to "find himself", much to the dismay of his family and friends. After farting about for a while, Shizuo decides he is going to devote his future years to drawing manga. He doesn't have any artistic talent, or any real staying power, but still he decides to follow his new-found life path. As a living embodiment of the sentiment expressed in the series title, Shizuo proceeds to be an utter failure who spends his time flailing about and only rarely drawing manga - actually getting published is nowhere near possible at this point. As a monument to the mid-life crisis, the manga works extra-ordinarily well, and I can say that from personal experience of having a close family member recently flail their way through the process. You can perhaps consider it an antidote to fellow manga-about-manga-creation series Bakuman.
Looking at the synopsis, "Tomorrow" doesn't sounds like the most enjoyable thing to read, and in a way its not but that is what makes it interesting. The series is a pitch black comedy, causing as much irritation and embarrassment in me as it did laughs. It reminds me somewhat of "The Office" (the original UK version) in the sheer unrelenting realism it uses as a vehicle for comedy. Sure, you end up cringing while reading, but the way the series plays every situation out in a realistic fashion easily redeems it, as does the progression which quickly sweeps you away. This is especially true for repeated readings, when the sharp edge of the characters personalities and actions is blunted somewhat by familiarity.
While the humour made me squirm, the main thing that has stayed with me after reading Tomorrow is the art style. Devoid of shading or screen tone, the series relies on black lines alone- a very stark and scrappy presentation that I feel works very well overall. The free-hand drawing of all the backdrops gives everything a tired, ramshackle feeling that helps to emphase the absurdity and exhausting effects of the plot. What little detail is presented on the page is used well, effectively drawing your attention to wherever it is desired. The main benefit of this are the characters expressions and body language - in each and every panel they speak volumes, letting you know exactly what they feel about what is unfolding. The starkness of emotion, Especially the frequent horror or despair felt by the supporting cast at Shizuo's plight really gives the already black humour an additional depth, another twist of the knife. Another thing that helps is the fact that the rest of the cast aren't perfect either, and have their own issues and failings. None of them are as damning or self-inflicted as Shizuo's, but it helps that the rest of the cast are themselves shades of grey, just in a different manner. They also help in breaking up the series with smaller subplots and interactions rather than staying focused on the admittedly depressing plight of the main character. The extended cast bring to mind the dynamic of the Royle Family TV series - one absolutely awful character surrounded by less offensive, but still flawed, people.
To be honest, when I started reading Tomorrow, I didn't like it. The art was too stark, the humour too dark, and the main character too infuriating for me to handle. For a brief moment I toyed with the idea that I had paid £8 for a perfectly formed instrument of personal torture. However, halfway through the volume, I had a revelation.... or gave in to Stockholm Syndrome, I can't really tell. I think it was the point where the main character has a really lame fist fight with God. From that point on I really enjoyed Tomorrow, and have enjoyed it more each subsequent time I revisit it. Not everyone will like its dark, dark humour or brutally realistic characters, but for those who would like something a little bit different, these is something to love here.