REVIEW: Shadow Life – An Inspiring Japanese Graphic Novel

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Shadow Life – Review

Shadow Life, from First Second Books, is a supernatural graphic novel that will capture the hearts of everyone who reads it, no matter the age. It is written by Japanese Canadian Author, Hiromi Goto, with art by Anna Xu.

Synopsis

Shadow Life is a story about Kumiko, our seventy-six year old bi-sexual heroine, who decides that she no longer wants anyone else to have control over her life – so she leaves without telling anyone where she would go, and sets up a life that’s on her own terms – her own cozy apartment, making new friends, eating as she pleases, swimming whenever she wants – but something is following her, with the intent to cut her new life short.

A death shadow that wants to take her – but Kumiko is not about to go down easily. With the help of her friends and family, and a little bit of her own magic – she is prepared to fight for her life. She may be old, but she’s not going to go down easily.

Shadow Life is slated for release March 30, 2021

Shadow Life Japanese manga review

Shadow Life Story

It’s always common to read supernatural stories that focus on coming of age for teenagers that end up fighting against the denizens of the dark – and yet, very rarely is there focus on those that are older. Which is a mistake that this book attempts to fix.

Shadow Life tells the amazing story of Kimiko, who spends her time fighting against a creature that she heard about growing up. She doesn’t spend time denying what she knows is true, and the death shadow doesn’t catch her unprepared. It’s very refreshing to see a protagonist that experiences danger – but it was not due to youthful inexperience. Kimiko is smart, resourceful and the people around cannot help but want to love and protect her, even though she is able to take care of herself. She is hilarious, positive and everything you love in a protagonist.

Even the characters that surround Kimiko are fully realized individuals in their own right. The LGBTQ+ representation is smooth and not jarring, mentioned as if it is normal and not the central focus of the story – which though is not a problem in other books – in this it makes Kimiko and her world real.

The story is completed in one book, and if there’s no other story that comes after this I would be happy, but there’s so much of the world that I would love discover. I would love to read more of Kimiko and her adventures against dark forces. Growing old does not mean one just has to wait for death, for if it comes too early – you have to fight dirty.

Shadow Life Art

The beauty of Shadow Life is the simplicity of the art. Black and white, Anna Xu captures the slice-of-life feel of Kimiko’s world, but also captures the unnatural other that permeates that same world. It honestly reminds me of my time in Korea and the beauty of that country.

The world that Anna Xu and Hiromi Goto built is just gorgeous and peaceful. Honestly, I would not mind receiving a coloring book just based on Anna Xu’s art work.

Shadow Life Conclusion

The world of Kimiko is whimsical and beautiful, you’ll want to just relax and soak it in. Yes, it has dangers bubbling underneath the surface. It’s a world that is both twisted and dark, yet simple and beautiful. But your constant companion, Kimiko is hilarious, endearing and brave. It’s no wonder that the people that surrounds her wants to protect her – because she is such a joy to watch. But she does not need our assistance – she’s a grown woman and she is not afraid to fight whatever it is that comes her way, on her own terms.

When you pick it up, expect to smile and maybe even tear up just a little bit at the story about a bisexual seventy-five year old super hero, because that’s exactly who Kimiko is. Plus, you definitely owe it to yourself to meet a senior super hero that says “Not today, Death. Not today.”


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