A void, a soft gust of wind, a sole lone flower with naught but to wither away. not simple is akin to a gleeless memoriam, a sorrowful take on one life that unfortunately could not be saved.
With the spine of a story gently brittling away, not simple takes you on a journey, a chronicle detailing the life of a young man named Ian. This tale is a dejected one—every event compounded onto Ian’s misfortunes. Each moment, each flash onto not simple‘s stage is wistful, placing heart and soul into the stiffened dialogue at play. The bastard child of his sister and his father; an abusive alcoholic for a “mother”; and his father, a callous businessman who couldn’t possibly care. Even child prostitution is but a casual topic for Ian. This irreparable lifestyle fundamentally warps his beliefs—a shadow that continuously haunts his search for happiness. But, there’s a shimmering hope. Every scene you see Ian clinging to his innocence, clutching something so sweet that others can only look at him and cry out in solace.
not simple‘s plot is short and fleeting, but the passion behind its tale takes readers on an affectional journey. The miles each character sojourns across become a metaphor for their fleeting nature, constantly on the move and in search for that which would keep them happy. Moreover, each character becomes intrinsically wrapped with family, a motif (and overall theme) which becomes clearer upon every page. This message is a simple one, suitable to the length of the story. However, what is extraordinary is not simple‘s ability to render it so exceptionally—to realize unhappiness so tangibly.
Each character is so dolefully a result of their environment. A once enflamed romance is now all withered away; both mother and father see others and do not give so much as a glance towards their fallout children. The loving sister as well is in prison for dire needs to take care of Ian. Each experience within this life is a wicker, passing so ephemerally from Ian’s grasp. The work also adds an alternative perspective. The reporter named Jim becomes ever so fascinated by Ian’s life, so much that he aims to write a memoir of him. Every one of Jim’s actions is just the same as Ian’s—sorrowful, analytical, and expressionless. Always wearing slate black in style, Jim’s presence stays ever so distinctive, placing readers into his shoes as much as one would consider Ian alone.
What dances so mournfully into this atmosphere is Natsume Ono’s impassioned hand. The paneling is wonderfully imaginative, with speech bubbles constantly defying panel lines, and diagonals slashed across non-conventional layouts. The vertical diagonals place the focal point less on the storytelling in so much as on the characters themselves. This flocks attention toward each character’s lanky poses and vapid inscrutable faces. Shadows as well take a heavy effect onto dispersing this melancholy so acutely; Ono regularly crafts opposites in tonal shading. This fastens the minimalist artwork with a subtler depth beyond what most works attempt to express using even more tools.
Natsume Ono’s iconic character designs take its place here again, always the same with cylindrical eyes and clean charcoal outlines. The minimalism in Ono’s artistry persists as a fascinating juncture. Panels often span expressions and slow rigid movement, lacking dialogue page after page. This gives many of the characters a subtle rueful expression, surveying the atmosphere with pensive thoughts and unspoken aversion. It’s bleak in taste, like crying out for help in a forest with no one to hear.
Just an hour or two is all it takes to complete not simple. This is a beautiful story, like a melancholy that can only (and fervently) clasp its passion. not simple subdues readers and places them in utter despair, offering a slight shimmer of light with a humble message at its end. Page for page, this journey is certainly not one to miss.