Goze Hotaru First Thoughts



I think I personally have an intensely soft spot for historical fiction, and Goze Hotaru has struck at the core of that fondness. I don’t think I really need to write a whole post explaining it since it’s just that good. But, I do want to make sure that as many people as possible end up reading Goze Hotaru, so I’ll give it my best shot.

First of all, the title is self referential, as our lead character is a young girl name Hotaru, and the focus of the series is on Goze. For those that don’t know, Goze is a term that refers to visually-impaired Japanese women that typically found employment as travelling musicians. During the early emergent era of Goze, many groups were developed in rural areas and were centered around more nomadic practices than what most musical troupes in Japan are seen as in hindsight. Though, towards the late 1800s, Goze troupes began to settle in more populated areas, but that’s not the focus of this story.

Anyways, with the idea of Goze Hotaru‘s name out of the way, let’s actually talk about the chapter. First off, the art is stellar. It does a very solid job of walking the line between expression and refinement, and is able to balance the two sides very easily. Kou Tosaya (the mangaka) does really well to harness the sketchy nature of their art, and uses it expertly to create shadows that feel incredibly liquid and fluid. It’s really stunning artwork that’s free to change and adapt to Hotaru’s feelings and experiences, where even something as simple as the “noise” of the line art is able to convey strong emotion.

Continuing on with the art, I really like the character designs. I think they do a solid job of bridging the gap between traditional historical stylings, and a more appealing modern twist that’s full of details. For example, take a look at Hotaru’s clothes. It’s adorned with drawings of eyes- much like the one that the woman she saw on the day of her mother’s funeral sported. It’s a very interesting little detail, and one that gets expressed even further when we meet the group of Goze that visited Hotaru’s village.

Here, we find out some incredibly important details. Though, we do get that information in the Goze’s initial performance, but Tosaya cheekily hides a key piece of information.

Anyways, all Goze have something afflicting their right (our left) eye. For example, Oyuki (the older one on the right) has a pair of scars atop their right (our left) eye. Similarly, Sango sports a similar difference, her right eye is a different shape and color than her left- and she sports a single horn (which we didn’t get to see earlier).

Sango’s appearance alone speaks to the supernatural element of Goze Hotaru, hammering home the experience of Hotaru as a young girl. Together, they form a very interesting web of connections that drives Hotaru towards becoming a Goze, and it’s something that will certainly be central to the story- considering Hotaru’s form of sight.

Speaking of Hotaru’s sight, Tosaya does an incredible job conveying that to readers. Anything that makes an audible noise becomes visible to readers, for example. The rustling of branches and leaves we can see, but as Hotaru becomes less and less confident in herself, that ability to “see” is taken away and replaced by a black void full of sounds. It’s really interesting how Tosaya relates Hotaru’s “vision” to her confidence in life, and how sure they were of that depiction of Hotaru’s blindness since the beginning of this chapter. Though absolutely the star of the show is the next bits of info.

First of all, Tosaya’s panelling for the Goze’s story is incredible. It’s full of life, personality, and passion, and is incredible at relying the story in more abstract terms to the reader. It’s really an incredible feat for a first time mangaka to accomplish. For example, the existence of a Kitsune in mentioned in the Goze’s story, and lo and behold Tosaya is able to use a Kitsune as a panel.

And then there’s the incredible work that sees the empty space filled with loose lines grow denser and denser so that the panelling bleeds into Hotaru’s hair at the bottom of the page.

And then the sparkles, they’re a superficial aspect to the experience, but they undoubtedly play into the supernatural experience of Goze. How can I say that with such certainty? Sango sees the same sparkles around Hotaru. It’s a really subtle panel that you can very easily miss, but it undeniably links the pair of characters together.

Does it denote supernatural origins for the blindness of Sango and Hotaru vs Oyuki? Does it have to do with their age and experiences with blindness? There’s a lot of questions that Goze Hotaru is able to pose to readers through these smaller visual details. For example, sticking with Sango, did anyone notice that she sports a small bell as a decoration? Neither Oyuki or the other girl travelling with the pair of Goze have any similar ornaments.

I suppose that makes a nice segue into the idea of a story for Goze Hotaru. Of course, with its first chapter there’s not a whole lot to say in terms of the grand scheme, but like I talked about above, there’s a world of little details and experience that are important for Hotaru as a character. For example, how her brother Masa immediately begins to leave her alone after discovering she’s blind. While she might hate being dragged around by him, it was a part of her life that meant a great deal to her. Similarly, her time with her grandfather was incredibly important to her, but now that her blindness has come to define her abilities in the eyes of others, she feels a distance appearing between herself and others.

And that’s really where the Goze come into play. They appear to give Hotaru the confidence to exist, the ability to surpass her sorrow and pain that ties her to this world, to explore something past herself. It’s an experience that puts a broad smile on the girl’s face and gives her the ability to live out every day. In a way, it strongly reminds me of both Heike Monogatari and Inu Ou, in the best ways possible.

If the comparison wasn’t clear, that’s to say that I see the highest degree of potential in Tosaya and Goze Hotaru. This is a series that doesn’t see the sky as a limit, but as just another step along its journey. It has the ability to do something truly incredible as a shounen jump+ manga. I can’t wait to see how Goze Hotaru grows and develops.

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