Tokyo These Days Volume 2: Success



There’s a reason that the world reveres the work of Taiyo Matsumoto, and Tokyo These Days volume 2 is a perfect example of that. Moving towards the natural conclusion of the freedom and desire expressed within a modern capitalist framework, this second volume homes in on the crippling pressure of commercial success. That impossible fear of darkness creeping in through the cracks of the page, the feeling beneath the obsession of numbers and popularity, all writhing beneath your skin and eating away at your self. For such an idiosyncratic group of characters that appears in Tokyo These Days volume 2, there is no greater fear than the death of creative passion. It leads to characters fearing the pen, fleeing back home, or destroying themselves and being built anew.

In a sense, you could argue that the final volume that follows this second instance will inevitably be about how diamonds are created under immense pressure. The first volume worked very hard to show the oppressive force of the modern era upon creatives, but how you can still crawl out from beneath that press. This second volume then provides a soft chuckle at the naivety of such a thought as characters like Aoki are sideswiped by the even greater pressure of success and deliverance. So ultimately, the final volume will undoubtedly address the “final” successes of these characters. How they escape the chains of a modern framework, but are still forced to exist within it. A struggle among struggles that will never end, never relent. The only thing that can prevail is sheer creative force- something that is cultivated in this volume.

I’ll be the first to say it- it’s not a perfect volume, nor is it an easily comprehended one. Obviously though, it wouldn’t be a masterpiece if either of those things were true. Creation at its core is flawed, and it would be silly to expect anything perfect to arise from it. Chosaku might meet his ex-wife and daughter for a day out, but the world will still be ripped away from him, clawed apart by his own mistakes as a person. Aoki might dominate a magazine for a period of time, but the fears dwelling deep in his heart are not so easily assuaged. Shiozaki himself might be working to make the greatest manga within his mind, but his guilt and responsibility always sells himself short- something that he specifically attests to in this volume.

It’s a rather sour moment, given how his comparison is to an editor that nearly worked their mangaka to death, but that’s the way the world exists. Shiozaki can’t possess that terrible and unrelenting attitude, and he quietly admonishes himself for not pushing for success like him. Tokyo These Days volume 2, much like the debut volume, is full of this sort of bittersweet “I wish”. Longing and yearning are as natural as breathing to these characters as they lament their pasts and struggle with their futures- forever hanging in a limbo of creative flux. It’s a struggle that presents this short series with an impossibly strong soul, bursting at the seams and wailing to be let loose.

It’s truly a volume that doesn’t waste a single moment, filling it up with more than I could possibly hope to convey in a review. I could take out a whole hour of talking, and I might not even make it to the bottom of my thoughts with this story. Matsumoto’s talent remains near limitless, attaining heights that feel impossible to match, but at the same time this volume expresses fear within that unmistakable ability. Fear that success is never permanent and that the faces and voices supporting you can turn away, that the pen itself could forsake you. It provides an undeniable sense of humanity to existences that are portrayed as larger than life.

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