When it comes to visual style and thematic elements, I tend to uphold them perhaps above everything else when it comes to entertainment. Now, plotting and characterization are usually just as important as well, but considering that my time and focus has been left to shorter properties, the latter just do not have enough time to grow. But like seeing a H.R. Giger painting for the few minutes, visuals and theme can develop far faster in just a frame; making 2005’s Lychee Light Club such a pure example of quick merit.
Lychee Light Club is by mangaka Usamaru Furuya, who has seen a spike in English language releases the last couple of years with titles like No Longer Human and Genkaku Picasso oddly some ten or so years after seeing a start with his title Short Cuts in the pages of Pulp magazine. As a creative figure, I usually see him paralleled to mangaka Jiro Matsumoto, who I have written about before on this site.
Lychee Light Club is about nine middle school age boys in a time I guess to be Japan during the seventies and their militaristic devotion to upholding an organization called the Light Club. Early on, the always uniformed boys demonstrate strong organized conviction when their old factory centered headquarters are discovered by a fellow classmate. In a heated argument on how to deal with this intruder, they finally decide to just expose his eyes to some of the instillations high powered lights, effectively blinding him. But as one would expect, one of their teachers had followed them and seen what they had done to their fellow classmate. In an attempt to continue to leave no witnesses, they decided to kill her, but not before their leader known as Zera uses her adult presence to make a Peter Pan-esque eulogy about the horrors of growing into an adult.
The big picture of Lychee Light Club stems from this early secrecy. The Light Club’s mission is to secretly create a robot that they can send out and bring back a beautiful girl for them to interact with, an adolescent ideal perhaps fueled by being stationed in an all boy’s school. When their arbiter entitled Lychee (after the specific fruit that is the visually male robot’s fuel source) succeeds at just that, infighting and corruption flowers from many sources tears this brotherhood apart Be it devotion to their leader, their knew found idol, or their original ideas for coming together, you can expect nothing pleasant to come of this.
As stated earlier, Lychee Light Club just digs into its visuals and themes with abandon. The club’s leader Zera rules with a glove covered iron fist demonstrating both early skills as a manipulator but also a leader; yet with visual imagery tied to metaphorical comparisons of a chess game and its king, as well as comparison to history’s once great leader, you can see not only an inner power struggle, but illusions of grandeur befitting youth. What I described is only one part of a narrative filled with my equivalent of fictional catnip like: what is means to be human, feelings of unrealized sexuality, expressing one’s devotion to an authority figure, and finally examples of group think.
Pros: A visual and thematic experience that has this unfortunate hold over my tastes. Does what I always want fiction to do, introduce new and old concepts and combine them in a way that I have never seen before, leaving the effort to keep searching for something thing all the more enjoyable.
Cons: Tends to implicate shock value when not needed, and while outside of one scene none of it really unstable me during reading, the fact that this is all happening with individuals no older then fourteen cautions warring to future readers. Now Usamaru Furuya does try to distinguish the boys apart not only through finding ways to reintroduce them individually, but at least trying to break them up cosmetically, the end result is still not enough to leave the boys as lasting characters.
Lychee Light Club was put out by Vertical Inc., who has also been publishing No Longer Human. This manga was a tough one to write about, for either I write too little for the sake of brevity or I write too much and leave the review bloated, which might just be a problem from covering something that just resonates with me so effectively. As a whole, this might just be one of the best manga that I have read in the last five years, just is that a good enough recommendation for you Internet?
I liked this review a lot and I adore Lychee Light Club so much. Although, I wouldn’t say the added “shock value” was unnecessary, especially since Furuya partially dedicated this manga to Suehiro Maruo’s work, which has plenty of that same “shock value” actually referred to as ero-guro. That type of work is not to everyone’s liking and it can be very over-the-top, but that’s what makes it all the more unique and enjoyable to read. If you liked this, I definitely would recommend giving Maruo’s work a go, although his imagery and themes can be even more-so disturbing than that of Lychee Light Club.