January 03, 2007

Caught Up In the Action

This book was a nomination for the graphic novels category of the 2006 Cybil Awards.

Japanese schoolgirl Chiko is pretty, popular, and rich. She's got everything…including a stranger's cellphone she found at the train station on the way to school. Before she gets a chance to take it to the lost and found after class—in addition to all her other fortunate attributes, she's also a fairly nice person—it rings. She picks it up. A voice tells her that if she doesn't get to the train station before 3:50 that afternoon, somebody's going to die.

Line, by Yua Kotegawa, is a taut, fast-paced manga thriller that follows Chiko through a harrowing nightmare that she unwittingly tangled herself into by picking up that cell phone. Only she can save the person at the train station, says the voice on the phone, so Chiko rushes there…but she's too late. A girl from her school—someone she doesn't know—has jumped from the roof. Shaken, Chiko hardly knows what to do. Only Bando, a quiet, smart girl from school, witnessed what happened and is there when Chiko gets the next phone call urging her on to a new location elsewhere in Tokyo.

On the run, Chiko and Bando rush to try to prevent the next person from jumping off the roof of a skyscraper. The mysterious phone voice leads them from place to place; and the two girls, who barely knew one another at school, are suddenly tied together by this strange and nightmarish chase. Though this wasn't a deep story, and the artwork was relatively traditional-style manga, it was well-drawn, nicely paced, and a definite page-turner. Chiko and Bando are both very different but sympathetic characters, and the plot was unusual enough to keep me reading till the end—which had a good (if a bit obvious) moral and a few surprises.

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