Behind this unassuming title, I ended up finding the closest thing to a manga masterpiece in a good while.
Our protagonist is deranged a guy in his thirties who lives with his younger sister and their grandfather. They are stuck in the boonies. This is another one of those Japanese stories in which people either live in an isolated town or in Tokyo. Anyway, we quickly realize that our guy isn’t quite right in the head, but it’s never clear if his strange hallucinations are due to intrusive daydreaming or schizophrenic hallucinations. I’d say he’s closer to autistic.
He lives a carefree life of contemplation as the town loon, until his grandfather approaches him to open up about his worries: the protagonist’s sister is an attractive, well-liked local teacher, but she’s quickly approaching thirty and she hasn’t bothered to date anyone. Although our guy has a hard time grasping mundane facts, he can’t deny that he’s at fault. His sister’s kind nature prevents her from focusing on herself instead of making sure that her brother returns home after another afternoon skinny-dipping in the woods. The protagonist’s love for his little sister has been his main drive ever since they were both children (and once we learn later on about their ruinous childhood and what this guy struggled through to keep his sister going, it’s no wonder they became so close).
He realizes that he’ll cause his sister to feel lonely for the rest of her life because she needs to take care of his deranged ass, so he leaves for Tokyo at once. He suddenly finds himself homeless and hungry. Armed with the social abilities of a particularly screwed child, he goes door to door asking to be fed out of the kindness of their hearts.
What follows is a bizarre, unpredictable tale that features a cast of mostly broken outcasts, held together by the protagonist’s boundless willingless to understand people and life itself. Far from a zen-like master, this guy kept surprising me not only with his unpredictability (the shit that came out of his mouth, his casual threats, turning into a sobbing mess because he hurt someone’s feelings), but with how human and vulnerable he remained throughout.
For someone who dislikes humanity as much as I do, it’s rare to finish a manga and feel glad to have met the people within it. A shame that I can barely find anything about this series online, and its abysmal rating on Goodreads is another proof of how stupid everyone has become.
For whatever reason, the following sentences uttered tenderly by the protagonist (to a mentalist who wanted to build a cheese empire) ended up synthesizing this story to me:
“According to the standards of society, [my sister] is a beautiful woman. Not long ago, she still believed in Santa Claus. But now she’s able to impress me with words such as monotheism and polytheism.”
5 thoughts on “Review: Saltiness, by Minoru Furuya”
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