Cover Image: My Name Is Shingo: The Perfect Edition, Vol. 1

My Name Is Shingo: The Perfect Edition, Vol. 1

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When talking about influential manga artists in the horror genre, Kazuo Umezu gets referenced multiple times. While I’ve only read The Drifting Classroom from him on the VIZ Manga app, it hooked me. The existential dread coupled with a sudden transition from childhood appealed to me, and he’s been on my radar ever since. VIZ is currently releasing My Name is Shingo, a previous series which delves less into horror and more into science-fiction. Unfortunately, this shift comes with a few flaws that dampen an intriguing premise.

Satoru Kondo is a grade-schooler whose father works in a factory. One day, his dad’s company decides to use two robots to increase efficiency. During a school trip to a factory, Satoru takes an interest in one of the robots, Monroe (named after Marilyn Monroe). He also meets a girl named Marin, a potential love interest who also takes a liking to learning about the robot. As technological advances continue, what will Satoru and Marin do with Monroe, and will it learn something other than its directives?

What’s interesting about My Name is Shingo is how applicable it is with the slew of AI current events. Obviously, generative AI is a hot topic, but even things like a computer learning human emotions and faces in a primitive state is something interesting here. I just wish the story would be eventful with this plot.

The primary issue with My Name is Shingo is how it’s too much of a slow burn. The characters aren’t likeable or fleshed out, and I was only focused on Monroe’s character arc throughout the volume. The problem’s exacerbated by the fact that this Perfect Edition bundles more chapters into one, so we should get a bigger piece of the story, but we don’t. It doesn’t help that the actual event that the manga is based on doesn’t even happen in this collection. (We don’t know who or what Shingo is now, but signs point to Monroe developing into something more…)

This volume has potential, but it’s watered down by an uneventful prologue and some generic characters. I would recommend checking out The Drifting Classroom if you want some signature Kazuo Umezu. As it stands, I’d have to read the next omnibus of My Name is Shingo to get a better read of the series, but it’s not looking great.

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This was such an odd book. It's a quick read for being over 300 pages but I feel like I didn't read anything. There were a few times when I thought that something was going to happen and then it just kind of skipped over it and nothing happened. Since this is labeled as horror, I thought it would be, well more horrific. It was honestly a little bit boring. The artwork is amazing though and the only thing that kept is slightly interesting.

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Umezz's art is so retro that it looks contemporary, if that makes any sense. He is a master of the art of showing, not telling, so while My Name Is Shingo is not the most dialogue-heavy manga I've read, the art definitely does a lot of heavy lifting for the world building. While the main robot in the story is supposedly just a programmable robot, Umezz implies sentience---something that I'm sure will come into play in the next volume.

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This author is just crazy good. The art stunned me, it was so impressive and detailed. I liked the story as well. Highly recommended.

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Now 87 years old and retired for a few decades, Kazuo Umezz is considered one of the most important and influential of Japanese manga artists in the horror genre, a master recognised by current leading artist in the genre including Junji Ito, but until relatively recently little of his work has been translated into English. One feature that is becoming common now that more works are being published in the West, is the question of how children relate to the the world their parents have created for them, whether it's the apocalyptic landscapes of his masterpiece The Drifting Classroom or the legacy faced by a child twisted by her mother's complex with her appearance in Baptism. The first volume of My Name is Shingo, now being published by Viz, is another major Umezz work that points in the same direction.

The subject that influences 12 year old Satoru Konma and sets him apart from his parents appears to be their relationship to new technology, but inevitably the situation is a little bit more complex than that. Satoru is already different from the other kids. He's not just the odd one in the classroom, although he's definitely one the other kids in the class make fun of for being a little bit weird, but he is Kazuo Umezz kind of strange. Come to that, everything seems strange in the world of Kazuo Umezz, and certainly his parents might have something to do with his character and the strange relationships Konma forms over the course of this first volume.

Satoru's father is of another generation and mindset altogether, which to Satoru is strange in a different way. His father is proud of his physique and his traditional role in the family, even stripping off and showing his muscles in one early scene. His father works at Tokyo Manufacturing a factory that makes motors and parts for farm equipment, but when he arrived home one evening he has news that fires the imagination in the young boy; the company are about to introduce a robot into the factory line. He gets even more excited when a school trip is organised at his dad's place of work, where they now have two robots. Monroe the original and now Leigh, named after two famous movie stars.

The robots are perhaps not the way Satoru imagines them, more simple machines that are programmed to perform basic repetitive tasks. Even that though is a little too much for his father to adapt to, and other work colleagues find it much more difficult, but working with a young girl Marin who he meets from another school on a visit to the factory, Satoru recognises that Monroe has the potential to learn new things, and - we must presume since it is the main narrator of the story - begin to think for itself. Things indeed take a significant turn when Satoru interacts with the robot, the younger boy being more capable of adapting to the newness of the technology than his father. Satoru's unique character allow his to see the potential of what the robot can achieve, and perhaps aid it in getting to a new level.

Created and published between 1982 and 1986 you can imagine that My Name is Shingo might now be predicting the rise of Artificial Intelligence, which makes it a very timely subject to reconsider, but that idea has of course been around for a long time and thoroughly explored in science-fiction. I have no doubt that Umezz's take on the work in subsequent will present his own highly original, unpredictable and disturbing take on the subject.

By the time we get to the end of Volume One of My Name is Shingo, things are already starting to get more than a little weird as we delve into the strange world or connection that is developing between Satoru and Monroe, one exacerbated by the young boy's relationship with Marin. The artwork reflects this beautifully, not just in the situations, not just in the abstract emotional tones that Umezz employs as visualisations in background, but there are some beautiful little surreal standalone images in-between chapters that add to the sinister nature of the story. If previous works by Umezz are anything to go by however, it's very early days yet, and in a series that was originally published in 10 volumes in Japan, you can expect things to get considerably weirder and more horrific still in the volumes to come.

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I really like the futuristic horror that this title presents after reading the more traditionally spooky Orochi and Cat-Eyed Boy. Two robots that aren't even really all that robotic, get installed a small town's factory and the story shows the ups and downs of that kind of progress. The art revolving around the technology is coo to look al, too. I liked the mix of hope and fear, and am curious as to what a part two will bring.

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My Name is Shingo tells the story of a young boy named Satoru who discovers his father’s factory has a new robot called Monroe. The story develops as Satoru becomes friends with a girl named Marin during a factory tour. Marin and Satoru spend time together and with Monore. No one is quite prepared for what follows.

I quite liked the art in the book. Each hand-drawn panel has incredible detail. There is beautiful color artwork in one part of the manga, which is truly spectacular.

Unfortunately, a few things stopped this from being a book I could enjoy. I don’t think this manga has aged particularly well since the 80s, though some of my issues may just be cultural differences. Regardless, some things in the book bothered me and nearly stopped me from reading. I am interested in seeing where the story goes, so I will probably continue this series for at least one more volume!

While this wasn’t my favorite manga, I can understand why this is considered a classic. If you enjoy retro manga, My Name is Shingo: The Perfect Edition, Vol. 1 is worth a read.

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I was really excited about this, as I love Junji Ito and Kazuo Umezz was an inspiration to him, but the story was really hard to get through. I did not enjoy it and could not finish the whole thing. That being said, the art work and style (minus how the characters looked like very early cartoon drawings) was amazing. The amount of detail put into each panel, especially the colored ones, was incredible. The art alone is easily 4.5 stars. The story is 2 stars, so I'll average that out to three stars overall.

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This story was a little strange, but I'm curious to see what happens next! The old fashioned style of humor is amusing.

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