Thursday, May 29, 2008

Escape from Amsterdam-Barrie Sherwood

Escape from Amsterdam
Barrie Sherwood
St. Martin's, Jun 2008, $23.95
ISBN: 0312380402

University of Kyoto student Aozora Fujiwara has run up quite a gambling debt to local gangster Mr. Uno who runs an illegal mah-jongg parlor. However, his IOU may be covered because lucky for him his wealthy Auntie Okane died leaving him and his sister Mai with a large estate. However, a stipulation in his aunt’s will causes Aozora some concern; to collect his sister must be with him. She vanished from opera school.

While the yakuza mobsters seek to break some of his bones, Aozora searches for his sibling, whom he has not seen in over a year. Clues lead him to Amsterdam (Japan not Europe) where she is performing at the strange Dutch-themed amusement park home to the renowned "Harry Potterdam". However, even there Aozora runs into mobsters as local kingpin Gondo refuses to free the indentured Mai, who owes him; besides she does not want to leave her status as a princess entertaining his special clients here.

This is an engaging lighthearted farcical Noir look at the nastier side of Japan through the eyes of a beguiling rascal who can be summed up by his self deprecating observation that women see his penis as a lobster fest. Fans will appreciate his unwanted escapades as Aozora seems to cross thugs or bores everywhere even on the bullet train. Manga illustrations and photos augment this mellow young man’s run through the criminal gauntlet.

Harriet Klausner