MEKAKUSHI NO KUNI (Land of the Blindfolded) by Sakura Tsukuba
– series complete (9 books)
– licensed by CMX
STORY: Kanade Otsuka has the power to sometimes see into people’s futures when she touches them. Her power frightens her sometimes because she’ll see things she doesn’t want to see and when she forsees impending disaster, she’ll want to prevent it, no matter what happens to her. Arou Naitou is the opposite of Kanade. He can see into people’s pasts and is very laid back about his power as he believes that while he can’t do anything to change his powers or other people’s pasts, but he can do things to change the effect that the past may have caused on a person. Both, however, each feel a little left out of the world, being the only ones who can enter what they term “invisible worlds” that no one else can see – the worlds of the past and the future. One fateful day, they run into each other and discover that they aren’t alone after all. Thus a strong bond is formed between the two- a bond of determination, understanding, friendship, and later, a very powerful love.
While this poignant and heartwrenching series is deeply rooted in romance, Tsukuba also delves a lot into philosophy, using a lot of metaphors, comparing Kanade and Arou to people who live in a land of blindfolded people with their blindfolds off. As Kanade struggles to deal with her desire to help those who have bad things in store for them, Arou stands by her side, faithfully keeping an eye out and providing for her a strong shoulder of support when she loses faith in herself. Their relationship is one of trust and a very deep friendship that undergoes its tests and especially temptations when concerning their powers. Both are given the option of looking into each others’ pasts or futures to see what the truth really is when there are doubts instead of upholding faith in each other, which, as anyone who’s ever been in a relationship knows, is one of the hardest things to do. Yet, instead of being torn by this, they are united by it. There has not been such a genuine couple in any series, be it anime or manga, in a very long time.
But Arou, Kanade, and later their friend Masahiro also have to overcome the obstacles of prejudice, the fear that people feel towards them when they realize that they have some unnatural abilites, and the capabilities of their own powers. The situations they get into are all relatable in some form or way, as supernatural as some of them are. In addition to all this, Arou and Masahiro also must come to terms with their pretty depressing pasts and with each other when it concerns Kanade. Masahiro provides the last corner of a rather one-sided love triangle, but unlike most love triangles, the boys don’t let the fact that they both love the same girl get in the way of their friendship with each other or with the girl. They do get in some pretty silly and amusing situations over her. It’s one of the most entertaining parts of this series. There’s another girl in the series who I personally feel he makes a great pair with, but we’ll see.
Another fact that sets Mekakushi no Kuni apart from other series is that when characters have magical powers, they usually keep it secret from their parents. But in this case, the three protagonists’ parents are all aware of their children’s abilities and how each of them handle this fact plays an important part in each of their stories and their personalities.
This manga is recommended for everyone. It’s a top recommendation for those dark days when it feels like everything that could have possible gone wrong went wrong….sort of like a deeper Ah! Megamisama. It might make some people cry, but that’s a given side effect of this heartwarming series.
– Kanade Otsuka: A shy and sweet hearted girl who forgets to think before she acts. Her premonitions of misfortune cause her to want to prevent this impending doom and she becomes so absorbed in this task that she often puts herself in danger. Lucky for her, she has Arou to jump in and save her all the time. She believes that the future is not set in stone and should always be helped. She’s quite naive, really, but her naivety is what makes her so pure and strangely believeable.
– Arou Naitou: Arou is an almost total opposite of Kanade. He does not feel the need to deal with his power and nor does he feel the need to change anything until he meets Kanade. He’s very carefree, kindhearted, a great cook, and handsome to top it all off. So it’s not a surprise that people are easily drawn to him, but none are as drawn to him as he is to Kanade. He’s very dedicated to saving her/protecting her and has some really impeccable timing…
– Masahiro Namiki: A person who can see futures like Kanade, he’s more adapted to his power then her, making him, in a sense, stronger than her. At first he uses this to antagonize her, but Kanade doesn’t let this get to her and he begins to see her and Arou in different lights, leading to a tight friendship between all of them. Due to a very sad past where his parents rejected him for his abilites, he lives alone (though he’s later joined by Marota, the CUTEST puppy ever.).
ART: Tsukuba’s art is simple and yet very complex. It tells evokes the strong emotions that run within the characters at exactly the right times and is expressive, even if she enforces the usual ribbons and flowers. It’s also ridiculously romantic, which emphasizes the romantic aspect of this series perfectly, though the focus of the series is not on romance. The lines are simple, clean, and she doesn’t overdo her spreads or embellish her drawings with more than it needs. Panels are well placed and there is never over-cluttering inside. Her boys are bishounen (Gotta love that), her landscaping sweeping and realistic, and not everyone is a gorgeous babe. While her artwork isn’t as intricate as Tanemura Arina’s or CLAMP’s, her art still gives the reader the same feeling of loveliness.
PERSONAL THOUGHTS (SPOILERIFIC): Is it possible to love a series too much? I never believed that any series could be so perfect. Yet, after reading the first 5 volumes of Mekakushi no Kuni, I believe so. While there’s a 10 out of 10 rating up there for overall, this series personally touched me a lot deeper. While people cry when people die in series, I cried (not kidding) at just about every single chapter starting in book 4, especially when it involves Namiki or Arou’s pasts. That one scene when Masahiro’s mom finally smiles for real at him just melted me. All the emotions that can possibly be contained in such a simple gesture are drawn out to their fullest in that single scene. Here’s Masahiro, losing his tough guy image, and he’s completely naked at that one moment to the whole world. How wonderful. How absolutely wonderful. And the worst part is that that’s not the only scene that is so touching. There are hundreds more in the only first seven books. Sadly, the ending to the series is a bit open-ended and there’s no feeling of absolute closure, which could be both bad and good.
I’m in love with all her characters, with all the silly situations that everyone gets into, with each story that each character has, and specially that Marota. The story where Masahiro take Marota out to play made me bawl. My fault for listening to really nostalgic music and reminiscing about my ex-dog at that part. Arou and Kanade make one of the sweetest couples, I think, in all recent manga. Every time Tsukaba throws at us one of those really big splashes of the two of them being sweet, I die. (I wish there were more guys like Arou around….haha.) Do I love this series too much? Yes. I do think so. But I think that given how much this series touches my heart (or lack thereof), it’s justified.
CMX EDITION EDIT: With CMX being new to the “manga” publishing industry, they might’ve been to rushed to get their work out on the market, and that is probably the reason why it seems that they forgot to pay attention to what exactly they were doing. Of the three copies of Land of the Blindfolded that I found, all three had the same pages where the image was doubled and blurry for a good…the rest of the volume, really. It was a good way to get a headache. Not a good way to make an impression on the masses of hardcore “manga” buyers out there. Beyond that fact was the one that the image on the back of the book was not from the series at all but from the extra story at the end of the first volume. Most likely, most people would not be aware of this as the character does bear some resemblence to both Arou and Masahiro, but it’s this action of leaving the readers in ignorance that outlines the very nature of bad manga licensing. So far a dialogue editing goes, most of it is kept intact, though somehow it feels very dull and as if the characters are speaking in monotones -totally emotionless.
I’m disappointed. I had hoped that CMX could pull off a better job than Tokyopop, especially now that they’ve licensed Tenjyou Tenge and Kamikaze Kaitou Jeanne, two of the top mangas out there. Here’s to hoping that they improve their editing work before they hit the production process of those two, the rest of Mekakushi no Kuni, and any other series they decide to publish, in the future.