On another of sothis' recommendations, I picked up this manga hoping to be unimpressed. After reading Gyo, Alive, and Uzumaki cover-to-cover in one sitting, I prayed that I'd get something that wouldn't glue me to my seat so that I could finally get some homework done. WRONG.
Execution and attention to detail define disaster stories of any kind, and Metro Survive is no exception. Fujisawa painstakingly seals every escape, removes every option, and crushes every hope in turn, daring the audience to wish for a happy ending. His brutal narrative works, as each small victory reveals a more dire obstacle for his cast to overcome. Nor does the sense of foreboding disappear when the looming physical danger subsides. Instead, the mangaka leverages his villains to accelerate the narrative toward the terrible climax at the end.
Sadly, the story suffers from more than a few predictable turns. None of the betrayals should surprise the reader, and the seemingly intelligent antagonists get stupider as the story moves forward. Since most of these clunky sections form the buildup to the epic finale, they fade from memory when compared to the last chapter. However, the over-the-top content of those segments ruins much of the air of realism Fujisawa worked so hard to create.
Aside from the unctuous and inscrutable hosts, the characters display their myrad emotions to great effect despite bland character designs. Though each actor is distinctive, the overall execution falls somewhere between a realistic style like that of Alive! and the works of Osamu Tezuka. The backgrounds, in contrast posess a terrible and arresting beauty. Whether twisting the gossamer business center into a tomb of warped metal and shattered glass or using screentone to enhance the dirty and claustrophobic feel of the building's basements Furjisawa uses the setting to drive home his cast's pervading sense of doom.
For the most part, the supporting cast fills the roles expected of them in a disaster narrative. Fujisawa drags them kicking and screaming through every stage of grief, and their mundane personalities highlight the realistic tone of the manga. Mishima carries this manga on his broad an reluctant shoulders. His evolution from near-deadbeat through single-minded father and into genuine hero satisfies in a way that many similar protagonists' development do not. The handyman's reticence and insecurity read much more honestly than the gruff standoffishness that permeates the genre. By contrast, the villains seem thin. The two hosts can be identified as evil from the first time they appear and their motivations make little sense.
Simple, direct, and great. Metro Survive combines its engaging cast with a straightforward story to take an unflinching look at human nature. While it seems derivative initially, Mishima's struggle to escape the ruins of a commercial center and return to his family has the power to capitvate. Any fan of psychological or disaster stories will find this a worthwhile read.