A group of men arrives at a huge walled garden, only to find it temporarily closed. Their disappointment at not getting to enter does not last long, though, as they stumble across a large gap in the wall nearby. Now inside, they are free to explore the vast garden however they wish. However, the enclosure is not filled with plants and other organic matter, but with bizarre structures like perfectly square lakes, libraries housing impossibly sized books, and glass mountains as far as the eye can see.
STORY Despite the middling score I'm giving this, Garden is far from average. I've read a fair share of manga, but have yet to see anything else quite like it, and the atypicalness of the thing makes it difficult to shove into a tidy 10pt scale. As for the actual plot: Some characters break into a garden and explore. Granted, it's not a normal garden: instead of trees and various shrubbery there are huge, inorganic structures. But that's it. There's no drama, no mystery, no conflict beyond "how do I cross this river made of balls?" or "why is there a mountain made of glass?". Though the story is barebones (to say the least), the bizarre things that the characters encounter usually provide adequate entertainment. It's clear that the mangaka had a lot of fun coming up with ridiculous buildings and landscapes to fill this book with, and absolutely nothing that pops up is expected. And due to the inorganic content, and the fact that the volume isn't split into chapters, it's like reading the stream-of-consciousness of an autistic architect. ART The illustrations mirror the sparse narrative. Screentones, shading, and anything more than the bare minimum of detailing is almost non-existant, and the clean geometric linework gives the whole thing a sterile feel. The character designs were interesting and extremely varied, perhaps to make up for the characters' lack of personality. CHARACTERS Calling anything a 'character' in Garden is a bit of an overstatement. 'Hive mind' would be more appropriate. There are oodles of humanoid… things that wander around occasionally offering opinions, but oftener explanations of their surroundings. Their numbers fluctuate anywhere from five to thousands depending on the situation, and once a character has been shown, they may or may not show up ever again. OVERALL The end effect is akin to watching someone else play a videogame. Not one of those story-fueled, action-filled rpgs, though- more something like Katamari Damacy (with a smidge less lunacy). There's no reason to watch/read, you have absolutely no stake in what transpires, and yet it's strangely mesmerizing.
So, there are these characters, characters as in these... characters. They go into a garden full of geometrical shapes, rife with abstract patterns, constructions and the ordinary made into something obscure and unusual while keeping in the bounds of what we see today: Trees made of cars, mechanical whozawhats in the form of a piece of nature, all sorts of jazz. If you got any of that, then give it a go. If you're like me and didn't entirely follow that then go read something that is more structured. The only way this is structured is the progression through the garden. There is no end goal and the only plot we get are characters trespassing into a garden. This is more about the journey than the beginning or end, about what one interacts with instead of a grander, bigger world. Hardly a beginning, hardly an end, it's about the garden itself and what it entails for our intrepid characters. In terms of dialogue, it's more simple than complex, scientific and observational than pointless conversations and shooting the breeze and explanational and rational over surpurflous (pointless meandering) and free form wordplay. Don't read it for the writing. Plot aside, it's certainly... unusual. The art style gives everything an abstract vibe, the content can also be considered abstract and the simplicity in the art lends itself to abstrasicity. Abstractism. More abstract stuff. The cover screams abstract and it's so abstract that it's niche! Abstract. I wasn't too intune with the art style but I do admit that it's creative in what it does. As the characters march on, the inventions give way to more and more inventions in a never-ending parade of a fusion of modern, geometry and nature. Artistic, yes. Beautiful? In an abstract way, technical more than artistic. Know why I continously mention characters? It's because they are just that: characters. No name, vaguely humanoid bodies, they multiply like crazy and one guy has a camera. He takes pictures and stuff. Yeah. To sum it up, it's creative, it's abstract and it's about the journey than the beginning or end. It lacks the usual plot and ending, a story, characters and is more style over substance. It wasn't my thing but felt that I should finish it instead of dropping it a third of the way through. I do admire it's geometrical modern, nature hybrid content but only a small circle would appreciate it for what it is.
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