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tsukinohana

  • Joined Apr 13, 2021
  • 21 / F

The Heart of Thomas

Jul 24, 2023

Truly a masterpiece. The story is very much a "drama" in the purest sense of the word - a telenovela, if telenovelas were well-written in advance to their showings. It's a tight hook right off the bat with the mysterious titular Thomas, who's committed suicide before the manga even begins, and haunts the narrative thereafter. The whole school seems to have a personal stake in the life and death of Thomas, on top of their own issues - and each one of them are given a satisfying narrative conclusion within the story, growing immensely in the process. Manga from this era are known to be tragic, especially shounen ai, but Heart of Thomas, apart from the initial tragedy and the tragic backstories, presents a very bright future ahead of these boys after a year of much torment and growing. Tackling bullying, racism, depression, grief, loneliness, abuse, Catholic guilt (although surprisingly homophobia isn't really adressed), this manga really packs a punch in the psychological gut.

The art is stunning. An exemplary work of the immensely influential 70s shoujo look, we have here big, round eyes, with a couple sparkles on occasion, fluffy hair, and more cartoony proportions and limbs for the characters. Funny expressions are especially endearing in this art style. The paneling preceeds the open paneling shoujo is known for, as that development was still in its early stages at the point of publishing The Heart of Thomas - as such it is mostly the rigid paneling of earlier manga, with some explorations of creative paneling. But the blocking of the scenes is truly stunning, decorated with swirls, droplets, ripples, branches, leaves, all for emotinoal effect. The panels depicting emotional distress are also super influential and powerful and the blackouts and inverse coloring is still a common way to depict the emotion to this day. The chapter art is each stunning, with many motifs that make sense later in the story.

The characters are very flawed teenage boys, each with many, many issues. Their arcs are brilliantly written and executed, though, bringing the manga to a very satisfying conclusion. It takes a while to really come to love the characters, but they're intriguing from the beginning, due to their complexities.

I highly recomment this historic manga. It is a masterwork in character writing, and the psychological drama as a whole, as well as a cornerstone of not only shoujo and BL history, but manga history as a whole, since Moto Hagio is an author who many still look up to today. I hope that one day its English edition will become available again, hopefully to a more accepting fanbase of this work of immense influence and accolades. 

9/10 story
10/10 art
9/10 characters
9/10 overall
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