Comics : Spider-Man: The Manga #18
This review was first published on: 2004.
Welcome to "Yu Komori: The Manga" as our hero disdains to don his costume for anything other than a restless sleep. This issue concludes the three-part arc.
Spider-Man: The Manga #18
Sep 1998 : SM Title
Summary: Accused of Assault
Arc: Part 3 of "Spider-Man: The Manga Fifth Arc"
Yu is taken to the Blue Bird Go Go Hall where, in a back room, the brother of the assault victim beats him into a bloody pulp. He finishes by spitting in Yu's face and saying, "He looks like an honest student but inside, he's nothing but an animal." Yu does nothing to defend himself and the three men leave him to recover on his own.
Yu makes his way to the public area of the Go Go Hall and runs into Rumi. She has taken a job as waitress, having no other means of support. Before Yu can say more than a few words, he is hustled out of the club by two bouncers who tell him "This place is not for High School students" and call him a delinquent. "It's hard to tell who's not a delinquent anymore", Yu says. Rumi runs after him, but it is too late. Yu is lost from sight.
At the Principal's office, Mikawa has been called in. There has been a report that he was at a Go Go club. But it soon comes out that it was Yu who was at the club and lied about his identity, claiming to be Mikawa. The Princial and Kendo coach, two totally ineffectual authority figures, have no idea what to do about Yu. Upon leaving the Principal's office, Mikawa goes to his Kendo teammates and tells them tonight is the night to take care of Yu. Araki, who is not part of the group that attacked the woman, eavesdrops on the conversation.
That night, Yu is led to an open field where he is attacked by the Kendo members, wielding bricks. Araki is there, in the tall grass, watching. They pummel Yu but he gets right back up, then manages to get Mikawa to confess to the crime. "That girl was nothing but a tramp who was always hanging out at that club!", he says. With a cry of "I can't be beaten!", Yu beats the tar out of all of his attackers. Araki leaps up and tells Yu that he heard everything and will go to the police to "tell them you're innocent". But, Yu seems uninterested. When Araki asks him how he go to be so powerful, Yu wanders off, thinking, "I don't know how to express just how lonely I am."
For the first time, in reading this series, I feel like I may have encountered a culture clash. Yu's willingness to accept unwarranted mental and physical punishment just baffles me. In this storyline, he confesses to an assault he didn't commit, endures being shunned by his fellow students, and takes two severe beatings. At least he fights back after the second one. Now, I realize that Yu has no evidence against Mikawa and his cronies but, still, why in the world would you think that the solution is to take responsibility for their crimes? Is this a plan? If it is, it is only a fluke that it works. After all, Yu never planned for Araki to be eavesdropping. Is this all part of some Japanese concept of honor and self-sufficiency or does Yu just enjoy being beaten up? I can't tell.
Meanwhile, the lack of action of the school towards violence is difficult to interpret without social context. Some societies are becoming less and less tolerant of violence in schools, while for others, violence is supposedly becoming more of a problem. It's difficult to know if we are supposed to consider the school-teacher's dismissal of the issue as normal, or exceptional.
So where does Ikegami stand on all this? Does he deplore the actions of the school authorities? Does he think Yu is wrong to accept blame as part of his plan? It is impossible to say. The whole story is presented without a trace of irony or narrative commentary. Which leaves me dangling all the more.
I should probably also make mention of the fact that Yu never appears publicly as Spidey in this entire storyline. Instead, in a very unsuperhero-like fashion, he calls attention to his powers in his everyday life, thereby endangering his secret identity. Not the reactions of the typical super-doer but, possibly, the way many of us would be if we had spider-abilities. It didn't bother me one bit that Yu never went out in costume, but I can see how it might bother some readers. It seems to have bothered Marvel who felt compelled to attach the slogan "Out of costume and in trouble" to the covers of these issues. It also seems to have bothered the editors who put the striking visual of Mysterio's shattered helmet, revealing Spidey's mask underneath on the cover of issue #16. It's a great image, my favorite so far in the series, but it took place in issue #15 and has nothing to do with this storyline at all.
It's an interesting story with some unusual departures from the norm but Yu's actions left me completely befuddled. From my point of view, I can't give it more than three webs.