When I read the first volume of Kazuhiro Okamoto’s “Translucent”, I remember how much I enjoyed it and how much I feared it wouldn’t keep up the quality. The basic thrust is pretty simple; high school student Shizuka has what’s called “translucent syndrome” where her entire body regularly fades into invisibility. Translucent syndrome is used as a metaphor for people’s own self-image, their desire to fade into the woodwork and be figuratively invisible. It seemed like a great idea for a short story, a quick one-off exploring the idea. Certainly not enough to make it all the way to a third volume.
That said, it’s wonderful to be proven wrong. The idea under Okamoto’s hands hasn’t gotten old, thanks to both the variety of situations he comes up with as well as how it chronicles the relationship of Shizuka and her best friend Tadami. The almost-dating fine line that the two of them straddle surprises me in how it not only fails to get old, but rather how I think if the two of them did actually get together as more than friends that it wouldn’t ruin the book. I think it’s because Shizuka and Tadami are both great, rich characters in their own right. We regularly get looks into their personal lives, and each time it proves to be more and more interesting. Tadami’s interactions with his family, as seen by a spying Shizuka, sheds a lot more light onto his character, for instance. And while Shizuka is certainly still struggling with her own issues, she’s grown so much as a character since the first chapter of volume one that it’s a real joy to see her moving forward so much.
The situations that Okamoto comes up with here are also part of the attraction. From Shizuka being asked to pretend to be a ghost for a grieving mother, to her being asked to give up her lead in the school play as to not distract the visiting alumni actress, there’s a wide variety of things that happen in “Translucent.” It really surprised me with just how many different ideas that can be mined out of such a simple set-up, and it makes me eager to see what Okamoto will do next.
With a delicate, attractive art style and hysterically funny one-page “bonus” stories peppered throughout the series (ranging from floating bandannas blocking a view of the television, to Shizuka finding out her father’s deepest, darkest, beauty care secret), “Translucent” is rapidly becoming one of my favorite manga series currently being published. I’m no longer worried about the book running stale; Okamoto’s proven to be an adept creator and then some.