Genkaku Picasso

Genre: Comedy
Length: 3 Volumes
Allegiance: Shueisha
Mangaka: Usamaru Furuya
Vintage: 2009 – 2010
Intelligence Agency Report by: Kitsune
The misanthropic artist Hikari Hamura earned the nickname Picasso from the only person persistent enough to befriend him: Chiaki Yamamoto. Routinely, Chiaki accompanies Picasso sketching at the riverside, but one day a pilot loses control of his helicopter and it crashes into the area, killing Chiaki, but leaving Picasso miraculously unscathed. A few days later, he discovers a miniature, winged Chiaki in his shirt pocket, who tells him that he would have died if she wouldn’t have prayed for his survival in order to preserve his drawing talent. The gods agreed to spare him if he will use his talents to spare people; if he doesn’t, he will rot away. Picasso is originally unsure of how to help others, but he soon realizes that he can now see allegorical visions of troubled people’s hearts. Once he draws the visions, he must then enter the drawing to gain understanding of the person’s psychological troubles and help end their strife through interacting with the drawing.

Research Agent Report by: Kitsune 
Overall 7.00
(not an average)
Usamaru Furuya was bold and experimental in creating Genkaku Picasso; the plot creatively ties artwork and plot together in a way that I haven’t previously seen. Manga-ka typically don’t step out of their work’s subgenre too much –magical girl manga have similar plots, moe characters are formulaic, a lot of both comedic and dramatic manga revolve around school life, etc.-but Genkaku Picasso is an innovative work that is likely to inspire future creators to continue to bring manga to a whole new level. That being said, Genkaku Picasso is indeed a developmental foundation and isn’t without flaw in loosely developed characters, and while Furuya’s art style is unique and successfully surrealistic, a lot of his character posing and designs are almost too realistic for manga and seem awkward in the surrealistic backgrounds. 

I’ve personally been waiting for a manga with a plot like Genkaku Picasso’s. I’m familiar with several other characters who have the ability to make their drawings come to life, but they are either very minor or if they are the main character, the storyline of the manga is too loose to hold my interest. I’m impressed that Furuya was able to successfully combine unique characters, artwork, and psychological themes into Genkaku Picasso. However, while the majority of the problems of Picasso’s classmates in the first volume were comical, they were highly unrealistic. The best example is the classmate that has a fear of vegetables because she believes they are what killed the pet rabbit she had when she was a baby. I don’t think I really need to elaborate any further. I also worried that the storyline would get repetitive, with a very episodic set-up, but I was surprised to find that Furuya varied it just enough to keep it from getting dull.

In short, the characters of Genkaku Picasso aren’t strongly developed. While the situations they are put into and Furuya’s sense of humor are hilarious, the characters aren’t much more than plot devices. In each chapter, Chiaki persuades Picasso to help a new person, he learns a little bit about them through the drawing, and they appear again occasionally. Very little is revealed about anyone’s personal life or interests. All that is really revealed about even Picasso is that he is misanthropic, draws constantly, and looks up to Leonardo da Vinci. I’d say that’s about as minimal as it gets for a main character. 

Even though some of the characters’ problems were too unrealistic to be touching, Picasso’s ability to see into people’s hearts and help heal them really allows the reader to see the characters – and perhaps other people – in a unique way. The problems the characters face are connected with imagery so that the viewer can really see depression or jealously or other emotions that everyone has probably experienced. The manga really exhibits something that I previously believed: though most people hide their deepest emotions through pretenses, using smiles, anger, or nonchalance as a sort of mask, at heart they face some of the same insecurities that we do. I know the former is sort of obvious, but it really touched me to see beyond characters’ masks and connect with them. I’ve always wished people would be more open with that ability. 

In a particular chapter of the manga, Furuya quotes da Vinci on drawing the human body: “you must gaze at it from every angle, and draw it in order to gain mastery.” It’s evident to me that Furuya has done just that. He is bold in drawing poses, and depicts a much greater variety than a lot of manga-ka. On the other hand, I feel that some of his pose work is almost too accurate for manga. Because there are a lot of implied lines in manga art, his more realistically drawn features don’t fit too well with some of his scenes; furthermore, they appear sort of ugly in contrast with his interesting and surrealistic backgrounds. If he could use the same poses and tone down the features to a more implied, manga style, his artwork would be much more appealing. On a more positive note, his allegorical depictions of characters’ problems were very interesting, and well drawn, as were his surrealistic backgrounds and cover art. I loved how he tied classical artwork themes into his chapter pages; the artwork on these pages really applied to the theme of the manga as well! I admired one chapter page for at least five minutes- it was an image of Picasso being drawn on a sheet of paper by a hand that I assume to be Furuya’s, but Picasso was also drawing that very hand. This drawing made his artistic connection with his character evident. 

Genkaku Picasso uses manga in whole new way, and I hope to see more like it-new and improved. The artwork creates a literal aesthetic experience, in the truest definition of ‘aesthetics’, once Picasso’s hand sketches it out. While a lot of time clearly wasn’t put into details of the plot or character development, the plot as a whole is really entertaining and even pretty thought-provoking. I would definitely recommend it to many people, especially aspiring artists.