I’m with my mate Cutmore in the park sharing a joint, waiting for Alex and Paul to arrive with the fishing gear and the van. Cutmore’s telling me this book he’s writing about two guys sitting in a club talking shit to each other; about life, love, politics; whatever. Cutmore’s a writer and has already had a book published. In the scene he’s describing to me one of the guy’s, Yukio, is telling the other, Kimitake, about a manga he wants to create. Yukio’s full of ideas but can’t draw. Kimitake’s just graduated from Art College but has no experience with drawing, reading or even browsing through any comics other than in the newspaper.
According to Cutmore, Yukio’s coming up with a “fantastic new idea” every week, so Kimitake’s only half listening. In fact most of Kimitake’s attention is being directed towards a girl on the dance floor wearing a revealing dress. The next day Kimitake’s got an interview with HSBC to be one of those people sitting behind the glass taking people’s money. He wants to work his way up in a company and fancies the idea of having a job in which he can wear a suit, look smart and cool. He’s after money, birds, is saving up for a new car and has his feet placed firmly on the ground. He had a good time at art college, but what’s he gonna do with a degree in art, right? The way he sees it, if the money’s there then brilliant: but he doesn’t see anyone offering.
Yukio on the other hand is a cashier at One World, the stationary shop. He reads a lot of mangas and is in to animation movies, especially from Japan. Although saying that, (according to Cutmore) he’s in to a lot of things. Music, art, literature: he’s got plenty of dreams of becoming a famous something. He just doesn’t know yet what that something’s gonna be.
So as far as I remember, Kimitake’s sitting with his mate Yukio in the Basement club in Gueshan city. He’s half lying half sitting on a sofa in a dark corner of the room. In front of them is a low wooden table where they’ve put their drinks. Yukio’s bought them a jug of some orange cocktail with vodka, gin; and maybe whisky as well; I’m not sure. It just tastes like fruit juice to Kimitake at least, so he’s getting through it pretty quickly.
As I say, Yukio’s telling Kimitake about this manga he’s writing, and Kimitake’s the one who’s probably gonna end up drawing it. Yukio’s well full of ideas for comics, books, songs, bands... but since he’s cottoned on to Kimitake’s talent for art he’s been on about writing a manga.
Kimitake’s staring at the dance floor, sipping his cocktail, smoking a rollie and listening to Yukio. There’s a girl in short tight jeans and a light blue see-through dress; which is meant to be see-through he’s guessing. But anyway, she’s the one he’s mostly staring at. Her and her blue bra to match.
“So yeah,” he asks Yukio. “Tell me about your manga. What’s it about?”
Above the sounds of a dance song featuring the singer from a band called The Talking Heads, who apparently used to be cool around a decade ago (according to Cutmore), Yukio gives him the low-down on his idea.
“Starts when the woman from the opposite flat bursts into his room screaming about a ghost or something,” he shouts, describing how the first picture is of the screaming face of a girl; the backdrop being of a dark, atmospheric, high rise apartment. Shadows all over the place, nineteen-forties style, “Like a film noir sort of thing,” he says.
“What’s his name?” asks Kimitake.
“Jim, Bob, something simple; haven’t decided yet,” replies Yukio.
Then they’re agreeing on how something heroic sounding like Buck, Buzz, Hal or Han would be kinda cool. They laugh a bit, exchanging ideas for names, how the woman could be called Princess, Crystal; something like this. Maybe the orange cocktail is getting to them. (Cutmore doesn’t drink but has plenty idea how any sort of intoxication can really get the mind working.)
Kimitake sits back on the sofa, drawing on his rollie and allows Yukio to continue:
“So he feels he should help out this like damsel in distress. He lets her lie down on his bed and then goes to her room to have a look around but finds nothing out of the ordinary. Just an empty flat, like his, but a bit cleaner… but anyway, the big thing is that when he gets back to tell her he hasn’t seen anything, she’s lying on the floor of his room stone dead…”
Yukio waits for Kimitake’s reaction, to which Kimitake responds accordingly with a, “Yeah, go on,” while still concentrating on blue-bra girl. “Keep going, I’m listening,” he says, allowing and I suppose giving Yukio permission to really go off on one with his idea:
“He gets taken in by the police and questioned,” continues Yukio. “Finally gets let out, then decides he wants to find out for himself what’s going on and if there’s any history of ghosts or similar incidences. Like weird stuff happening in his building. But after trying and realising he has no idea where to start (“…like, I’ve got no idea, have you?” says Cutmore) he hires a private detective to help him.”
“A private detective?” Kimitake says; to offer some encouragement. “So the manga’s like a crime novel, yeah?”
“Sort of,” Yukio replies. “But anyway, the detective is eccentric or at least has character. I’m imagining her to be an old woman. Lots of make-up, stinking of perfume with an office full of crystals, un-cut semi precious stones, each with a different meaning that she explains to the protagonist guy in great detail. One of those nut jobs into the healing power of rocks, you know.”
“What does the main character do as a job?” asks Kimitake, suddenly interested in the answer to such an overly-used question.
“He’s unemployed and has three months to find a work,” says Yukio, after a slight hesitation – he obviously hasn’t thought this far (Cutmore explains the manga is only a relatively recent and fresh idea in Yukio’s head so therefore it’s important for him not to have all the answers).
“Or does he buy and sell things on e-bay?” Yukio now continues, slowly forming his words, deep in thought. “Maybe that’s the case. Something he can’t even reveal to the reader. Let’s call it product x: A couple of clicks of a button and he’s made enough money to survive the day.”
“Yeah, not bad I reckon,” Kimitake says. “Product x. A nice simple job that won’t get in the way of the story… or you could turn that idea on its head and make product x become significant at the closing stages. Maybe even the reason for the murder,” he continues with sudden enthusiasm. “Not that it was murder; it was a ghost, wasn’t it? But I’m assuming it turns out to not really be a ghost in the end, right?”
Yukio nods in reply, sipping at his drink, deep in thought once more. Then with a change of expression he decides to ignore Kimitake’s idea, at least for the time being, and continue with the manga as he’s planned it so far.
“So the private detective finds out that there’s no record of any other similar cases but also that there’s no evidence of this person, his female flatmate, having ever existed in the first place. The eccentric old detective tells him that officially if anyone asks she was investigating ghosts ‘cause she’s worried about anyone coming round asking questions ‘cause she suspects that for someone who existed to suddenly no longer exist then there must be big people involved and she doesn’t want to get into the whole thing.”
Yukio sips at his drink again, this time with more enthusiasm, and continues.
“Of course in the meantime, the main character guy has been doing things like walking round doing whatever, killing time and obsessing about the girl he saw – who he now can’t stop thinking about.”
“What, so he’s obsessing about the dead girl?” asks Kimitake.
“Yeah, but anyway, the next thing that happens is the girl’s sister turns up on his doorstep asking him to help find out what happened to her sister. Probably she explains why her sister disappeared from the records; how she used a false name, faked her papers and was living a life that originally hadn’t been hers -”
“- Are they twins?” Kimitake asks, to which Yukio replies that they might be but he hasn’t decided yet; although it sounds like a good idea ‘cause of it working quite well in a manga format if they looked the same.
“And maybe it just ends there,” he says. “Or a least it seems like this is gonna be it. The sister and Jim, Bob, Han or whoever have dates and a relationship; possibly fall in love and it’s all nice. I’ve got this scene in my mind of them sitting in an Italian style restaurant with a bottle of wine and him proposing…”
“But of course something must happen in the finale,” Kimitake says.
“Yeah, I know what you mean,” Yukio replies. “But what happens?”
“The private investigator turns up dead,” offers Kimitake.
“Then Han gets taken in and questioned again,” adds Yukio, sipping at his orange cocktail.
“Maybe he suspects his girlfriend and it’s not her.”
“Or he doesn’t suspect her at all and she is doing something bad.”
“Is product x involved?”
“Is somebody after him, maybe trying to kill him?”
“Is he being followed by the police?”
At this point, according to Cutmore, a rather fit barmaid wearing a tight red and yellow t-shirt has suddenly begun to clear away some empty glasses on the table in front of them. As Yukio starts up a conversation with her Kimitake gazes over to blue-bra girl, decides there’s no time like the present and tells Yukio, “I’ll be back in a minute.”
So Cutmore’s had plenty of time to get across the few random ideas he’s got for the book so far before Alex and Paul’s van finally rumbles into view. This scene with Yukio and Kimitake talking about Yukio’s manga idea is the main notion Cutmore’s come up with as a beginning to the tale. Though he’s undecided as yet where he’s gonna go from there.
From the moment Paul slides open the door of the van to the moment we’re packing up the fishing gear in the early hours of the morning there’s no further mention of Cutmore’s novel. But just as our night’s coming to an end and I’m about to be dropped off at my house Cutmore brings up the subject again, asking, “So what d’ya think, you reckon it’s all right as a rough idea?”
And I’m wondering if I should tell him some of the questions I’d thought up while fishing; like, in some of the silences we’d all been sharing not long before. Questions of what was gonna happen next, the relevance of the manga being about a dead girl and a dead detective; what this had to do with Kimitake and Yukio’s situations. If anything was gonna happen with the blue bra girl, and if so, wasn’t it a bit unrealistic for them both to have pulled so easily?
As the van pulls up to my house though, I really can’t be bothered with saying anything other than, “Yeah, it’s cool. Good stuff.”
I mean, I’m sure Cutmore’s got it all figured out; and what the hell does it matter what I think anyway?