‘Oldboy’ is a manga written by Garon Tsuchiya and Nobuaki Minegishi which was later made into one of the greatest movies ever by Park Chan-wook and was hugely successful leading to a terrible America remake and Bollywood knockoff.
The manga and movie are similar at first but while the movie builds on it’s momentum and mystery the manga fails to deliver. Our Hero Shinichi Goto in the manga doesn’t so much want revenge on his captor nor is he overly motivated to find out who imprisoned him for 10 years. When he starts slacking off his opponent Takaaki Kakinuma (who locked him up) pushes him on, throws out clues and eventually threatens to kill him if he can’t figure out why he was imprisoned. The manga is intriguing, atmospheric and really teases us with the “why” placing it on a pedestal. When we finally discover why Goto was locked up all those years it is a major disappointment. I won’t spoil it for you, you can find the spoilers online, but it really made me feel that the previous 7 volumes had been a waste. The final pages are also somewhat ambiguous to a degree and almost seem to set up a bigger event, a sequel of sorts… but by that stage the manga and the story is over. There is no continuation and the reader is left feeling a little more than annoyed.
Of course after watching the movie the big reveal in the manga can’t match it but I stress again that the big reveal in the manga is really weak. What the manga does is show how much of a genius Director Park Chan-Wook is when he took the source material and made gold from it. He made the story his own not only making Oldboy a revenge flick but giving us his own satisfying ending and showing how damaging long term confinement can really be.
While reading the manga I noticed that there seems to be a common trope in this like other manga from Japan with characters having what I like to call “super personalty powers” which allow them to have a deeper sense of understanding of the world around them that nobody else possibly could. Psychic power seems to be of great interest in Japan. Super hero powers seem to be derived from it. Mysteries are solved with help from it. Relationships are formed with it. There is an unhealthy overuse of this kind of “super personality power” which I find more and more in Japanese literature and comics.
So anyway, skip the manga and just watch the Korean masterpiece.
Note: All characters seem to be sweating profusely in this manga on almost every page.
Favorite quote: “You won’t last….if you don’t talk to someone.” – Eri