Breathe Deeply by Yamaaki Doton is the latest release from One Peace Books, a relative newcomer to the US manga market. On it’s surface Breathe Deeply is the story of a love triangle between Sei, Oishi and Yuko, a sickly girl who’s the object of their mutual affection. However, as the story progresses it becomes apparent that rivalry and conflicts between Sei and Oishi aren’t limited to those over Yuko’s love, but include the different schools of thought with regards to medical ethics and research that they come to represent.
Yamaaki Doton crafts a fantastic story, hooking readers with the romantic rivalry and the tragedy that Sei and Oishi share through their mutual love of Yuko, and uses it to frame a lengthy and compelling look at a myriad of ethical questions that modern medicine must deal with. This ranges from organ transplant, stem cell research to issues regarding the quality of life, brain death and more. For the most part it handles these issues rather well, though on occasion it does seem to cross the line into anti-organ transplant propaganda. This is heavily due to the sketchiness of several of the doctors involved with the procedure throughout the story. While most of the book is a complex and thoughtful read, it’s hard to ignore the fact that the one of the doctors who’s a proponent of organ transplants often comes off as ghoulish and villainous. This would seem to go beyond the idea of a cultural fear or uneasiness over the issues and into the realm of manga villainy as it features a sequence where the aforementioned doctor engages in the kidnapping and drugging of another doctor after a brain dead patient goes missing. Thankfully this seems to be something that’s limited to certain members of the supporting cast and Oishi and Sei are depicted as wonderfully complex and multidimensional characters who approach the same problem from vastly different points of view.
The artwork is gorgeous and really a treat to behold. I understand that Yamaaki Doton is the pen name for a husband and wife duo, so I’m not sure who contributes what to the artwork, but it really is a beautifully drawn book. The characters all look different, not just in clothing or in hair style, but physically their facial features, body types and even body language varies greatly. The backgrounds are detailed and help ground the story, giving it a nice solid feel and adding detail to certain characters backgrounds and personalities.
So far Breathe Deeply is the only release I’ve read from One Peace Books and I have to say that if their other manga releases match this one in terms of quality then that’s something I need to rectify. Breathe Deeply is a compelling read which touches upon political and ethical issues that are relevant in much of the developed world. And if the social issues it raises and deals with aren’t your cup of tea, you still have a very engaging, entertaining and gripping read.
Breathe Deeply is available now from One Peace Books. Review copy provided by the publisher.