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7 Billion Needles, Volume 1
Nobuaki Tadano
Vertical, 190 pages

7 Billion Needles, Volume 1
Nobuaki Tadano
Nobuaki Tadano made his comics debut with the short story "A Headphone Wearing Girl" for Media Factory's monthly SF and fantasy comic anthology Comic Flapper. Its success earned him the honor of winning Media Factory's Comic Flapper New Artist Award. 7 Billion Needles is Tadano's first feature length series and his first title translated into English.

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Sandra Scholes

Just an ordinary teen, Hikaru lives her life through hearing, and the only thing she hears is the sound of the music on her MP3 player, uninterested in the real-life world around her at school, at home or in the street. One day she has a disruption in her headphones, she goes outside to see what the trouble is and is met by a skeletal form known as Horizon who infects her bloodstream and controls her actions. The invader is an alien being, though it isn't the bad guy she thinks he is and he wants her to save humanity.

The main interest of this graphic novel will be the beginning of a girl's journey from school life as a loner who only tunes into her MP3 player and tunes out everyone else around her. Isolated through her own choice, she doesn't expect the entity that invades her body has actually regenerated her as well after being dead from meeting it. Now she has the alien in her head talking to her without her consent, and what makes it worse for her is she can't tune him out -- she has to listen to his choice for humanity's sake as there is another alien creature out there who seeks to destroy humankind, and even the universe, called the Maelstrom.

Originally titled 70 Oku no Hari in Gekkan Comic Flapper and with inspiration from Hal Clement's science fiction novel, it is a story of a loner's struggle through school, of not wanting to be accepted by her peers, and even to ignore them as she sees fit. This form of self-forced isolation known as Hikkikomori is seen as a psychological mental condition in Japan where loners can turn into serial killers if they feel they are pushed too far to conform to society. Hikaru's melding with Horizon assures her she is no longer alone and must for once in her life listen to and communicate with another person. She muddles through her life and has to now take responsibility for the universe and destroy Maelstrom. Maelstrom has other ideas, as he has also invaded a human body, this time a school boy who attends the same school as Hikaru, twisting him into his unwitting pawn. This becomes a dual between two school kids who don't know each other.

Nobiyuki Tadano takes a normal day in the life of a school girl and turns it into a science fiction/horror classic of personal problems, having to conform, and be helpful to someone other than of your own race. It teaches her that there are other people in the world other than her who are just as important. His manga style guides readers through this unusual story, handling it in a similar way to most mainstream Japanese manga, but this is a little more unusual than most. His pilot to the novel, Hikkikomori Headphone Girl won him the comic artist award in 2007 with 7 Billion Needles as his debut novel manga collection as well as being the first to be published in English.

For those who aren't familiar with manga as a comic media, 7 Billion Needles, Volume 1 will be the first of several comic books, small in size that read from right to left so as to duplicate the way Japanese readers read naturally. Unlike US and UK sequential art, some manga have adult themes such as nudity, sex, and, at times, gore and intense, bloody violence, so no one should really think that manga novels are only for children -- even if the novel has big-eyed youths in it, it might also have adult themes in it. 7 Billion Needles, Volume 1 will be a nice introduction to those who haven't read Japanese comic books before, and for those seasoned enough to enjoy this -- they will love the tenseness involved.

Copyright © 2011 Sandra Scholes

Sandra Scholes feels out of touch on this ever increasing planet, save for a few Hobbits she has befriended over the past year and a half, other than that she seeks solace and sanity with her new work for Quailbell Magazine, LoveRomancePassion and Active Anime.

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