Quest for the Missing Girl is a mature manga. Not in the sense that it has cursing, violence, or graphic sex; Missing Girl deals with topics such as missed chances in life, settling down and moving on, relationships between parents and children, and compensation dating. Even compensation dating which could easily be used for a gratuitous sex scene is discussed as a subject of serious weight and importance but is never shown. The story begins when the mountaineer Takeshi Shiga is informed that Megumi, the daughter of one of his old friends, has gone missing. Shiga soon finds himself playing the part of detective in Shibuya, which is just as unfamiliar to him as the mountains would be to most other people. As the story goes on we learn about what lead up to Megumi’s disappearance and how it relates to the lives and decisions of all the other characters involved. Except for the climax there is not much action. In fact, the climax is mostly Shiga VS inanimate object. The draw to this book is as a fascinating character study and tightly plotted one book story. It’s never going to have a huge fan base in the manga community. The story is excellent but it won’t pop for younger manga fans. It is not mature due to excess. It is mature because it’s a well told story which deals with matters that only those with life experience will care about.
I was really glad I had a chance to read Quest for the Missing Girl which is nominated for an Eisner this year. The plot of Megumi missing actually brings to the surface many underlying mysteries in the lives of the characters. The strained relationships also make for thoughtful scenes. This really gives the book a hefty amount of weight that is woven in and out of this not so complicated missing person’s case. All culminating in a daring rescue attempt that is very “a man’s gotta do what a man’s gotta do”-esque. There is something very passionate about Shiga who literally comes down from the mountains to find this girl. He isn’t a super over the top seinen hero but Shiga is definitely a manly dude who does some manly things. Jiro’s artwork is far from simple but it isn’t very stylized which compliments the story perfectly. So while on the whole it doesn’t come off as gritty it still seems gaunt at times especially with his way of shading. This book begs to be picked up and read in one swift sitting. Quest for the Missing Girl was my first encounter with manga-ka Jiro Taniguchi and it was an overwhelmingly positive experience. So much so that I ordered up a few more of his books immediately.