One More Step, Come Stand by My Side Review

This collection of short stories from Toryumon Takeda shows off a range of styles, including the romantic, the comedic, the tragic and the shocking.

The first and by far the longest of the seven tales in this book is “When the Time Comes”, which follows Lijah, the princess of a faraway exotic land who is kidnapped and blindfolded. Her only contact is with a caretaker whom she never sees, and knows to be a convicted felon due to his little finger being cut off. As the weeks pass, Lijah begins to develop loving feelings for this single individual who never speaks a single word to her.

Love of another peculiar variety pops up in the second story. “Ten Minutes Later, The Cops Showed Up” is about a woman who captures a stalker in her house. She manages to knock him out with a stun gun, tie him up with tape, and the two talk about why this man wanted to stalk her in the first place while they wait for the police to arrive. Meanwhile, the third tale, “A Tranquil First Night”, returns to yet another princess, but this time one who is to consummate a relationship with a foreign emperor who is missing both legs below the knee and one arm. The two begin threatening each other in a game of romantic and political intrigue.

By far the shortest of the stories, “Ain’t That Nice?” is a six-page darkly humorous tale about an old woman who likes to shake up the fizzy drinks she stocks in vending machines. Similarly dark but without the comedy is “Paradise”, about two explorers in a foreign land who at first worry about the local tribespeople, but then are welcomed to a feast with a sinister twist. “Nothin’ Wrong with That” concerns Wada, a teenager who acts as a carer to wheelchair-bound boy, Take. Wada becomes annoyed when he learns that Take has got rid of a present he gave him. Finally, “The Wife Whom I Loved Dearly” concerns a man named Takahashi who discovers his wife Chika has cancer and has only six months to live. He keeps trying to help her, but she becomes meaner to him, leading him to wonder if it would be better if she just died right now.

One More Step, Come Stand by My Side feels like a ‘twisted’ collection in several ways. For starters, while many of the stories in this book are about love, none of them are conventional. “When the Time Comes” follows someone who seems to develop Stockholm syndrome for one of her captors; “The Minutes Later, The Cops Showed Up” is about a stalker, who eventually ends up chatting with the woman he has been pursuing; “A Tranquil First Night” sees the two people at the heart of the story with knives at each other’s throats; and “The Wife Whom I Loved Dearly” sees a dying woman trying to come across as awful to make her death less hurtful for her husband. Nothing in these stories is what a typical reader would consider to be a typical love story, but each in their own way is able to grab the attention of the reader.

Another recurring element that appears in these stories is the subject of disability. Three of these tales feature disabled male characters as part of the story. The caretaker in “When the Time Comes” is not only missing his little finger, but is revealed to have much more severe conditions which put strain on the relationship with Lijah. Meanwhile, wheelchair-user Take comes across as an annoying brat to Wada in “Nothin’ Wrong with That”, while the emperor in “A Tranquil First Night” is somewhat manipulative, despite being one of the most physically impaired characters I’ve seen in any manga.

The darkness also occurs in the other two stories. While “Ain’t That Nice?” is brief, the actions of the old woman and the shaking up of a single drink has a consequence for someone with a bleak future. Meanwhile, the explorers in “Darkness” are consumed by their own greed which leads to their downfall, while the locals are the sympathetic people, despite their intimidating appearance.

Takeda is able to mix disturbing artwork with some engrossing storylines to make this manga collection an entertaining read, and an afterword covering each of the tales told in this book gives the reader more chances to understand the method behind this work. As for the production, nothing seems out of place regarding the translation by Jason Moses, while Chi Bui’s use of lettering help give an extra depth to the stories, whether it be us understanding the natives in “Darkness” and their true feelings, or the deathly emotions of the Takahashis in “The Wife Whom I Loved Dearly”.

One More Step, Come Stand by My Side thus makes for an entertaining collection of stories that are likely to grip the reader. If you want something a bit out of the ordinary, then it is something to dip into.

Our review copy from Yen Press was supplied by Diamond Book Distributors UK. 

8 / 10

Ian Wolf

Ian works as an anime and manga critic for Anime UK News, and was also the manga critic for MyM Magazine. His debut book, CLAMPdown, about the manga collective CLAMP, is available now. Outside of anime, he is data specialist for the British Comedy Guide, is QI's most pedantic viewer, has written questions for both The Wall and Richard Osman's House of Games, and has been a contestant on Mastermind.

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