Art by: Makoto Nakatsuka
Story by: D.J. Milky
Published by: Tokyopop
Juror 13 is a stand-alone volume of manga that tells the story of Jeremy, whose day opens with watching someone else save the life of a stranger right in front of him at a crosswalk. Subsequently, Jeremy finds out that his boss thinks he’s slipping, and we also learn that he has lost his fiancÃ©e, Dawn, for reasons left unexplained. Then, Jeremy receives a mysterious jury summons from “the Superior Court.” The rest of the volume is a working out of Jeremy’s perceived betrayal by both Jake and Dawn, as well as his problems at work and personally.
It is nice to have a complete story in one volume; that’s pretty rare in manga, unfortunately. To get the complete arc of a story in your average manga, you could spend upwards of $100, all told. Juror 13, however, is complete and contained.
The art is nice, if a bit generic. It’s a bit of a hybrid between the typical manga style and American-style hero comics, which shows up best in the copious face close-ups. The characters are nicely expressive, though Jeremy looks a lot younger (like about fifteen) than he probably should. Jake is nicely smarmy, and Dawn is, well, a little cheap-looking, as she should be. It would have been interesting had the style changed a bit as Jeremy’s shattered world got more complicated or his paranoia deepened. Art can help a bit where storytelling fails.
The manga attempts to cultivate an almost Kafkaesque sense of paranoia and social betrayal, but really just succeeds at being confusing and predictable. The twist at the end with the real meaning of “Juror 13” is less clever than just lame. If compared to your twist, Shyamalan is logical and satisfying, then you know you’re in trouble. A twist should be surprising, but also consistent with the rest of the story. Merely pulling something out of the air is just cheating your story, your characters, and your audience. The ending, Jeremy’s reactions to what he’s done, could be powerful and a revealing comment on the nature of choice and tragedy, but instead is just stripped of all emotional resonance by the attempt to be clever, the author saying “ta-da!”. Another missed opportunity was with the homeless man who sings when Jeremy watches the rescue at the beginning, and then again when he returns home from his tenure as Juror 13. More of a connection could have been made with Jeremy’s choices and with the homeless people Jake was using in the taxi incidents.
Basically, if you really love mysteries or “twist-style” endings, then go ahead and give Juror 13 a read. It’s worth the half-hour it’ll take you to read it and then roughly $10 you paid for it. It is, perhaps, important to be less than 100% satisfied by an individual volume in order to support the industry in general. However, it’s not the sort of manga that really redeems the genre, and I doubt it’ll win many new fans to the art.