“Backlight,” the second in Red Circle’s minis series of single-story volumes, grew out of the real-life events of a 7-year-old boy abandoned by his parents in the forests of Hokkaido, ostensibly to punish him for “misbehaving.” Missing for six days despite a search involving the police, the Self-Defense Forces and dozens of volunteers, the boy eventually turned up safe.

While many storytellers would be drawn to imagining the boy’s adventures through the bear-rich wilderness, Kanji Hanawa takes a more philosophical tack, using the dynamics of the family to explore ideas of alienation. The boy comes to represent the people modern Japan has left behind, people who are using their abandonment to find their own paths.

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