“Ultra Heaven”, a manga series authored by Keiichi Koike, provides an immersive experience into a world of excess and artifice. Published from June 12, 2001, to October 10, 2009, this series, now cancelled, consists of three volumes. Serialized in Comic Beam, this Sci-Fi and Drama manga targets the seinen demographic and explores the fragile boundary between reality and hallucination.
An Artistic Illusion
The protagonist Kabu, a small-time peddler and heavy drug addict, navigates a dystopian world where feelings are artificially produced and potential addiction lurks around every corner. As he simultaneously indulges in and criticizes the society that pushes him towards excess, Kabu personifies the contradiction ingrained in this world.
Each page of Ultra Heaven is steeped in psychedelic artwork, pulling readers into a dream-like haze that enhances the narrative’s themes. Small details, such as the ritual of a bartender crafting a drug cocktail, add a layer of realism to this surreal world. However, most of the manga is Kabu experiencing his drug trip.
Reality and Hypocrisy
The narrative takes a turn when Kabu is introduced to Ultra Heaven, a new, illegal substance that plunges him into the profound depths of his consciousness. The line between reality and hallucination is blurred, causing the readers, just like Kabu, to question what is real and what is not.
Ultra Heaven is a compelling reflection of societal hypocrisy. When Kabu (who is a “Junkie”) orders a double-dose of Peguila, a drug seen as generally socially acceptable, he is ridiculed, offering a stinging commentary on society’s inconsistent attitudes towards addiction. Yet when a salaried man orders the same drug, people chuckle at it being his first “toe-dip.”
However, it’s important to note that while Ultra Heaven does present these themes in an interesting manner, it doesn’t deliver profound realizations or deep psychological insights. It’s an intriguing journey, but readers shouldn’t expect to walk away with a clear-cut moral message.
By the end of the first volume, the boundary between Kabu’s reality and his drug-induced hallucinations is indistinguishable, creating an unsettling and nerve-wracking narrative. Despite its abrupt ending, “Ultra Heaven” leaves a distinct impression due to its artwork.
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