Writer & Illustrator: Misako Rocks!
Publisher: Feiwel and Friends
WHAT IS IT?
A teen girl must adjust to a culture shock after her family uproots her family from Japan to live in New York in this middle-grade graphic novel.
Although geared toward younger audiences, Bounce Back's themes about moving abroad and changing schools are reminiscent of the films Boyhood and Minari.
WHAT’S IT ABOUT?
In Japan, Lilico thrives. Her best friends support her, she is captain of the school basketball team, and she loves spending time with her jovial parents and cat, Nicco. Suddenly, Lilico's parents announce they are all moving halfway across the world to America.
Devastated, Lilico resents having to leave behind her home and the only friends she has ever known. When school starts after their summer relocation in Brooklyn, New York, Lilico struggles to fit in and adapt to American culture. Mean girl Emma bullies her relentlessly and, as head of the basketball team, prevents Lilico from enjoying her favorite sport.
Will a few unexpected friends help Lilico adapt to her new life in New York? Is her cat truly inhabited by a spirit guardian, destined to guide Lilico?
Author Misako Rocks! emulates the pacing, drama, and charm of an appealing anime or manga in Bounce Back. Her characters all feel well-rounded while cutely embracing anime-style exaggeration in their characteristics and reactions.
Copic ink pens produce strong lines on what appears to be manga paper, producing a lovely juxtaposition between the soft watercolor filler. A pleasant aesthetic strongly emphasizes the thematic tones here.
Misako Rocks! accentuates characters through their boldly colored clothing and sparkling eye colors against usually one-tone or solid-colored backgrounds. This choice gives the characters personality, pushing them to the forefront of the audience's attention.
Some lettering choices stand out, like the wobbly, bubbly speech balloon lines and the jagged edges bubbles expressing enhanced emotional outbursts.
Misako Rocks! conveys the adolescent experience wonderfully in this graphic novel. Misako captures Lilico's uncertainty through the dissonance Lilico feels with her peers due to her cross-cultural status and the embarrassment she experiences over her parents not trying to "fit in" to American culture as they still champion elements from Japanese lifestyles.
Bounce Back centers on its characters, favoring personal growth and character studies through fluctuating dramatic stakes affecting teenagers trying to find themselves.
The comic uses Lilico's love and talent for basketball as a main theme, but functions as an addition to her personality in the same vein as good sports mangas.
Magical realism is employed in the form of a talking cat in Bounce Back and serves the narrative's humor and dramatic arcs adorably.
Relationships between both Lilico's new friend group and her parent priotize the importance of connections; a particularly important takeaway for younger readers.
WHAT DOESN’T WORK?
This graphic novel is definitely targeted for younger audiences. While not necessarily a weakness, certain readers will not be drawn to the comic.
In true manga fashion, Bounce Back features a lot of drama. The amount of drama tends to feel repetitive in some parts, adding to the longer page count.
The character of Emma seems especially cruel to Lilico without much motivation or explanation regarding the extent of her malice. While addressed somewhat as the story goes on, her character comes across particularly over the top.
WHY SHOULD I READ IT?
Anyone who attended middle school remembers the intense shape those formative years of our lives took. Bounce Back never critiques Lilico's breadth of emotional displays, letting readers know adolescents feeling the full range of these emotions is necessary and normal. Juggling sentiments toward sports, school, friendships, crushes, bullies, and self-esteem inevitably causes conflict within oneself. Misako Rocks! develops these conflicts tenderly in her graphic novel.
Not only does the central protagonist in Bounce Back endure expected middle school discord, but she struggles further because she transitions from one country and language to a completely foreign country and language in America. Kids reading Lilico's story with a similar experience will relate to Bounce Back.
Bounce Back is a delightfully sweet graphic novel that will rejuvenate readers any time they feel mentally or physically tired. If you like cats and/or basketball (two of the best things this world has to offer!), you will also enjoy this comic.
WHAT DO I READ NEXT?
If you like the writing:
Rock and Roll Love by Misako Rocks!
Chi's Sweet Home by Konami Kanata
Spy x Family by Tatsuya Endo
If you like the art:
Biker Girl by Misako Rocks!
Shy Ninja by Ricardo Sanchez, Adara Sanchez, & Arianna Florean
Joanna and the Unpossible Monsters by Chris Samnee & Laura Samnee
ABOUT THE CREATORS
Misako Rocks! (@MisakoRocks)
Misako Rocks is a manga artist and teacher, originally from Japan, who lives in New York.
The Onion used her illustrations for their "Savage Love" column.
On the Rise: She has published seven books in both the US and Japan, including her graphic novels Biker Girl, Rock and Roll Love, and Detective Jermain.
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The image(s) used in this article are from a comic strip, webcomic or the cover or interior of a comic book. The copyright for this image(s) is likely owned by either the publisher of the comic, the writer(s) and/or artist(s) who produced the comic. It is believed that the use of this image(s) qualifies as fair use under the United States copyright law. The image is used in a limited fashion in an educational manner in order to illustrate the points of the author and not for the purpose of entertainment or substituting the original work. It is believed the use of this image has had no impact on the market value of the original work.
All Bounce Back characters and the distinctive likeness(es) thereof are trademarks of and copyright Misako Rocks! or their respective owners. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED