Nanja Monja : l’arbre aux secrets

Nanja Monja
de Shizuka Ito

Kodansha, 2009-2010 (6 tomes, série terminée) – Glénat, 2011

Nouvelle série, dont le tome 1 est sorti le 26 janvier dernier en France (tome 2 : le 2 mars). Je ne l’attendais pas particulièrement (en fait, j’ignorais son existence) mais je suis tombé dessus au carrouf de chez moi. Séduit par son dessin sympathique et son côté « écolo et traditions », j’ai décidé de lui donner sa chance.

L’histoire :
Dans le petit village de Hananoki, au bord de la mer, la vie s’écoule paisiblement. Jusqu’à cette fameuse nuit, où de curieux évènements sont venus bouleverser ses habitants.

Taro, un jeune garçon qui tient tout seul une épicerie depuis la mort de son grand-père, passe ses nuits à regarder les étoiles avec son télescope. Cette nuit-là, son regard est attiré par un reflet dans les branches du Nanja Monja, l’arbre sacré qui se dresse en haut de la colline qui surplombe le village. Il voit distinctement une jeune fille tomber de l’arbre ! Se précipitant sur place, il ne trouve, sur le sol, que les vêtements de la jeune fille…

Appelé en renfort, Ken, le policier local, comprend que les vêtements pourraient bien être ceux d’une certaine Sora, dont la disparition a été signalée récemment. Il faut alerter les autorités.

De retour chez lui, Taro fait une découverte stupéfiante : Sora, la jeune disparue, est là, dans sa cuisine, mais réduite à la taille d’une lilliputienne ! Mais comment cela a-t-il pu arriver? Et qui sont ces inquiétants individus, que plusieurs témoins ont aperçus cette même nuit, à bord d’un van roulant à tombeau ouvert?

La petite communauté de Hananoki est sans dessus-dessous. Les seuls qui n’ont pas l’air étonnés, et qui gardent leur calme, ce sont les papis qui passent leur temps entre les bains publics et la plage, où ils vont le soir boire des canettes de bière et de saké… Que savent-ils? Tout se qui se passe d’étrange dans le village ramène au Nanja Monja…

Au fait, c »est quoi, un Nanja Monja?

Où il est question de jardinage. Mais pas trop longtemps, hein.
(Ce qui suit a été piqué ici et là sur le net. J’ignorais tout cela il y a encore une heure. Je suis nul en jardinage. Si vous voulez faire crever une plante, confiez-la à mes soins).

L’arbre appelé Nanja-Monja existe vraiment. C’est une variété de frêne présent au Japon, en Corée et en Chine. Plutôt rare à l’état sauvage, on le trouve surtout dans les jardins et les parcs protégés, pour ses qualités ornementales. On le trouve aussi dans les jardins européens dans une version arbuste. Il fait de jolies fleurs blanches qui le font surnommer parfois « arbre à neige ».

Son nom japonais est « Nanja-monja no Ki« , ce qui signifie plus ou moins « comment je peux appeler cet arbre ». Au Japon, il peut atteindre une taille monumentale, le tronc jusqu’à 1,5 m de diamètre. Les plus célèbres spécimens se trouient dans l’enceinte du temple shinto d’Amatsu Shinmeigu, au sud de Tokyo. Ce sont des arbres sacrés, classés « monuments naturels ».

A noter que Hananoki, le village où se situe l’histoire de Nanja Monja, n’existe pas. Par contre le Hananoki est… encore le nom d’un arbre, l’érable rouge, et qu’il a été chosi comme symbole de la préfecture d’Aichi, dont la capitale est Nagoya. Si le village de Hananoki a un modèle, il doit donc se trouver quelque part entre Nagoya et Tokyo, sur la côte Pacifique. La photo ci-dessus représente des Nanja Monja dans un parc de la région de Nagoya. (fin de l’intermède jardinier).

A part ça, ce que j’en pense :
Comme je l’ai dit plus haut, je n’attendais pas ce manga. Mais je suis quand même tombé sous le charme, à cause du dessin, agréable et expressif, de l’atmosphère, magique et écolo, et des personnages, bien caractérisés. Bon, l’histoire n’est pas des plus originales, et part un peu dans tous les sens; mais s’agissant d’un premier tome, qui a pour but de présenter les personnages et de semer les premiers indices, je lui accorde le bénéfice du doute. La présentation officielle sur le site de Glénat insiste un peu lourdement sur les références ghibli, Totoro et Arriety, mais les similitudes, si elles existent, n’empêchent pas Nanja Monja de posséder son propre potentiel. Reste à savoir ce qui en adviendra, dans les tomes suivants.

En attendant, Nanja Monja contient assez d’ingrédients qui suscitent ma curiosité. On a une histoire classique d’adolescents à l’orée de l’âge adulte, avec plusieurs pistes qui orientent soit vers l’intrigue sentimentale, soit vers le mystère familial (on ne sait rien des parents de Taro, seul son grand-père, récemment décédé, est présenté). On a des éléments qui plongent dans le folklore japonais traditionnel, essentiellement shinto, avec l’évocation des Yokai, dont plusieurs statuettes entourent l’arbre sacré, le Nanja Monja. On a une galerie de personnages attachants, avec Taro, le garçon solitaire et rêveur, son pote Futa, un garnement fort en gueule, Michiko, l’amie d’enfance secrètement amoureuse, et Sora, la jolie lilliputienne qui vient d’on ne sait où. Les personnages secondaires ont un potentiel comique certain, à travers Ken, le brave policier campagnard un peu dépassé, Aiko, trois ans et déjà un fort caractère, et les anciens, image de la vieillesse joyeuse et insouciante. Tout cela est assez archétypal, et manque un peu d’originalité et de tension, peut-être. Mais l’ensemble reste sympathique, et n’entame pas mon impression favorable.

Bref, voilà un shonen tous publics, pas indispensable mais assez plaisant pour que je mette le tome 2 sur mes tablettes.

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