A soldier returned from war without an eye and a heavy weight on her shoulders, Jun is a woman forced to struggled for survival while carrying the memories of a war that continuously plays in her mind. PTSD is a beautifully illustrated story of how a returned soldier never truly left the battle and is now living on the streets struggling to cope with the terrors of war through isolation and drug abuse.
PTSD, for those that don’t know, is short for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. It is the difficulty of recovery when someone has experienced or witnessed something traumatizing. It is a heavy topic that is much more avoided than discussed and this graphic novel eloquently focuses on just that. Jun was at war, she experienced it, but despite returning, her thoughts and feelings are still in the war while her body is struggling to adjust to her current situation. And it isn’t only her, there is an entire group of men and women that are forced to dig through trash in order to find their next meal, they feel abandoned, and become easy prey to the drug dealers in the area.
Despite the setting not being identified by name, the art style and landscape of this city indicates that this is based off of Tokyo. It is a city with what seems to have a high population of homeless, many of whom are veterans, and they are all fast and easy consumers of drugs that help these veterans cope with anxiety, restlessness, and panic attacks that Jun experiences on multiple occasions from nightmares to the distant sound of a child’s bicycle tire popping. She relies on drugs to cope and when she doesn’t have any, she will do anything to obtain more even if it means getting on the bad side of the dealers.
The art style gives a manga vibe to it, and it so colorful that you wouldn’t even think that these bright colors would work in a scene displaying people getting shot at. I’d like to point out that although there is plenty of action, this story is a focus on the trauma coming from war, not the war itself, so do not expect every other page to be action filled. There is warmth and character development from Jun and others and beautifully demonstrates the power of a community that comes together during desperate times.
From the colors to the types of lines in the art, there are so many details that play with the story that I couldn’t help get excited over. One key element that makes Jun’s character interesting is that during her panic attacks or moments of stress, her eye goes from being a perfectly shaped oval, to an oval that appeared to almost have been drawn by something with shaking hands, giving this look of disarray and terror on her face. They are amazing little details, but to the plot they are extremely important in portraying the struggles and emotional strain Jun and these other veterans are going through. I completely recommend this graphic novel and think it is a unique and important read to incorporate in the much needed discussion about the subject.
An advanced reader’s copy of PTSD was provided to me by NetGalley and First Second Books. All opinions and ratings mentioned are my own.