Not Simple is the tale of a young man named Ian, who has spent the majority of his life in search of his older sister, whom he hasn't seen since childhood. His journey takes him from his birthplace of Melbourne, Australia, to faraway England, to several cross-country trips on foot across the United States. Each new and often painful twist on which these travels take him are chronicled by Jim, a freelance journalist and Ian's only friend.
It lives up to its title, telling the story of Ian in a unique and complex fashion by jumping back and forth across various times in his life as Jim writes the young man's strange and tragic tale. The manga is written and illustrated by Natsume Ono (House of Five Leaves, Ristorante Paradiso). As with Ono's other works, Not Simple is notable not only for its quirky art style, giving the series a more western look when compared to most modern manga, but also for its mature and hard-hitting story. The manga was originally published in 2006 by Shogakukan, and was licensed for an English release in 2010 by Viz Media.
This manga provides examples of:
- Abusive Parents: Not Simple runs the full gamut of this trope, from Ian's distant and verbally abusive father to his alcoholic mother, who even sells a young Ian's body to a pimp in order to pay for her habit.
- Ambiguous Disorder: It's not explained but multiple characters seem to notice Ian is mentally off. this can be seen in his single-minded obsession with seeing Kylie again, even after he becomes an adult, his moments of absent-mindedness and the fact he had no qualms about being molested
- Anachronic Order: The story continuously jumps around in time The beginning is set before the events that lead to the end, followed by the end, followed by the beginning, which then carries on up until near the opening scene, and then finally jumps back sometime near the middle of the story.
- Break the Cutie: Ian, pretty much the whole time. Even as an adult he has that wistful, innocent look that makes all the unsimple things even worse.
- Downer Beginning
- Family Relationship Switcheroo: Kylie is actually Ian's mother, not his sister.
- Framing Device: The story of this manga is told as Jim writes a book (also titled Not Simple) detailing the trials of Ian's life.
- How We Got Here: The story of Ian's life starts to be told after his death.
- Justified Title
- Karma Houdini: Ian's father, who despite more or less being the catalyst for much of the conflict and not caring or even acknowledging his role in, suffers no consequences.
- Kill the Cutie Again, Ian.
- Parental Incest: It is revealed that Ian's sister is also his mother, who conceived him after having sex with their shared father.
- Poor Communication Kills — Ian is killed by Irene's dad's men in the Downer Beginning shortly after hearing that the woman he loved (and whom he planned to run away together with once they reunited) died since he last saw her three years ago. This was told to him by the woman's niece, Irene, whose mother had recounted the story of Ian and her Aunt after her Aunt died. However, it all turned out to be a mistake, as Irene was unaware that it was actually her mother who had met and planned to run away with Ian... her mother was just lying to protect her daughter's feelings.
- Rape as Drama: Of the statutory kind.
- Title Drop
- Trauma Conga Line: The story of poor Ian's life.
- To be exact, he is the product of incest between his father and sister, and that causes his "parents" to divorce, he then lives with an alcoholic grandmother who sells him into prostitution at age 13, which causes him to get H.I.V. His only goal in life is to find his mother/sister, but before he can, she dies from pneumonia in prison, which she gets because she contracted H.I.V from the same man who gave it to Ian. If that wasn't bad enough, neither of his parents even want to look at him ever again, and it's implied his mother/grandmother blames him for everything that has happened to her. Then, when Ian finally finds something worthwhile in his life, he is killed, possibly by his own father's command.
- You Remind Me of X: A tragic example; Ian's resemblance to his father is part of the reason his mother hates him. It is implied his father also dislikes the resemblance, though that might be because it made it impossible to pass him off as Kylie's child