Saturday, May 2, 2015

YALSA top ten GNs 2010: Children of the Sea Volume 1

Children of the Sea Volume 1
Written and illustrated by Daisuke Igarashi.
Published by Viz (2009)

Ruka is a girl who is slightly too violent at hand ball. Not violent enough to be kicked out of school or get in any serious trouble, but violent enough that she's not allowed to play with the school team all summer. It's the first day of summer vacation, but fior Ruka it feels as though it's already over.

Ruka's parents both used to work for the Tokyo aquarium, but they've split up and now only her dad works there. Ruka lives with her mom, who drinks a lot of...alcohol? (It shows her drinking cans of something, but it's not translated or explained, so I can only guess that she's drinking beer. I mean, it's probably beer, I'm not sure why they'd show piles of cans in the garbage otherwise. The translator's notes in the back of book "helpfully" point out that people recycle cans in Japan.) Ruka doesn't seem to have the best relationship with either of her parents, or any of her classmates at school, and she's looking at a pretty lonely summer until she encounters Umi and Sora.

Umi and Sora are kids who can swim really well and spend most of their time in the water. They were apparently raised by dugongs (those weird sea cow things) for the first few years of their life, and are "prone to dryness" (e.g. they need to be soaked in water a lot). It's a mystery where they came from, or how they ended up being raised by sea mammals, but they've turned into normal(ish) kids. Umi and Sora feel like they have some sort of connection to Ruka, though as they're don't know their origins, they can't really explain what it is.

So that's the main plot of the comic right? Finding out what the deal with these kids is? That's what I thought until I read the description on the book flap. It says that this comic is about "the mystery of the worldwide disappearance of the ocean's fish", which isn't something that gets introduced in the (300 page) first volume. Because of that I'm left to wonder what this book is even about. Is that description accurate, and the mystery will be brought up in later volumes? Or is it wrong and the plot is "who are these weird kids who were raised by dugongs?". I'm not sure if I'm interested enough to find out, but I think that this sort of book could definitely appeal to teenagers (which is what the YALSA books are for). It's about outsider kids, loneliness, broken relationships, and mysteries. What's not to love?

Daisuke Igarashi's art kind of reminds me of a cross between Moyocco Anno and Taiyo Matsumoto, and while that at first sounded kind of strange to me, all three artists are listed on the Wikipedia article for La nouvelle manga (probably due to their inclusion in Japan as Viewed by 17 Creators) so they have at least one thing in common. (Oh wait, here's an interview where Igarashi says to Matsumoto "I actually read your work just to steal [your ideas]".) The storytelling is generally clear, and there are some pretty cool drawings of aquatic animals.

I don't read that much manga anymore. That's kind of relative I guess, I've read thirty something volumes of manga so far this year, but to be honest that pales in comparison to the other comics I've read (somehow I read 56 graphic novels in April) _and_ is the result of me trying to read more manga. But I used to read a lot _more_ manga than I do now. Either way, I am at least familiar with manga as a medium. Somehow, despite that, I still frequently seem to forget that the pacing in manga can be completely different from western comics. Case in point, Children of the Sea takes 70 pages before it introduces Umi (and Sora takes even longer).

It's kind of funny that the last thing I reviewed was Rust Volume 2, which was another comic that I described as slow, but unlike that one things do actually happen in Children of the Sea. Characters are introduced, events occur. There's no 60 page robot fight scene, but there's also no people discussing farms. So really, on that level alone I have to call it amazing.

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