So, here we are with my very first blog post in my very own site. While I still don’t know what the hell this blog is for in the first place, I figured I might as well post something worthwhile to justify creating one. Here goes.
After a few hours of brainstorming and trying to find out what to post, I stumbled upon this quite underrated gem I’ve read a year or so ago. I loved this one so much, that I figured more people should be able to read this–hence why I’ve put this one for the special first-ever blog post.
It’s entitled Memories of Emanon, based on a novel by Shinji Kajio, and with art by Tsuruta Kenji. From here you should be able to use your google-fu to get this one, but I’d like you to stick around while I rant about it.
Now, first things first.
Art – One of the strong points of Emanon is the art. Every panel has generous amounts of detail, which gives the impression that a lot of effort has been put into it. The two-page spreads exemplify that aspect, with a smooth clean look with plenty enough details to complement it. Details, in my opinion, should serve to accentuate the overall art design of a manga and Emanon demonstrates that quite well. Some other series put too much detail and color to a page, which then serves to take away the attention of the reader from the big picture. Kenji Tsuruta’s simple yet superb character designs mix well with the backgrounds, and that’s a big plus in my book. The panel composition itself is quaint, but it has a smooth flow which makes for easy reading. Plus you get to admire Tsuruta’s talent in every panel.
It’s definitely one of, if not the best-looking manga I’ve read in the past year.
Story – Now to the nitty-gritty. The reason I regard this book highly isn’t just the art. True, the art is very good and Tsuruta is clearly very skilled, but the main draw for me concerning Emanon is the story, or should I say the premise. Emanon tackles a very common theme in manga/anime–at least from those which I’ve seen/read–which is, the subject of memories. It’s a bit comparable to Masaaki Yuasa’s Kaiba (also one of the best anime series in 2008, in my opinion), but this manga takes a more down-to-earth approach to everything. Few might say that the story is too simple for such a complex theme, but I say it works perfectly.
The story is set in Japan 1967, inside a ferry carrying our nameless protagonist–a man won a journey to heal his heart from a series of painful rejections. Accompanying him in his return trip is a mysterious woman who appears to be wandering aimlessly. The two eventually come into contact, and we learn the woman’s name: Emanon. As their conversations grow, the man gradually learns what Emanon’s true nature is. It turns out that she has a 3 billion year old memory–she can remember everything that has happened since the dawn of life itself. Confused but intrigued, our SF fan of a protagonist then experiences a night he can never forget.
What happens in the story is the smart exploration of the meaning of memory in people’s lives. Emanon’s presence is engraved in the man’s head, as seen at the conclusion of the story (he also learns of another facet of Emanon’s ability then). It asks how it must feel like to remember everything, from the first animals, the first humans, down to each tragedy that wiped a lot of them out. MoE also tries to cover the pros and cons of having such an ability. The manga isn’t bogged down from extremely long-winded monologues and lengthy dialog as well, but rather takes a snapshot of two persons’ lives and creates something rather unforgettable through them, if only for one night. Simplicity gives the story more impact, in my view, and gives everything an even more memorable effect.
Characters – While our nameless SF fan-protagonist is himself a good character, it is ultimately the titular one, Emanon who shines brightest. Through her the story progresses, and our hapless SF fan is left to understand her. Emanon is a mysterious and fun character, who can capture readers’ hearts in the first few pages of her entrance alone, as she did with the MC. Possessing an extraordinary ability, her adaptation to it from billions of years ago until the present is presented in a smart and natural way. Eventually, the true nature of Emanon’s ability is brought to light, but even then she still retains her playfulness and charm even as a lot of time has passed. This is also why the character of Emanon is quite unforgettable. Her nature and personality still retain their basic features, no matter what time period she is in. She is one of my favorite female characters in manga/anime, and I don’t think it will change anytime soon.
Overall, Memories of Emanon has become one of my most loved manga because of its stellar art, its simple narrative, and memorable character/s. More people should read this one and appreciate what the medium of comics can really do given skilled creators. It is rare to find such good reads, and even rarer to find one such as this–which I can confidently say is quite similar to a Jiro Taniguchi manga.
So, before I sign off, here are some very useful links for those of you who want to read this too.
http://gotlurk.net/ (This one requires an IRC client)
…and of course, your own local bookstore if and when it does get licensed outside Japan.