A woman floats underneath the Earth. In a fetal position, she sleeps in a bubble. As if being born from the seas, she lies on a beach. Who is she, and what is her story? We get to find out in this wonderful first volume of Emanon.
Set in the year 1967, it’s a tumultuous time: the first Apollo mission ended in death, the Vietnam War was ongoing, and Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band was released. Among these events, a listless science-fiction fanboy boards a ferry back home. So what makes his story so important? He encounters a “hippie chick” who calls herself Emanon, “No Name” spelled backwards, and they quickly hit it off. However, this isn’t a book about a romantic encounter on a ferry boat. This is a contemplative sci-fi story about time and our place in it.
Emanon is a slow, heartwarming story that I couldn’t stop reading. This is in part due to it’s thoughtful nature and a reading experience that only a graphic novel can provide. We never learn Emanon’s real name or the male protagonist’s name, even though we learn almost everything else about them. They become fully-realized characters in just 168 pages thanks to the author’s effective writing. I was surprised to learn this was based on a written short story (you know, the ones that are all words).
Lots of scenes are made up of dialogue between Emanon and the protagonist, but artist Kenji Tsuruta is able to make them visually compelling. He does this through the use of visual metaphors to make the underlying themes more powerful. A prime example is the ferry, which can be interpreted as a vehicle that propels our characters’ lives forward in the ocean of time. I’ve always appreciated how manga uses panels to establish the mood and setting, and Tsuruta puts on a clinic here. It gives you time to contemplate the deep ideas that you’re reading and how the themes apply to your life.
Ultimately though, it’s not what the manga is about, but what it makes you feel that will stick with you. Emanon made me feel nostalgia, melancholy, and deep emotions that I haven’t gotten from a manga in a long time. This is the probably the best first volume I’ve read this year.
The year is 1967, and a young Japanese man is thinking about the future. On one side of the water, the war is raging in Vietnam; far away on the other side, the Apollo Project has just met with disaster as three astronauts die in a capsule fire. And here and now, on a long nighttime ferry ride back home, he will meet and fall in love with a mysterious young woman who carries a past deeper and more profound than his dreams and fears of tomorrow. Her name, she jokes, is no name—Emanon…and she can never be forgotten, any more than she can forget…Add to CartLearn More