Reviewed by: Joe
Released by: Dark Horse
Publishing Country: USA
Author: Shinji Kajio (Author), Kenji Tsuruta (Illustrator)
Page Count: 192
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...
Emanon is a manga based on the short story by sci-fi writer Shinji Kajio. The manga is by Kenji Tsuruta who frequently collaborates with Kajio and has illustrated his other works. The story tells the tale of a chance encounter with a girl called Emanon in 1967.
Our protagonist is a young man wandering Japan who meets a girl on a ferry. She gives her name as Emanon (no name spelt backwards). Emanon is a futen musume or "hippy chick" (this is the 1960's after all) in her late teens or early 20s with an air of mystery about her. She bonds with the protagonist over fried shrimp and beer and then tells him the strange story of her life.
You may have seen Tsuruta's other works including the truly delightful Wandering Island. Emanon and Wandering Island's Mikura Amelia share the same character design (sure they're wearing different clothes and have their hair done differently, but it feels like it's the same actress playing a different role).
Tsuruta renders the story in his distinctive fine-lined, scratchy style. If you start looking at the artwork, you'll notice all kinds of details painstakingly drawn such as the weave on Emanon's jumper, giving the ferry a sense of realism. The decor and fashions capture the era.
The manga itself is a master class of subtle expression. While many other titles over exaggerate their characters emotions for comic effect or to tell the reader the characters state of mind, Emanon is understated. It feels like you're watching real people have a conversation. It's worth re-reading a second time just to study all the characters expressions.
The story draws you in and then delivers. Although this is volume 1, it's a standalone story and the conclusion feels satisfying. If they didn't publish any more I wouldn't feel short-changed, although I do admit I'm eager for the next volume. I'm really not sure what direction the next volume will take or what encounters we'll share with Emanon.
Along with extra colour artwork and original character designs, the manga also includes postscripts with Shinji Kajio and Kenji Tsuruta and afterwards by Dark Horse Editor Carl Gustav Horn. All of these extras add value to a great title. I'm very eager to get my hands on Volume 2.
The postscripts with Shinji Kajio and Kenji Tsuruta are laid out a bit weird. They've got two separate postscripts spread across rows spanning multiple pages and it's not immediately apparent what's going on. Dark Horse could have easily put one post script after the other instead to avoid confusion, or at least have some sort of key to this unconventional layout.