Mystical and beautiful, this first volume promises to be the start of even greater things to come.
Writer/Artist: Daisuke Igarashi
Translation: JN Productions
Adaptation: JN Productions
What They Say
When Ruka was younger, she saw a ghost in the water at the aquarium where her dad works. Now she feels drawn toward the aquarium and the two mysterious boys she meets there, Umi and Sora. They were raised by dugongs and hear the same strange calls from the sea as she does.Ruka's dad and the other adults who work at the aquarium are only distantly aware of what the children are experiencing as they get caught up in the mystery of the worldwide disappearance of the oceans' fish.
Released under Viz's SigIkki imprint, Children of the Sea sports the traditional larger trim size and cover flaps that are expected from that line. The cover has a very striking image of Ruka, Umi, and Sora floating underneath the water, surrounded by fish of various sorts; the strong blues and greens of the water are beautiful, and Sora's (and to a lesser extent, Umi's) surreal appearance contrast well with Ruka's "normal" look and school uniform. The back is fairly blank except for a picture of Jim, the title logo, and a one-line teaser to the book. The majority of the cover has a softer texture to it, but along the bottom, bubbles and streams of water have been represented with a glossy overlay, rather than being actually illustrated. Color pages are included, but are split between one at the opening of the book and four slightly further on. They are also not the traditional glossy color pages, but are printed on the same paper as the black-and-white pages. The print quality itself is average, with no major detractions. The translation is also solid; end notes are provided, and the sound effects have been replaced, although the individual letters are sometimes arranged in odd ways. The main detractor is one that Viz really couldn't help; Sora's and Umi's names mean "sky" and "sea" respectively. There are places in the text where characters use the words in terms of the actual sea and sky, and in a particular few, the extra layers of meaning (the boys' names) are lost in the English.
The larger trim size is fantastic for this book, as it gives Igarashi's unique artwork room to breathe. He uses the page layouts to their full potential, never allowing things to get cramped, and utilizing full pages and two-page spreads to draw out the dramatic moments. Characters have broad, rather simple faces, but that hardly prevents them from being unique. Sora is particularly ethereal, while Ruka looks merely average--both appropriate given their personalities. Hatch marks are often used to illustrate shadows instead of the traditional gray screentones, which prevents the pages from turning into overly-dark messes. The real stunners, though, are the pages that depict underwater activity. Igarashi has clearly put in a lot of effort researching various underwater creatures, and the pages that feature Ruka encountering these creatures that range from magnificent to just plain odd appropriately convey a sense of wonder and weight.
Playing hard is just the way that Ruka gets through life. Unfriendly, sullen, and prone to being too physically aggressive in handball, it's no surprise that she doesn't have any close friends with whom to spend her summer vacation. When she's kicked off the handball team for sending a girl to the hospital, Ruka isn't sure what there is to look forward to during vacation--until she witnesses a mysterious boy named Umi leap over the side of a bridge and into the ocean. They meet again when Ruka goes to visit the aquarium where her father works, only to find Umi swimming in the tank with the fish. Her father explains that Umi was raised in the sea for the first few years of his life with another boy named Sora, likely by a group of dugongs.
Ruka is mystified by the two strange boys, particularly by the outgoing and friendly Umi, and gradually grows closer to them as the summer progresses. They introduce her to the beautiful world underneath the surface of the water, which is made doubly enchanting by the presence of various sea animals that would not usually be found around Japan. That is not the only mystery, however; animals in the area have begun acting strangely, Sora begins to fall ill, and Ruka can't stop thinking about the "ghost" she once saw at the aquarium. It's difficult to summarize the mystery, not only because discovering it along with Ruka is half the appeal of the volume, but also because of the layers that have been introduced.
Exposition about the mystery of the titular children is provided in an interesting manner, via "testimonies" from characters who do not appear anywhere else in the book. Although the insertion is an obvious way to provide more background on the characters and their circumstances, it works and flows far better within the text than the typical forced, lecture-style exposition does. The opening pages also set up the story as one being told by an adult Ruka looking back on her life, a stylistic choice I'm very fond of, as it allows the story to have a slightly more mature perspective.
It's been a long time since I read a first volume of a series that had me this hooked, and it would be an understatement to say that I'm looking forward to the next volume. Children of the Sea manages to take the inherent mystery of the sea and amplify it, seamlessly blending the mystical truth with an even more fantastical element. If I were to raise a complaint against the series, it would be that the pacing, at times, feels to drag rather than simply be deliberate. The every day actions of the characters, although interesting, cannot compare with the surreal, breathtaking underwater scenes or the riveting fantasy elements of the story. Still, that's a mild complaint. I'm also thankful for the longer length of this volume (although it was published in the same manner in Japanese), because it truly cuts off on the perfect cliffhanger that can only heighten my excitement for installment number two.