[Oh dear! For those who came by early, it seems I forgot to switch computers to scan in the manga cover. I got distracted by FFXIII. My apologies.]
Title: Children of the Sea
Author: Daisuke Igarashi
Publisher: Viz Media (Sig Ikki)
Volume: Volume 4 (ongoing), $14.99
Vintage: 2009 by Shogakukan, December 2010 by Viz Media
Genre: Drama, science fiction, adventure, mystery
In the previous volume, Ruka and Umi set out to sea with Anglade on his boat. Following the path of a group of dugongs, Anglade sailed his boat far out to sea. When a pod of false killer whales surrounded the ship, Ruka and Umi dived into the ocean. Ruka followed Umi deep into the sea, and Anglade mysteriously vanished from his boat. Volume 4 opens with the “sixth testimony of the sea,” a story about a girl whose father once told her a story of a strange ceremony on a distant island, and died soon after. In the secret ceremony, the villagers of the island greet their ancestors and their gods who come from the sea on one night a year. It is forbidden to record or repeat the ceremony, but the girl’s father did so behind their backs. In his last days, the man acted strangely, as if being haunted or hunted by something. As the animals in the ocean continue to act bizarrely, a rescue group spots Anglade’s abandoned boat. Back on land, Ruka’s mother, Kanako, reminisces about her childhood when she was a shell diver. Called by a mysterious voice, she entered a cave under water and made a promise to the voice, which she can no longer remember. When she grew older, she met Ruka’s father, and ran away with him. Concerned about the fate of her daughter, Kanako goes with Dehdeh in search of Anglade and the children. Along the way, Dehdeh explains the relationship between women and the sea. The sea is pāramitā, perfection, and the female body is the pathway by which human life enters into the world. Dehdeh believes that the creatures of the ocean will guide them to Anglade and the children, and she follows the mass migration happening beneath her boat as a way of tracking them. As if to give credence to Dehdeh’s theory, back at the aquarium, a group of children watches as another fish bursts into light, which prompts them to remember being born into the world. The story flashes back to Anglade, though it’s unclear (to me at least) if this is in the past or present. He has ingratiated himself at an observatory, where he spends his time pondering the role of the sea in the universe. He converses with a small music box about the capability of the surrounding planets to maintain an ocean similar to Earth’s. Given the position to the sun, atmospheres, mass, gravity, each planet’s evolution throughout millennia, and other variables, Anglade notes that while each planet may have begun the same as Earth, their individual circumstances meant that only Earth could maintain its oceans and support life. He suspects that with the tens of millions of galaxies known, that surely there are some similar enough to our own to support a planet similar to Earth, but the conditions must be precise. He goes on to ponder the shapes of marine life, likening many sea creatures to parts of the human body. Each living thing on the planet began similarly, but evolved differently, yet they are all made out of the same components. Even stars contain the same components. His musings lead him back to the idea that the ocean contains the womb of primitive man.
Back with Ruka, the young girl has a dream where an entity discusses the border of life and death. The edge of the ocean represents life and death, past the ocean toward the land is death for its inhabitants, but past the land and into the ocean is death for those on land. She wakes up still inside the belly of the whale, with a glowing Umi who is acting strangely. Before we can see what’s going on, the story moves back six years, as Jim and Anglade, and a group of scientists, take Umi and Sora into the Antarctic for experiments. Known as the Crucible of Life, the Antarctic Ocean contains a large population of krill, an important part of the marine ecosystem. While diving, Anglade hears a strange song and follows it deeper into the ocean, where he comes across a large, ancient sea creature. When he returns to the surface, he notices Umi wandering the boat, singing the same song. As the scientists attempt to track the song Anglade heard underwater, a large group of humpbacks responds to Umi’s call and surfaces near the ship. Umi jumps into the sea and Anglade follows after him, where he witnesses an odd collection of sea creatures, seemingly preparing for some great event to come. On his way back to the surface, he passes by a large humpback with a goddess-like figure on its belly, and likens it to the birth of Venus (I assume here in reference to her as the goddess of fertility). Jim and Anglade ponder what the things they have seen mean, but neither can some to a real conclusion. Again, characters discuss Earth as a human body, with all its various parts, from the highest mountains to the deepest sea creature, making up the inner parts. Anglade tells Jim that the older man cannot understand, because he relies to much on language, on the strict definitions of words, while he relies more on instincts, feelings, and sounds. Anglade feels that something is coming, something big, and they’re in the front row, ready to witness it, waiting for Umi and Sora to lead the way.
Sorry for the overly detailed synopsis, but it’s difficult to simply talk about this series without going into the theories and mythologies that are right there in the story. Actually, it’s difficult for me to talk about it anyway, because although I think this is an excellent manga, much of it goes over my head. It’s much more scientific and philosophical than I’m used to, but that doesn’t mean I’m not enjoying it. I can heartily recommend it, especially to anyone looking for something new and unique, or something mature. It’s a really interesting exploration of creation mythology. It’s not strange to think of the ocean as a giver of life, but in Children of the Sea, the ocean is the giver of life. When the children watch the fish disappear, it reminds them of the light they saw when they were born, suggesting they crossed the threshold of pāramitā. The way the sea creatures congregated under Dehdeh’s boat in the past when she was pregnant, seemingly aware of the life growing above them. The Antarctic krill that are the foundation of marine life, whose extinction would destroy the ecosystem of the entire planet. Earth, the only planet with oceans, and therefore the only planet with life. Umi and Sora, mysterious children who hold the secret to the story of birth. Sora, who spurs Anglade and Jim forward, wanting to know the conclusions they will draw, and how they will view the events to come. Umi, who takes Ruka on a wild journey so she can perform her part. Ruka, a young girl trying to comprehend the events unfolding around her. Me, trying to figure out what the heck Daisuke Igarashi is going on about, while being totally taken in by the breathtaking artwork.
Review copy provided by Viz Media.