By Dustin Cabeal
When I saw that there was an anime version of this manga, I knew I wanted to at least read the first volume before checking out the show. Now, I’m not sure I can watch the show because I might just stick to the manga. Anytime I read a story that makes me pause and say out loud, “Well, I did not see that coming”, then I’m usually all in on checking out more.
Unlike a lot of manga I’ve read, I wasn’t drawn to or put off of Children of Whales after the first quarter of the story. That’s unusual because the manga is so formula driven that it doesn’t take much to figure out if it’s something you’ll enjoy or not. In that way, it’s different from most media. You can almost instantly decide if it's for you or not, but here I was more than halfway through the volume, and I didn’t know if I liked it or not.
The story begins with a funeral. As the group of people send their deceased out to the ocean they fight back their emotions because of a supernatural belief that having emotions will summon something to take your emotions. The narration comes from Chakuro, a young boy that is the historian for the mud whale. Yeah, the mud whale. Not the best name for anything, but it’s a battleship that somehow has stayed afloat in the sand while having an entire city built on top of it. Soon their world changes as they come across another ship and send out a scouting party. Chakuro is a part of the party and ends up finding a lone girl with white hair.
Its always obvious in a manga when the story is changing because its usually tied to a person. Lykos as she’s called, comes from a very different world. Her arrival reveals that this simple and joyous world is all kind of a lie. That’s when it hit me, the strange names for things, the lack of understanding of the outside world. This was a haven, a place that was being kept secret. The elders didn’t give the children their words because they didn’t want them to connect it to the otherworld. There’s plenty of other secrets to discover with the story which is a big reason why I’ll be reading more of this story.
The art is of course good. You don’t get an anime adaptation without having good artwork. It’s a strange cross between the shonen and shojo style. I’m sure there’s an actual name for it, but I don’t ever bother with detailed labelling. It’s detailed, with a lot of work done on the clothing. Maybe that plays into the story more, but I appreciated how realistic the clothing hung from their bodies. There was a style to the people and it was more apparent when Lykos was introduced.
It didn’t take the ending to hook me on this story. It has a slow and methodical build-up that winds up taking you by surprise. It was refreshing in how it told its story, but masterful in how it easily hooks you without being flashy and exposing numerous secrets.
Children of the Whales vol. 1
Creator: Abi Umeda
Publisher: Viz/Viz Signature