I was cruising through the local used book/music/movie shop in town and I discovered “Tropic of the Sea” by Satoshi Kon. I heard vaguely of the title a little while back, it was one of his earlier works and it was finally getting a release in the US. Check out the cover below…
The story revolves around a family that overseas the Mermaid’s Egg at a shrine. The city the shrine is located in is undergoing some transformations and is under construction to become more of a tourist destination. Through the story there is a little bit of a struggle between natural beauty and economic development of the area, which made me wonder if this was more about a social commentary on the issue or if it is intended to be the backdrop for the story.
Yosuke is the main character of the story (he is feared in the above artwork in the bottom middle panel with dark hair), he is set to become the next keeper of the Mermaid’s Egg. The town has a festival to celebrate the occasion and the economic developers attend. The Mermaid’s Egg becomes an object of desire for the developer and Yosuke and friends must retrieve the egg so the seaside city can have great fortune in terms of fishing.
Originally the story was released in a weekly magazine, so there are a few little pacing hiccups. I am not sure if they were the breaks in between volumes or not. They can be a little distracting if you read multiple chapters at once.
In terms of artwork, I find the style very refreshing. Personally I enjoy less toned work that seems to be the norm in todays market, just a personal taste. I like pages that seem lighter and less heavy through dark tones and blacks.
The story isn’t quite what I expected. The title makes no reference to mermaids and the actual story doesn’t deal a lot with mermaids either. Despite not being what I expected (for better or worse), it was a fairly light read with no complex story lines and was a nice way to pass some nights. The story was enjoyable and could have easily been made into an OVA when the story was published.
I have heard some complaints about the story, artwork etc. I didn’t have a problem with the title. If you are interested in a one off, short read narrative give it a shot. The book is available from Vertical. Production Update Monday before the holiday!