Emanon Vol. 1 review – an award-winning SF story debuts in manga form

What if you could never forget your memories? What if those memories were passed down, generation to generation, from the beginning of human history?

That is central premise of Emanon: Memories of Emanon, a beautiful, stirring graphic novel from Shinki Kajio and Kenji Tsurata. Adapted from the former’s Taishō Award-winning SF short story, it is told from the perspective of a young Japanese man in 1967, the year when James Bond came to Japan, war continued to rage in Vietnam, and three astronauts died in a tragic capsule fire. It’s also the year that our nameless narrator meets Emanon aboard a ferry trip, a mysterious young woman with a perfect memory spanning three billion years.

The manga unfolds over the course of little more than a day, and each chapter is divided into time-stamps, each capturing resonant snapshots of the narrator’s time with Emanon that end up staying with him forever. The manga does an effortless job of selling its premise, a cleverly realised concept where a genetic mutation causes memories never to be forgotten, instead passed down from mother to daughter from all the way back to our bacterial origins.

This is a wonderfully reflective and intimate story, meditating on how human experiences shape and change us, about cherishing the moment, and the importance of memories. But it’s also heart-warming romance about a fleeting chance encounter between two like-minded people.

I especially love Emanon, whose denim jeans and knitted jumper, complete with a knowing smile and ever-present cigarette, is immediately arresting. And it’s served all the more by Tsurata’s equally arresting illustrations, fans of his past work (the Eisner-nominated Wandering Island) will be familiar with his painterly style. Exquisitely detailed and gracefully composed, Tsurata’s gentle drawings perfectly complement the relaxed, free-flowing nature of Emanon’s story. Better yet the book includes a handful of Tsurata’s illustrations done in breathtaking watercolour.

At the end of the book, readers are rewarded with a pretty extensive interview with the creators, revealing a lot about how the story came to be, and how the Tsurata encountered, fell in love, and eventually illustrated them. All in all a must-read for fans of magical realism, and more subtle “grown-up” manga stories.

Personally, I can’t wait to learn more about the mysterious Emanon, and eagerly await the next volume, Emanon the Wanderer!

Emanon: Memories of Emanon is out now from Dark Horse (9781506709819, p/b, £14.99)

Fancy a copy? If you’re a UK book blogger or reviewer ping us an email at marketing@turnaround-uk.com and we’ll get one out to you.

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