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 firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll get one out to you.