The Darwin Incident 1 – September Graphic Novel of The Month.

Debuting this month is a thrilling sci-fi manga that has already made waves in Japan with its exploration of environmental themes – The Darwin Incident. Created in a biological science lab, Charlie is a half human, half chimpanzee hybrid known as a “Humanzee.” Raised by his adoptive human parents, Charlie is now 15 and starting high school. There he meets Lucy, a clever loner who becomes his first-ever friend. But his “normal” life is shattered when the animal rights extremists who freed his mother from the lab fifteen years ago reemerge as terrorists bent on kidnapping Charlie at all costs.

Winner of several manga awards in Japan including the prestigious 2022 Manga Taisho Award, The Darwin Incident is an immediate standout from the crowd with themes that aren’t typically explored in mainstream manga. With the main antagonists – the Animal Liberation Alliance – being a group of echo terrorists, the story has a unique slant that sees a group with benevolent intentions take on a sinister dimension and a very extreme approach to achieving their goals. With much of the series taking place in an American high school, we also see topics such as veganism and animal rights discussed by the student body from several standpoints.

But what truly makes this series unique is the protagonist. Charlie is a fascinating character that plays into his human/ape heritage. Having been brought up by human parents, he is able to communicate and function with other people. But he has many qualities related to his ape side such as his tendency to spend many hours outside hanging in the trees in his adoptive parents’ backyard. In addition – despite his human upbringing – he has a rather animalistic approach to life. His tendency to shun away from social interaction with humans and his rather cold logic when a fellow student presents to him a hypothesis about killing to prevent the spreading of a deadly virus particularly highlights this. He does however form a bond with a fellow loner which sees him taking baby steps out of his comfort zone.

Possibly due to American setting and more western themes present in the series, creator Shun Umezawa goes for a more realistic and less exaggerated approach than your average manga when it comes to the art. The action is top notch and Umezawa is great at depicting little details whether it be the way Charlie uses his simian limbs when he’s on the move or some ALA members wearing Guy Fawkes masks. Whilst Charlie himself obviously stands out from the more grounded approach the manga takes and being the closest thing to something cute in the series, Umezawa still makes sure he never feels out of place.

The Darwin Incident is a unique manga which has a lot going for it. It’s an easy recommendation for sci-fi fans and will definitely be appreciated by those interested in environmental issues.

The Darwin Incident 1 is out now from Vertical (9781647293161, p/b, £12.99)

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