‘The neologism “Tropic of the Sea” is my own doing. This work whose title is quite embarrassing in hindsight ran in Kodansha’s Young Magazine in eleven installments between March and June of 1990.’ – Manga creator Satoshi Kon explains in the afterword of the book. I don’t know about embarrassing, but the deep blue cover art of a boy looking straight out you… somehow leads you into believing the Manga is going to be a deep-dive into something intriguing…
The premise treads on fantasy, focusing on a family that lives in a small sea-side town in Japan. Yosuke Yashiro’s family receives an egg from a mermaid every 60 years and it is their duty to protect it for the duration, until it’s time to return it back to the sea and they receive another one. In return, the mermaids grant the town with a bounty of fish and keep the shores calm. But Yosuke’s father thinks all of this is mere myth and decides to make the egg an attraction, thus putting the town in danger of facing mermaid wrath.
While Satoshi Kon never explains why the mermaids leave their egg with the Yashiro clan, it is for the reader to draw their own conclusions over the strange pact. Sixty years for an egg to mature is a long time, and maybe the beings don’t want to constantly look after it, and what better way to ensure its safety than to hand it over to the world’s worst predators for protection – humans.
Satoshi’s art is gorgeous, and despite the black-and-white panels, you immediately feel pulled into the seaside town, as the if the waves are engulfing you and not just the characters in the book. The ‘industrialization vs nature’ theme pierces throughout the story. However, after a beautiful engrossing start, the manga starts to rush through things, with too many things taking place, and before you know it, the story is over!
I wish there was more to this book. It all happens so swiftly, I can’t even recall any names of the characters, they just don’t stay with you. It’s a 3/5 from me.
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