Tropic of the Sea

“There is more simplicity in the man who eats caviar on impulse than in the man who eats grape-nuts on principle.” – G. K. Chesterton.

This manga by the late Satoshi Kon dates from 1990 and did not last long, as is evidenced by the fact that this series has been released in a single short volume. However, it is a series that has its own little charms here and there.

Tropic of the Sea is set in a small seaside town of Komijima, which is currently undergoing redevelopment. Yosuke Yashiro is the son of the Shinto priest whose family is charged with the protection of an unusual object: a mermaid’s egg. The family are given one every sixty years, look after it, and return it to the sea when the egg matures, whereupon the whole process is repeated over and over again.

Yosuke’s priest father, Yozo, is sceptical of the tradition and is in favour of the new development. But Yosuke and his cancer-suffering grandfather both believe that the mermaid egg is real. The egg itself becomes of interest as a tourist attraction, but Yosuke is keen to return the egg to the sea and carry out the local ritual. Thus there is conflict between those who wish to return the egg and those who want to keep it on dry land. Things take a dramatic turn, however, when the local fishermen get smaller catches and the egg starts to display magical healing properties.

Reading this book puts you in mind of stories such as the Studio Ghibli film Pom Poko. Both deal with the themes of human development and environmentalism, while also combining it with a mythical theme. The main difference being that Tropic of the Sea is cleaner, as anyone who has watched Pom Poko with subtitles will tell you. Tropic of the Sea does not feature any raccoon dogs with shape-shifting gonads. Because of the similarities between the two, you could argue that the ideas in Tropic of the Sea are not that original. However, there are other things to attract the reader, mainly the art. Some of the more mythical aspects of the series are very appealing.

This manga has a few extras, these being selected illustrated title pages, and an afterword by Satoshi Kon.

Tropic of the Sea is a diverting read with a few highlights that give it a nice appeal.

6 / 10

Ian Wolf

Ian works as an anime and manga critic for Anime UK News, and was also the manga critic for MyM Magazine. Outside of anime, he is data specialist for the British Comedy Guide, is QI's most pedantic viewer, has written questions for both The Wall and Richard Osman's House of Games, and has been a contestant on Mastermind.

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