“At the beginning of a love affair, not even the neurotic is neurotic.” – Mignon McLaughlin
This is a somewhat exciting title: not in terms of plot, content, or the avant grade nature of the book, but more to do with the company that is publishing it. It is begin released by a British company.
Flowering Harbour, an experimental romantic short story from Seiichi Hayashi, is being published by a small independent company called Breakdown Press. This can only be good news. It is good to see a new company trying to enter the manga market, and a British one too. Nearly all our manga comes from American companies like Viz, Yen Press, Kodansha, Vertical, DMP, Seven Seas, Dark Horse and so on. Now while all of these companies have their own merits, it is always interesting to see a new company come about, to see how it will fair.
In this 40-page volume, a widow woman named Kiyo runs a small bar in the rain-swept countryside. One day a traveller from Tokyo visits the bar, who had moved to Tokyo in order to experience the freedom of the city, but actually has become trapped in the white-collar work-life of the capital. The story examines the brief relationship between the two people and the man prepares to leave for Tokyo again once more.
The most distinctive feature of Flowering Harbour is the art. The use of thick, heavy lines to represent the rain and wind-swept country side certainly sets the scene, but it also does it in a pleasingly simple way. No need for huge landscapes, the simple use of these lines sets the tone. The plot can be tricky to follow at times; luckily an essay in the back helps to explain it, but the writing seems to take second place to the aesthetic feel of the book.
If there’s a problem, it would be price. The price is £9.99, and it is only available from Breakdown Press’s website, so don’t think you can find a cheap discount copy easily on Amazon. That’s £9.99 for a book which is 40 pages long. In comparison you can get a 200-page manga published by Viz Media for £6.99.
Therefore, in order to compete with these bigger companies Breakdown Press needs to make itself heard. It needs to publish more titles, they must be of high quality, and they cannot afford to make any mistakes. Flowering Harbour is a good start, but they need to keep the momentum up. Perhaps if they start publishing some longer titles it will help, but currently the strategy of starting of small and not-to-overambitious seems to be working.