A Sinner of the Deep Sea Volume 1 Review

Thousands of miles beneath the sea lies the home of the mermaids: half-human half-fish beings who have cut themselves off from the human world, when humans proved to be selfish creatures who only wanted to control the seas, not live alongside merfolk. Jo is a mermaid who has her own simple life, swimming where she wants, eating her favourite foods and is friends with a hugely popular dancer by the name of Ryuu. One day however, Ryuu is suddenly arrested for supposedly having gone to the shore and met a human. Jo can’t believe it. Is Ryuu silly enough to risk exposure? Is Ryuu really in love, like she says she is?

This is Akihito Tomi’s second series to be published in English, the first being Stravaganza – The Queen in the Iron Mask, which finished a few years back. A Sinner of the Deep Sea shows a lot of marks of a veteran mangaka; one being the art, which is stunning; the big eyes and facial designs reminded me of a more modern take on Osamu Tezuka, but the backgrounds and details are really what sell Akihito Tomi’s talents. The look and feel of the sea on the page, the way the mermaids sway in the water, the details of the sea-world and more, all just screams someone who clearly thought the world through and knew how to really make it shine on the page. I also really like the several ‘show don’t tell’ moments; for example, when Jo gets ready for bed, she doesn’t just take off her top, but also the shawl around her waist the connects the human and fish halves of herself. As all mermaids have that covered up, I took it to mean that it’s like lower underwear for merfolk, like we wear underpants and such. It’s such a small and intimate detail that really hooked me into this tale. Another reason I thought Akihito was a veteran was the pacing of this story; the first chapter is all set-up, no plot. In fact, the first half of the opening chapter barely has any dialogue; instead it’s showing Jo off as a character: her carefree nature, swimming with the whales, her cocky attitude as she tries to jump higher than them in the sky. It’s all great character writing and sets up the atmosphere of the book in a unique way.

The plot paragraph above doesn’t really start to kick in until halfway through the book, after we’ve already been introduced to the merfolk town (without massive info-dumping, I might add) and we meet Ryuu as a friend to Jo first, rather than a damsel right off the bat. You see that this is a The Little Mermaid tale but instead of the protagonist being the titular mermaid, we’re instead following the POV of her best friend, and seeing the aftermath of what happens when one mermaid falls in love with a human. In this version of events, it’s not just forbidden for mermaids to see humans, but there’s a whole police squad in place at the border to prevent mermaids from doing so, and arrest those who do. Ryuu, being famous, has her public image tainted by the law-breaking and with being such a protective friend, Jo takes it upon herself to help her, despite putting herself at risk. In another story, we would be wondering why we are not following the events from Ryuu’s point of view; she is the one who causes the ‘inciting incident’ in the story, and there’s the forbidden love angle too. But because the manga spends a good amount of time introducing Jo, her fiery personality and her relationship with not just her friend but the merfolk world around her, we as the audience are already invested in this world, BEFORE The Little Mermaid side of the tale even begins. Ryuu’s personality is also a fun spin on The Little Mermaid protagonist type; she starts as a famous dancer who doesn’t hide that she uses the men who court her to only further her superficial needs (money, expensive foods, better place to live, etc), and it’s the love of a random human who makes her feel genuine emotion and show a more hopeful side. Understandably, Jo thinks Ryuu’s being stupid, but then we get a small chapter from the human’s point of view, who’s more a geeky, naïve type, rather than being princely, and you can’t help but root for them two.

As the story takes a while to get going, it means the manga ends prematurely (or at least feels like it) so I felt that I immediately wanted to pick up the next volume, which sadly isn’t out until November. The manga has already finished its run in Japan at three volumes, so I look forward to seeing how this mermaid tales plays out.

Caleb Cook has translated this story for Yen Press with lettering by Chiho Christie, and it’s an easy read, but I also really appreciate the translation notes that explain some of the inspiration for the merfolk world, from the food to the culture references.

We’ve been getting a few mermaid stories lately, so if you’re into them, A Sinner of the Deep Sea is definitely one to add to your reading pile. It’s an atmospheric, beautiful drawn tale with a twist on The Little Mermaid story in a new way, with gorgeously detailed world building of the mermaids on top of it.

Our review copy from Yen Press was supplied by Diamond Book Distributors UK. 

9 / 10

darkstorm

By day, I work in the television industry. By night, I'm a writer for Anime UK News. Twitter: @lilithdarkstorm

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