When Ruka was younger, she saw a ghost in the water at the aquarium where her dad works. Now she feels drawn toward the aquarium and the two mysterious boys she meets there, Umi and Sora. They were raised by dugongs and hear the same strange calls from the sea as she does.

Sora begins investigating their strange connection to the sea. But the current research is too slow for Sora, who is lured away by with the promise of answers. This leaves Umi severely depressed, and it is up to Ruka to help her new friend find his brother. But time is quickly running out…


Children of the Sea Volume 1
By Daisuke Igarashi
Publisher: Viz Media
Age Rating: Teen+
Genre: Mystery
Price: $14.95
Rating: ★★★★★

 

In an attempt to draw in more adult readers, Viz has been expanding their Signature imprint.  The titles in this imprint are meant for a more mature audience that have out grown or aren’t interested in the eternal power ups of shonen or the angsty drama of shojo.  Children of the Sea, the first title from the online manga magazine Ikki, is the perfect debut title.  With none of the usual manga conventions, beautifully rendered art, diverse characters, and a compelling mystery, this is a title that both non-manga readers and long time fans will enjoy.

Children of the Sea follows three kids, Ruka, Umi, and Sora.  Ruka, a typical, awkward teen, meets Umi, a strange boy who spent the first few years of his life being raised by dugongs with his older “brother”, Sora.  While they seem very different at first, they all have one thing in common; all three have seen the “Ghost of the Sea”.  Fish are disappearing from aquariums all over the world.  Ruka saw one vanish in a burst of light when she was young.  Umi and Sora have seen it too.  This experience seems to create a bond between the three, and Ruka gets pulled into Umi’s and Sora’s research to find answers.

The interaction between these three is one of the strengths of the volume.  Ruka, an athletic girl who  has trouble expressing herself with words, and often lets her actions speak for her, is drawn to Umi, a cheerful, outgoing and sometimes brash boy.  From the first chapter, we see Ruka is attracted to Umi, though she is loathe to admit it, as most teen girls with their first crush are.  These two spent a lot of time together, with Umi teaching Ruka about the sea and helping her understand her connection to it and them.  Sora, who is more reserved, cautious, and blunt, finishes off this trio of friends.  He starts out being a bit of a jerk to Ruka, but it isn’t because he jealous of her or her attentions toward Umi.  He’s just wary of her, since she seems to be connected to them and the mystery they are investigating.  What’s going on in the sea and how are they (Sora and Umi) connected to it?

Once you get right down to it, Children of the Sea is a mystery.  You don’t really see it at first, as the first volume is about introducing the characters as well as the mystery.  But because many of the characters are integral to the mystery, more time is given to their development.  But that doesn’t mean there aren’t plenty of clues dropped about it.  You just don’t notice them for what they are at first.  Children of the Sea is like a jigsaw puzzle without a completed picture.  You are given all these pieces that you know fit together, you just don’t know how yet.  But the more you read, the more those pieces start to fall into place and a picture starts to form.

This is a review of the digital serialization on the Viz Signature Ikki website.  Viz’s online manga viewer is easy to use and the images are clean and aligned properly.  Two page spreads line up well, and on the whole, it’s a pleasant reading experience on computers with screens 17″ and up.  But I believe this is a series that is best read on paper.  The art work is realistically rendered with none of the manga conventions such as sweat drops or chibis.  The fish are very detailed and are easily recognizable as their species.  But some of the detail can be lost on the computer screen.  The scene where Ruka stares into Umi’s eyes and sees her reflection required some zooming in to see properly.  Although, the color plates at the beginning are well done.

Also, the story makes more sense when read straight through rather than in chapters with  a week or two in between.  The chapters flowed better when read one right after the other, and made the clues more obvious.  I wasn’t sure if I was going to like this title, and as the chapters went by, that feeling didn’t change until I read them again for this review.  This added with the chapters I’ve read in volume 2 have convinced me.

Of course, by the time you read this, Volume 1 will no longer be available online, only the first chapter will still be there.  But Viz compensates for this by providing a link at the end to the Viz store that has the book for nearly 1/3 off, which is a really good deal.  Or you can click the link at the top of this review.

Overall, Children of the Sea is an intriguing title with a mystery that just becomes more compelling the more you read.  This is a good title for non-manga readers to check out as well.  The emphasis is placed in the areas most important to a good story, strong characters, and an engaging plot.  I give this title a strong recommendation.

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