Page 45 Review by Stephen
As exquisitely beautiful as anything drawn by Jiro Taniguchi (A DISTANT NEIGHBOURHOOD etc), I wondered why I hadnt heard of this creator before. I had: he directed the anime Perfect Blue. So that made sense.
He shares the same fine line as Taniguchi, as well as an immaculate eye for rich, detailed and beautiful, bucolic landscapes, of which there are many here, threatened though they are by the concrete and steel of the Ozaki Group who are developing the rural fishing town of Ade into a vast holiday resort which has already resulted in the closure of many a local market shop. The fishermen are livid, adamant that their livelihoods are threatened.
However gobsmackingly gorgeous the dry-land scenery like the verdant climb to the Hiratsu Shrine the tour de force here lurks underwater: the shadow early on and late at night of what may or may not be a giant mermaid tail, glimpsed from above by falling torchlight. It ripples under the gentle waves. Later on young Yosuke will fall in, and never have I seen subaquatic suspension judged and then drawn with such precision: by which I mean, the degree of resistance water exerts on a body and the eruption of consequent bubbles below and on the surface. Sublime.
Yosuke Yashiro is a handsome teenager one year away from leaving home for university. His family have been entrusted with the Hiratsu Shrine for generations. The shrine houses what is reputed to be a mermaids egg, the most recent one discovered almost sixty years ago on the shore by his grandfather and custom dictates it be returned to the sea whence it came on that sixtieth anniversary and not a day later. Its tank is regularly refreshed with seawater, and prayers of gratitude are given to the mermaid for the fecundity of the ocean and the subsequent livelihoods of the local fishermen.
The media has never been allowed access before, but Yosukes father has just broken this bond for the sake of publicity for the resorts development and Mr Kenji Ozaki himself of the Ozaki corporation has arrived for the occasion, dressed to impress in suit and shades. Yosukes father has been championing this urbanisation as vital to local commerce and does not believe in the legend of the mermaid, but Yosukes devout grandfather does, and is so furious that he has discharged himself from hospital. The next morning the mermaid egg is gone.
What follows is such a rapid page-turner that you may experience paper cuts. You will discover an underwater shrine on an off-shore island one destined to be covered in concrete as part of the mariner linked to the mainland by a giant harbour. Yosuke will begin questioning his own resistance to the mermaid myth and discover what really happened on the day his mother drowned. Youll learn why the introspective Rami has returned from Tokyo without her fiancé, and just how ruthless the Ozaki corporation can be in their faithless dealings with the local lobbies and in pursuit of whatever Ozaki sets his sights on.
I can promise you action, reaction and a palpitating heart. Above all, I promise you wonder under a perfect blue sea.