Satoshi Kon’s “Tropic of the Sea” is a classic type of story that pits the traditional ways against the forces of modernization. It’s set in a small fishing village where the keepers of the local shrine tend to a very special object: A mermaid egg. According to local tradition, every 60 years, they must return the egg to the sea, and the mermaid will send them a new one to take care of. In return, she protects the town. When a developer arrives with big plans, the traditional ways are threatened—and anyway, 60 years is a long time to keep the faith. The story focuses on three generations of shrine priests, and it has some surprising twists.
As fascinating as this manga is in its own right, it’s also a milestone in modern anime and manga history. Kon, who died of pancreatic cancer in 2010 at the age of 46, is best known as the director of the critically acclaimed and award-winning “Paprika,” as well as “Millennium Actress” and “Tokyo Godfathers.” He started his career as a manga artist, though, and he was the assistant to “Akira” creator Katsuhiro Otomo for a time. “Tropic of the Sea” is his first full-length work.
Originally titled “Kaikisen,” “Tropic of the Sea” is a beautiful manga that is drawn in an open, deceptively simple style that’s easy for non-manga readers to follow. The story is more than an environmental fable; despite the fact that it is only one volume long, the characters have surprising depth and the story itself goes beyond the usual heroes-vs.-villains tropes. Check out our exclusive 23-page preview, below, to see for yourself.
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