Comic Picks By The Glick

Wandering Island vol. 1

August 8, 2016

Mikura Amelia is living the dream as she operates a one-plane delivery service that services the many small islands that fall under Tokyo’s jurisdiction.  It’s on one such mission that she gets some tragic news:  her grandfather, who taught her the ropes as a pilot, has passed away.  While going through his things, Mikura finds a mysterious package that’s for her, but with an address for “Electric Island.”  Delving deeper, she finds out that this mysterious island was an obsession of her grandfather’s and that he may have wound up there instead of passing away.  It isn’t until Mikura has a close encounter with this island herself that it becomes her obsession as well.

I say “obsession,” but what we see here is a relatively benign example of it.  That’s because mangaka Kenji Tsuruta is more concerned with delivering a modern-day ocean adventure that’s as warm and inviting as the climate of the islands Mikura services.  So even though we see our protagonist neglecting her job, getting dark circles under her eyes due to lack of sleep, and having the power go out at her place as a result of lack of payment, it never feels like her life is spiraling out of control because she’s put together well enough to deal with these things.  There’s also the fact that Tsuruta’s art is a marvel in itself with its lovingly intricate depiction of Japanese island life.  It’s a style and locale you don’t see often in manga; though, Tsuruta sets a high standard for others to follow.  The mangaka’s style is also classy enough to make the many scenes of Mikura walking around in a bikini or (in a few scenes) completely naked feel like tasteful fanservice, instead of the other kind that titles like “Prison School” trade in.

This first volume of “Wandering Island” is an endearingly low-key work that does manage to make its protagonist’s obsession interesting enough to follow.  However, I’m already tempering my expectations for the next volume.  Not because it’s bound to sell any worse than other Dark Horse manga without a successful media tie-in or from a well-known mangaka.  No, “Wandering Island” is in the same camp as Katsuya Terada’s “The Monkey King” as it’s from a creator that’s very busy with his day job of providing illustrations to novels.  This volume originally came out in 2011 and vol. 2 has yet to materialize in Japan.  While I’d like to be more enthusiastic about Mikura’s quest to find this island, the eventual existence of the next volume of her adventure is likely be just as elusive.

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