Random Manga Theatre 6: Memories of Emanon

Hit the “Random” button and see what comes up! In this feature, we take a look at whatever manga the Random Number God decides to throw at us and find out if it’s worth your time.

This time: Memories of Emanon with art by Tsuruta Kenji, based on a novel by Kajio Shinji

We have an interesting one here this week. I’d never heard of this one before it showed up, well, randomly, but I was interested straight away just by the art – you usually don’t see this type of realistic style in manga nowadays. Memories of Emanon turned out to be an interesting find, a self-contained story in a single volume that doesn’t seem to have a point, but is entertaining and contemplative nonetheless.

Most of the story takes place in 1967 (or, as the narrator puts it, when America deployed 500,000 soldiers in Vietnam and Heinlein won his fourth Hugo award), on a ferry moving between the islands of Japan. Our protagonist admits he doesn’t seem to have any direction in his life – he falls in love often, is rejected often, and saves up his money so he can wander around aimlessly before returning home. On the cruise, he meets a strange and beautiful girl in the crowded passenger room. She’s a wanderer as well, one who doesn’t seem to have a real name.

However, instead of being a typical romance, the plot quickly spins off into science fiction territory. Emanon isn’t a normal girl, you see: while she looks seventeen, and her body is indeed seventeen, her memory spans that of life itself. She can remember the sensation of being a single-celled organism drifting through the primordial ooze, to being a Buddhist nun in medieval times, up until the present – three billion years of memories contained in a single entity, and passed down through the ages. She relays these experiences to the protagonist, telling her tale and musing about life along the way.

The story is a thoughtful one. Emanon struggles under the supposed burden of bearing so many memories, trying to make sense of why she possesses them in the first place and for what purpose – both the plot and art convey this sense of melancholy quite well. Even though it’s about a functionally immortal entity, the story manages tells itself nicely, mostly by focusing on the male protagonist’s point of view. As a result, it all feels rather believable, like a chance encounter anyone could have.

Verdict: You’ll Remember This One
I enjoyed this, but some readers might find it too artsy or pretentious for their tastes. At any rate, I would recommend at least checking it out. There is also a sidestory called “Wandering Emanon” about her time-spanning adventures elsewhere, though I’m not clear on whether it’s a prequel, sequel, or both.

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