Random Manga Theatre 69: Undercurrent

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: Undercurrent, by Tetsuya Toyoda

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To kick off November, I happened to find one of those short artsy mangas that people tend to gush over! Not that it’s undeserved most of the time, but I can’t help but be skeptical with this kind of stuff. Still, Emanon was good, so of course I had to give Undercurrent the benefit of the doubt.

Undercurrent is the story of a woman named Kanae, owner and manager of a small bathhouse. She’s just reopening the business after being closed for some time – you see, she used to run it alongside her husband Satoru, but one day he simply vanished, never coming home from a business trip. She doesn’t know if he ran off with another woman or was killed in an accident, but he has no other relatives to contact. The bathhouse union (because that’s a thing, I guess?) sends a temp worker to help Kanae out with the reopening and management, and… that’s about it.

Not very much happens throughout Undercurrent‘s run, but that isn’t to say nothing happens either. Kanae does hire a private investigator to search for her missing husband, but revealing whether or not he discovers anything would be spoiling, and I’m not sure this is a manga I’d want to spoil. It’s very slice-of-life in that special way that captures the true mundane feeling of simply existing. This works especially well considering Kanae’s mental state; I’m sure many readers can relate to feeling emotionally numb after something life-shaking has happened to them.

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Verdict: Understated

The art is questionable in quality, the storytelling is a bit obtuse, and the tone is fairly depressing, but I rather enjoyed Undercurrent. It doesn’t shove everything into your face, and there’s a real sense of the human element in this short tale. If you’re looking for something quiet to read in the evening that doesn’t have explosions or laughs, perhaps give this one a go.

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