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: Mr. Morning, by Shinobu Takayama
And I’m back, after two weeks of forcing my friends to do my dirty work as I sat back and laughed at their misfortune. We had a couple of interesting manga courtesy of Aquagaze and Marlin, but you’re all excited to have me back for now, right? Right?
Mr. Morning is the story of one Torquay Towy (or is it Toky Toy, or Toky Towy, or… fuck it), a young man from the boonies whose first love was the railroad. He watched the fantastical Rainbow Stone Train chug past his village on a regular basis, spewing rainbow-colored smoke, and always dreamed of riding it. Conveniently, his aunt is a conductor on that very railroad, and pulls a few strings to get our intrepid young hero a job on the cross-country Rainbow Stone Train. The train itself is split into three main carriages: Morning, the cheapest seats in every sense; Afternoon, providing full dining and lodgings; and Evening, the luxury car for aristocrats and the wealthy, complete with ballroom. If you couldn’t guess from the title, Towy is assigned to Morning, under the guidance of the uptight and strict conductor Miguel Wiseman.
And it’s fun! Or at least, decent enough that I willingly read to the end. The worldbuilding is handled rather well, all things considered, with most issues relating back to how it affects Towy’s job on the train. Escorting the Round Duke (aka the President) leads into an explanation of the politics involved, and a visit from Wiseman’s brother (a military captain) gives a glimpse into the military workings of the nation. There’s just enough info drip-fed to the reader to get a decent feel for the state of the world.
While most of Mr. Morning‘s two volumes are simply slice-of-life while working a train, a few larger plot threads weave their way in. The advent of electricity is particularly interesting, partly because such issues are rarely tackled in fantasy fiction. The fictitious natural resources that run the train (“Rainbow Stone” and “Light Water”) are finite and produce useless byproduct, threatening to make the railroad system obsolete. Political parties disapprove of the new Round Duke. A secret military research facility in the mountains has been shut down, its main scientist on the run…
Mr. Morning did what most of the manga on this feature can’t, and that is make me wish it was a longer series. It seems that weird publication problems caused it to be axed after two volumes; a real pity, since we’ve covered much worse manga that are presumably still running. It’s not a perfect manga by any means (the ending in particular is almost exasperatingly idealistic), but I haven’t enjoyed a Random Manga to this extent since Shina Dark. Give it a look if you have a spare afternoon.