I had the pleasure of stumbling upon this little gem a while back, and I still think it’s one of the best written short form manga stories I’ve ever read. Originally published as a short story by author Shiji Kajio, Memories of Emanon (Omoide Emanon) was well-received and eventually turned into a series. Collaborating with artist Kenji Tsuruta, this version of the story was released as a one volume manga.
Despite being only one volume long, Memories of Emanon manages to create a poignant and beautiful tale of nostalgia and wonder. Set in the year 1967, the story takes on the point of view of a young unnamed man, recently out of college and suffering from depression over a failed relationship. After some time spent traveling around the country for a little soul-searching, he finally decides to return home. While on the ferry home, he meets the girl named Emanon, an enigmatic young woman to whom he is instantly drawn to.
Emanon is one of the most fascinating manga characters I have seen portrayed in the medium. She confides in the protagonist that she holds a 3 billion year old memory that dates back to the beginning of life on Earth and spans entire lifetimes. There is a hint of nostalgia in her words as she talks about her past lives. Yet despite her vast knowledge, she travels alone and doesn’t seem to make many close personal connections. It is their shared mutual loneliness that leads her and the protagonist to make a connection during the night aboard the ship, and they end up talking about a variety of topics from pop culture to philosophy. There are numerous hints at her background, and it’s a shame that we don’t get to learn more about her past lives.
Kenji Tsuruta’s art is great. No moe blobs or hyper-stylized characters here. Firmly rooted in reality, the art really speaks for itself. It reminds me a lot of Inio Asano’s works in their attempts to capture the nuances of everyday life. The watercolor pages are also really beautiful to look at, and makes me wish the entire book was in fullcolor.
Memories of Emanon is a unique sci-fi tale that has a timeless quality about it. I instantly fell in love with the story and the character of Emanon. There are two sequels to the story that follow Emanon during her travels, though I wish they would delve deeper into her backstory. In any case, this is a must-read story that will have you thinking about the passing of time.
- “Would you rather be immortal, or have a normal human lifespan and a time machine?”
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