Published on July 6th, 2016 | by Dana Folkard
WANDERING ISLAND TPB REVIEW
Summary: There is a strong sense of adventure and escapism as we journey into the mysterious and unknown truth behind the wandering island.
A captivating read.
Journeying into the mysterious and unknown, experiencing the uplifting feeling of freedom, plunging into overwhelming grief and submitting to wanderlust are all prominent themes that hold a strong significance in Kenji Tsuruta’s manga, Wandering Island. This publication of Wandering Island is the first new work by him in English in twenty years and it is a pleasure to finally be able to experience this lovely manga. It’s always an wonderful feeling when you can immerse yourself in a story that offers a sense of escapism and journey that both you and the protagonist can experience together. Wandering Island is a manga that does just that.
The story focuses on a young girl called Mikura, who runs an Air Service business with her grandfather on the Izu and Ogasawara archipelagos in Japan. Upon receiving the tragic news that her grandfather has passed away, she discovers a mysterious parcel and journal containing 30 years’ worth of entries, about an unknown island her grandfather was searching for. In her grief, Mikura focuses on unraveling the mystery behind this island and whether it actually exists or is just a tale made up by the local fisherman. Slowly her grandfathers obsession becomes her own, as she is determined in her quest to deliver the mysterious parcel that is addressed to Electriciteit Island, a.k.a. Electric Island.
Tsuruta has created a very relatable protagonist. It’s easy to understand how she is feeling and what she is going through. We all experience grief at some point in our lives and everyone deals with their grief in different ways. Mikura’s grief for me is very relatable, as I understand how focussing on a particular task or job can be a form of distraction, whilst at the same time being quite cathartic and helping with the healing process. For Mikura, what starts off as a coping mechanism for her grief becomes something much more of a pursuit of the mysterious and unknown. In a way she transitions her grief into a personal mission of discovery that she alone must fulfil.
There are some lovely details in this manga that I quite enjoyed. I really liked seeing a different side to Japan, away from the bustling metropolis of Tokyo. The setting is peaceful and everyone works at a much slower pace. Mikura’s lifestyle is almost romanticised from the perspective that she pretty much possesses the entire skies to herself. There is a sense of peaceful isolation as she flies around in her vintage seaplane, a Fairey Swordfish. These moments work really well when Tsuruta cuts back on the dialogue and instead tells the story through beautifully drawn images. Some of these quite moments go for pages at a time and I found myself really enjoying these panels, as I was able to take in all of the delightful details. There is also a lot of mystery in this manga, as we encounter multiple details that don’t quite add up and seem a little off. The very nature of the wandering island itself is odd and perplexing and this coupled with the cryptic behaviour of some of the fisherman only heightens the sense of mystery. I also appreciated the attention to detail that we get to see. For instance, the Dutch spelling of Electric Island on the undelivered parcel, alluding to Japan’s trade history with the Dutch.
Kenji Tsuruta’s professional career debuted in 1986 and since then he has only released a limited number of manga volumes. He is best known for his work as a science fiction illustrator and for his popular manga series, Spirit of Wonder. It’s always refreshing to see an artist branch out and draw varying genres, as we get to see them flex their creative muscle. His art is really lovely to look at and I thoroughly enjoyed the panels that pulled back and allowed you to take in the details of the surrounding landscape. At the beginning of the manga, there are eight pages that are painted in vibrant watercolours. I found these pages so striking and tranquil to look at and the placement of them was very effective at heightening what turns out to be an intense moment for Mikura. His linework and shadowing captures a sense of realism which really draws you into the moment, making those emotional scenes stand out from the rest. There is also a transportive quality to his art, which I found effective in immersing me in Mikura’s story.
Overall I really enjoyed reading this manga. I loved feeling like I was involved in an adventure and experiencing a sense of self-discovery as seen through Mikura’s eyes. It’s a much slower paced manga to what I’m used to but I found that to be really effective with this type of story, as we are slowly unraveling the truth behind the myth of the wandering island. I found it all to be quite a relaxing and strangely refreshing read. I’m curious to see where this story is going, as I can only picture that things are going to change. I’m looking forward to the inevitable faster pace that will no doubt come in the next slice of story. Wandering Island truly is a captivating and wonderful read. Reading it is a form of escapism into the mysterious and unknown, as we help to unravel the truth behind this mysterious floating island.
I’m giving this manga 4.5 out of 5 stars!
Title: Wandering Island
Publisher: Dark Horse Comics
Art and Story: Kenji Tsuruta
Reviewer: Dana Folkard