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The Hauntingly Beautiful ‘Children of the Sea’ [Review]

The manga “Children of the Sea” by Daisuke Igarashi (published by Viz Media in America) is best described as “haunting.” The titular children of the sea are Sora and Umi, two boys who were raised by dugongs and exhibit strange biological adaptations for spending time in the ocean. Their origin is unknown, with two groups of scientists studying them in an attempt to figure out exactly how they came to be.

Ruka, the daughter of one of the scientists, is pulled into the web of intrigue when she befriends the boys, and soon finds herself experiencing various mystical phenomena alongside them. There is also the larger question of why ocean life all over the world is disappearing and what connection the boys have to that mystery. By the third volume, the mysteries are beginning to converge and coalesce. Things that seemed unrelated or completely opaque in volumes one and two slowly begin to make sense.

Toward the end of the third volume of Daisuke Igarashi’s “Children of the Sea,” two characters discuss the smile of an orphaned child. One character believes that the smile is a sign of the child’s emotional awakening — that the child is adapting to living amongst humans. The other character thinks differently: “I agree with the theory that a baby smiles to get its parents’ attention. It smiles so that its parents will take care of it… a smile is simply a trap set for survival.”Daisuke Igarashi's If there were any one scene that summed up “Children of the Sea,” this would be it. Strange things happen regularly in “Children of the Sea,” like a young boy dissolving in a shower of light or two children having an odd connection with the ocean. It is ultimately left up to the characters, and the readers, to divine the meaning of what they have seen.

The pacing of “Children of the Sea” is glacial, but not necessarily in a bad way. The mystery is definitely central to the story, but it serves as something that chugs along in the background, something that fills time in-between the real meat of the tale: the relationships between Ruka, Sora, Umi, and all the people that surround them.

Ruka is captivated by the two boys, while the two boys are preoccupied with each other. Jim and Anglade, two scientists, are obsessed with Sora and Umi, if only to prove something about their past. Ruka’s father is out of his depth, so to speak, and her mother Kanako is distant. Kanako comes from a family of women divers, though, and may hold the key to Ruka’s connection to both the sea and Sora and Umi.

The relationships in “Children of the Sea” are knotted and tangled. Everyone is connected to everyone else, though in wildly differing ways. These connections are what keep you pushing through and reading, even when the story doesn’t seem to be going anywhere immediately obvious. “Children of the Sea” is a character-focused work, and the fat, 300+ page volumes may cover only a few short days or hours of time, but they’re filled with events and characters that are worth poring over.

Viz is currently serializing portions of “Children of the Sea” for free on SIGIKKI, and right now, you can read the entirety of volume 3, or the first chapters of volumes 1, 2, and 4. Once volume 4 has finished serialization, volume 3 will be archived, so keep up. And of course, each volume is also available from online and local booksellers, if reading online isn’t your thing.

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