The Wine Manga ‘Drops of God’ Will Take You To Heaven and Back
Sometimes, it's amazing what a little genre diversity can do. While most U.S. comics tend to be limited in their subject matter [Ed. note: COUGHsuperherocomicsCOUGH], comics in Japan are both more popular and more varied; you can find smash hits in a wide variety of subjects and genres: soccer, cooking, dinosaur, historical fiction, and baseball manga. Case in point: Tadashi Agi and Shu Okimoto's The Drops of God. This is a manga about wine, of all things. Pouring it, drinking it, enjoying it -- take your pick.
While wine doesn't sound like a particularly thrilling subject, The Drops of God has garnered a metric ton of hype. It was a smash hit in France, helped introduce wine to the masses in parts of Asia, and had a massive impact on the wine industry in South Korea. The hype is on a hundred thousand million for a wine manga. I was skeptical. Then I read this 23-page preview, provided to CA by the book's English language publisher, Vertical Inc. Uh... wow. It's great.A bit of background first. Tadashi Agi, the writer half of the creative team, is actually a pen name for Shin and Yuko Kibayashi, a brother and sister duo who've produced manga like Kindaichi's Case Files, which was kind of a high school Encyclopedia Brown, and GetBackers, which was about a super-powered duo that makes a living retrieving anything that has been lost and battling rival groups. Between the two of them, they've racked up numerous awards, movies, and television series. They know how to write a comic book, is what I'm saying.
The Drops of God, launched in 2004, only continued their streak. A brief look at the Impact section of The Drops of God's Wikipedia page will show you exactly how big this series blew up. Sales of fine wine in South Korea increased specifically because of the book's popularity, "rising from less than a third of the market to around 70 per cent of alcohol sales." The authors have made the movers and shakers lists of the wine industry. There's a movie.
This is a comic book, mind. Can you imagine sales of Sierra Nevada or Anchor Steam Beer spiking every time Garth Ennis mentions them in a comic (which he does pretty regularly)? I can't. But, incredibly, The Drops of God has that power.
Vertical's website describes The Drops of God like this:
Finally available in English: the award-winning comic about wine that has been a hit not just all over Asia but also in France! Learn about legendary bottles as well as affordable secrets while enjoying a page-turner that's not about superheroes but people with jobs to keep. When world-renowned wine critic Kanzaki passes away, his will reveals that his fortune of a wine collection isn't bequeathed as a matter of course to his only son, who in a snub went to work sales at a beer company. To come into the inheritance, Shizuku must identify-in competition with a stellar young critic-twelve heaven-sent wines whose impressions the will describes in flowing terms...
I'd heard the hype, but I still assumed that a wine manga was something I wouldn't be into. Then I read the preview below and was completely convinced. It's amazing how quickly you fall into this story. The wine explanations come across as organic, but still remarkably informative conversation. The faces are simple, but nicely expressive. Worry, panic, and determination all come through clear as day.
But the melodrama. Shizuku Kanzaki pours wine into a decanter like a lawyer (or maybe just Phoenix Wright) presenting evidence, as an observing Miyabi Shinohara says, "the wine droplets formed a line as straight as a thread of scarlet silk. It danced into the spout." When Shinohara tastes it, she suddenly finds herself in a meadow, surrounded by flowers. Everything is amped up, emotionally and visually, and it's easy to genuinely believe in the story that's going on. This book is extraordinarily easy to like, and I vastly prefer whiskey over wine.
I've been hearing everyone and everything hail The Drops of God as the latest best thing ever since 2009. As it turns out, the hype was right. This is good comic-booking. It's exciting, it has a clever and unusual hook, and the execution is dead-on.
Check out our 23-page preview below. The first volume of The Drops of God came out this week, and you can buy it here from Random House.