Manga Review: The Town You Live In (2020) by Uminoji

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One of the latest acquisitions in the Star Fruit catalogue, “The Town You Live In” by Uminoji is an unusual compilation of three short stories revolving around three different kinds of awakenings, that skillfully blends and harmonises a certain lightness of touch with the recognition of complex feelings. A much-needed attitude, its positiveness stems from the idea that important things are not out of reach, in fact, they are closer than we think; our self, our memories, our place.

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The first story, “Soda Syndrome”, is the one where the ratio lightness /deepness is higher on the lightness side, despite dealing with probably the hardest level of awareness. With the help of a whimsical metaphor and a funny doctor, the Socratic “know thyself” is rendered into a gentle and amusing invite to accept our own peculiarities, treasure them and get on with our life.

The second one, “Caroll”, is a tender and charming ghost story. A young man is absorbed in thoughts; observing a sunflower field, he reminisces about a loved person who is no longer with us. A melancholic start gradually turns into the realisation that the memory of the feelings they had for each other encompasses and overpowers those of loss.

Finally, in “The Town You Live In”, which aptly gives the title to the collection, the protagonist takes a day off, for no specific reasons; he only feels a bit worn out and wants to take a break from the work routine. It’s a hot summer day but he forces himself to get out and explore the neighbourhood he had always ignored before.

These three charming stories have a common denominator which is an important part of the narration and the context. They are all set in the high of summer. Those boiling, glimmering, long summer days are the backdrop and the trigger of the characters’ discoveries and give to the storytelling an aura of magic, an otherworldly atmosphere in which the time stands still, like in a mirage. What follows is a new-found sense of belonging and an antidote against depression.

Coming from a country with a similar climate, I was struck by how accurately rendered is that specific sensation, with only a few lines and only one touch of colour. The artwork has in fact the fresh quality of a sketchbook executed in soft pencil, and each story is characterised by a pastel accent-colour, one only. Still, the atmospheric effect is strong and to the point. The lovely cover-art places the three stories as an organic part of the same pie chart; three faces of awareness and reconciliation, brightly colour-coded.

A final afterword page displays a message from the author that emphasise the joy of those sudden and unexpected summer realisations, and there is a slight hint that more might become. Yes, please.