Island manga: an isolated town enclosed by huge, unscalable walls…

An image of the Island

The island is an isolated town enclosed by huge, unscalable walls, where the outside world is a mystery that no-one even has laid eyes on for 400 years. As its culture dies a slow death, the town’s people have forgotten how to read and write, but the children still dream of escaping, wondering what they might see on the other side, where something as vast -and as salty- as the sea seems impossible to imagine, because their town, their world, is so small, but while the children still run and laugh and dream, the adults are altogether more melancholy, long since resigned to living their lives within the shadows of the unscalable walls.

Island is a very short, one-shot manga that spans only 45 pages, yet it has a vivid and brilliant premise. The walls loom large over everything, an unrelenting reminder of what it means to live life within boundaries and without adventure, where it’s easy to slip into a routine, to work year after year at the same place, to sit in the same stupid chair every day, all without question or concern. It’s about having the courage to take that first step, not knowing what you might find on the other side, but going there anyway, because it’s fun and new and exciting.

Author: bateszi

A huge bloody nerd. I apologise in advance. I live in Cambridge, England. That's not an excuse, by the way.

9 thoughts on “Island manga: an isolated town enclosed by huge, unscalable walls…”

  1. Thanks. Somehow, despite having been a fan of Naoshi Komi’s sadly culled Double Arts, I’d managed to not read this. Right now at least it feels like the perfect case study in his merits.

    That ending somehow reminds me of Double Arts’ rushed conclusion, in that we the readers are left with this mangaka whose romantic escape fantasies are only available in a sort of incipient stage. That kind of adds to the melancholy in this one-shot, but it’s somehow unsatisfying to think of the author forever in the stage where he declares for youth and joy, having been stopped dead by public indifference when trying to move that sentiment on into a bigger story.

    But hell, this was just damn good.

  2. It was an incredibly short read but I liked it. I didn’t cry, but it did move me (and reminded me of my last post on FLCL…). Although for me, I would have preferred if the ending wasn’t so optimistic, I like it more ambiguous. Although the ‘happy ending’ is not spelled out for us, there is a clear sense of optimism andtruimphant of hope over despair (acceptance of reality), wheras in movies like Children of Men, there is no clear sign of hope (in fact, more brooding pessimism than optimisim of the humanity’s fate), but that’s just me.

  3. Wow, cheers for pointing this one out! The metaphors and symbolism sound so powerful…and that artwork looks positively delicious. I think I’d like it.

  4. I just read Island this morning. It certainly was interesting, though it kinda bothers me how the people could’ve been so stupid not to notice something as obvious for 400 years… Still, thanks for mentioning this manga :)

  5. @coburn

    It seems Naoshi Komi has a few short stories to his name; they aren’t all as highly rated as Island, but I’m sure you’ll enjoy them.

    RE: Double Arts: it’s always depressing to read about manga cancellations, especially when it’s all down to a lack of popularity, as if that’s a good way to judge the quality of the work. I wonder if he might return soon? I remember reading that the Bleach mangaka had his first Shonen Jump series cancelled too, and they obviously persevered with him, so there’s hope for Komi yet.

    @gaguri

    Fair enough, I loved ‘Children of Men’ too. I suppose Island is all about faith, not in a religious sense, but about having the guts to believe in an impossible dream and to chase it across the horizon, while Children of Men has a much more scientific, Lovecraftian take on our place in the general scheme of things i.e. that life is an insignificant fluke without an ounce of sympathy, yet that is why beautiful things feel so precious, that they exist at all is a miracle?

    @Martin

    No time like the present!

    @Johny

    It’s cool that you liked it. And in a way, I agree with you. Island certainly isn’t perfect and I was going to say as much in the review, yet in this case, I think it’s the general sentiment that’s important.

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