Have you ever travelled, my friends? Have you ever packed your bags, left home, returning months later? Or not at all? With a nervousness that travels from the soles of your feet to the soles of your feet to the whites of your eyes, borded a plane, feeling as if every atom in your body was quivering? I have. Tsuruta Kenji’s protagonists – wandering girls – have as well.
Memories of Emanon, perhaps Tsuruta’s most prevalent work amongst the anime community, follows the strange creature known as Emanon. A chain smoker, and always female, Emamon – backward for “no name” is a vessel for all the memories of previous Emanons, all the way back to the Cambrian period. As each Emamon gives birth to a child, the memories are passed on, and the previous Emanon becomes an empty shell. Simultaneously, the new Emanon, only a child, begins her journey. With no end in sight, Emanon roams the globe, observing, encountering, and always, always, moving on before she makes more than a tenuous connection. A deeply mysterious entity, Emanon is ultimately human, seeking out the reason for her unique existence, and trying to make sense of her role in the world just as much as anyone else. Unlike many, she doesn’t travel with a particular purpose in mind, and nor does she hope to gain anything from it. In a rather beautiful stroke, Tsuruta Kenji never judges Emanon, only documents a connection with some greater logic in the universe.
Emanon always travels alone – in the sequel manga, Wandering Emanon, it’s revealed that she, in fact, abandons a brother in one of her incarnations to do so – and in this way is a completely untainted viewpoint on the universe. Emanon makes this observation herself – that perhaps her role is simply to observe.
I’m nowhere near as well-travelled as Emanon is, but when I travel, I’m always compelled to take pictures. Whether it’s a pair of chefs in Shibuya…
Or a quiet back in Cambridge,
..even when I’m not taking pictures, I’m taking them with my eyes, with my ears, with my sense of touch. I’ll never forget the sounds of Tokyo, nor the feeling of sinking into its streets, and following its heartbeat. Travelling alone is magical, though most of my trips aren’t done this way. If I have any advice for you, reader, it’s to take the top country on your travel “to-do” list, and go there, alone. Going to Japan alone, nearly 2 years ago now, felt like I was a piece of paper unfolding. Suddenly, there was twice as much of me facing the world, taking things in, recording. It’s a sensation I miss every day. I normally travel with someone I love dearly, but I never lose the urge to travel alone. I’m sure it’s as frustrating for him as it is for me.
The other wandering girl Tsuruta Kenji covers is one of his lesser-known manga, Wandering Island. Through the stubborn Mikura, Tsuruta shows us what Laputa would be like for adults:
.. but ultimately, draining and life-ruining endeavour.
The teenage Mikura, after the death of her grandfather – her caregiver and business partner – sets out in a seaplane to deliver a package to the floating island of Erekitetou. What becomes a simple mission, to continue her father’s inter-island postal service in Okinawa, becomes a soul-consuming desire to locate the island, which floats through the Pacific along the currents, only coming near Okinawa every 3 years. She forgets to eat, develops huge bags under her eyes, and the power gets cut off to her house. All this, in the singleminded pursuit of the great unknown. She’s stubborn to a fault, and slowly detaches herself from the day-to-day life of her small island.
I wonder what it is about travel – the thrill of discovery – that leaves such a lasting impression? How can a simple fly-by of an island spark such fervor? My older sister keeps visiting New York whenever she can find a spare dime. I wonder what it is in the nature of certain people that continually propels them to experience new places, and see different ways of living? Why is it that when we travel, we never seem to travel enough?