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‘Wandering Island Volume 2:’ Advance Trade Paperback Review

Not all who wander are lost…but, sometimes, it helps.

In the first volume of this manga, our protagonist Mikura took three years to find the elusive Electric Island, a puzzle handed to her in the form of a package upon the death of her grandfather.  It seems that Kenji Tsuruta’s fans will have to have a similar patience with the schedule so far, but the depth of imagery and storytelling demonstrates an incredible amount of work, and the result is worth it.  When I saw that volume 2 was launching, I immediately thought back with fondness on the journey I underwent in the first volume and was eager for so many questions to be answered.  That anticipation was a fun thing for Tsuruta-san to play with, and he deepens the mystery all the more.

I usually talk about the story and the art as separate pieces in my reviews, but I find that I simply can’t break the two apart in this instance, and I remember this being the case last volume, as well.  Our protagonist might be a young girl named Mikura, but the main character is the island she’s now discovered.  Surprisingly filled with a disparate and engaging group of inhabitants, the island feels as though it’s going to work to keep itself as wondrous as possible, and that’s done all through Tsuruta-san’s meticulous and evocative art skills.  The level of detail on each page is staggering and lends the world that he’s allowing us to visit a credulity that many books never hope to reach.  The Japanese style of digging deeper into art instead of waving broad swaths is on full display here and brings with it a nearly otherworldly aesthetic to the work.  There’s very little dialogue here, and its use is seemingly so sparing that we are only granted its presence when there’s no way to communicate without it.

This is more of an atmospheric journey than story in my mind; it’s so easy to get as lost as Mikula in the winding labyrinth of the island, a journey that seems to slow things down to an “island time,” transporting us not only to another place but another pace, as well.  It’s a transformative sort of work that draws you in until you need a few minutes to re-adjust to reality when you come back out of it.  The true beauty of the whole experience is the gentle invitation lying on the page. At no point are there garish splash pages or overwrought fan service (Though there’s some, it tends to be more subtle than most works.) to keep you focused. This is a world that invites you in slowly, like a trip to the Feywild where you’ll lose yourself and time no matter how hard you try to resist.  I’ll be honest: With this level of mastery, my feeling would be “why fight it.”

This is a series that will draw you along and titillate your mind while allowing you a respite from the world.  It’s the kind of adventure that your mind can go on that inspires and relaxes at the same time.  It’s a rejuvenating experience that everyone should try at least once, just to taste what that kind of storytelling is like.  It’s a unique skill that can accomplish it, and thus must be treasured when it’s done well.



Creative Team:  Kenji Tsuruta (Writer/Art); Dana Lewis (Translator); Susie Lee, Betty Dong, Tom2k (Lettering and Touchup)
Publisher: Dark Horse Comics
Click here to purchase.



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