Ripples is a short comic by Hagiwara Rei, a Japanese illustrator who uses watercolors for his web-comics and published comics. This is another comic we had the pleasure of previewing from Glacier Bay Press. For a taste of other works they publish, feel free to check out our review archive.
I’ve read and re-read this manga many different times.
Each time I am left with a different impression, but the manga still stirs deep feelings within me. Maybe it’s because of the pandemic or of the numerous other events that have already happened this year, but this manga really makes me think about my existence and those around me.
The story focuses on the protagonist and their companion, known as Flame. The protagonist is wandering in a land they may or may not have been to before. Throughout the book, their mind wanders on what may or may not have been and where things are going.
Hagiwara Rei chooses to tell their story with watercolors and sparse pencil lines. Lots of room is left in each panel, perhaps for the reader to fill in the gaps with their own thoughts and imagination of what else may be in this world. At times, the watercolors appear blotched, scattered, and messy. The pencil lines sometimes appear as scribbles, and sometimes smooth arcs. I often caught myself wondering why they chose to draw it this way.
At first, this incongruent art style threw me. When I think of mainstream manga series, such as Naruto or One Piece, I distinctly remember their clear lines, diligent use of screen tones, and the colors being in their proper place. This made the story easy to read and the surrounding details easy to determine.
But an artist often uses whatever means necessary and appropriate to tell their story, because each story is different. Although jarring and off-putting initially, I learned to put down my idea of what “manga” or “comics” are and tried to drink in Ripples from that perspective. I recommend this for anyone out there who decides to read this manga.
The Releases Quality
There are currently a few different ways to purchase Ripples. There is a digital-only copy, which is available on the Glacier Bay Press website now that the comic is released. A print version of the book has also been released.
The print edition is a perfect-bound, paperback book at 102 pages long and about 6 x 9”. The front cover features the main character, poignantly gazing away. This cover is also made of linen, with uncoated text stock. It’s possible to purchase this print edition with the digital edition as a bundle.
There is also a special, limited-edition run of the book in partnership with Cold Cube Press risograph studio. This edition looks absolutely gorgeous, with the book coming out at 5 x 8” and perfect bound. This edition also features light touches of teal and red color throughout the comic, a soft touch cover lamination and an alternate cover.
Anna Schnell again makes lovely work of translating the Japanese to English. There are no clunky phrases or unusual dialogue. This is especially important as so much emotion is expressed through the little dialogue used. SFX lettering is done by Tim Sun, with design and editing done by Emuh Ruh. These two both have done well to leave the manga as close to the original as possible and let Hagiwara Rei’s unique storytelling shine through.
Ripples has a unique art style that is meant to be evocative for the story it tells. It is not meant to be straightforward and easy to understand like some of the manga we are familiar with. I think part of that is the point of the story. It made me cry the first time I read it. Each time after, I am left with an aching, throbbing sense of sadness. It ages like wine, where the story sinks in a little bit more each time you read it.
For readers who are looking for something subtly thought-provoking and evocative, I would recommend this manga. For readers who are really keen on unique art styles or manga that pushes the boundaries of what mainstream manga is, I would also recommend this manga. This is the sort of book I would keep with me to keep exploring its meanings for years to come.
Translation by Anna Schnell
SFX Lettering by Tim Sun
Design and Editing by Emuh Ruh
A special thank you to Glacier Bay Books for allowing us the opportunity to review this title. Receiving a review copy of this title has in no way altered the opinions expressed in this article.