Saturday, December 7, 2013

Manga Review: Qualia the Purple

And that's all for November Month of Manga folks! Even though I got way off schedule with some of my posts I had fun, namely because usually when I was off schedule it was because I was doing some more casual writing (like, reaction/speculation posts for various manga updates) on my tumblr and even though it wasn't NanoWriMo I remembered how much fun I have writing. I think in the upcoming year I might change the format of the blog around a little so I can do more posts in the same style of these, free-form rather than strictly structured, or maybe I'll try over on my tumblr to do more episodic anime posts, lord knows I've practically done that for Kyousogiga at this point anyway.....

In any case, oddly enough I did not find this manga through tumblr, rather a number of people on my twitter feed were talking about it as the scanlations were starting, probably because everyone was saying "oh, this seems to have a bit of a yuri vibe to it!" While they weren't wrong I don't think that any of us predicted the direction that it ended up going in.....

Qualia the Purple (Murasakiiro no Qualia) original story by Ueo Hisamitsu illustrated by Tsunashima Shirou

Hatou Gaku makes friends with an odd girl at her school named Marii who is absolutely convinced that everyone is a robot. She says that she even sees people as robots so while it gives her some odd insights into other people (like predicting someone is a good runner since they can see boosters on her legs) it does isolate her quite a bit but Gaku forms a friendship with her anyway. Then Gaku has a chance to learn that, while Marii's reality isn't hers it truly exists and that Gaku might be able to save Marii from the people who want to use her but if she also alters her world-view.

Since it's rather hard to articulate in the summary I'll just come out and say it, this manga is an adaptation of a science-fiction novel that came out within the last few years in Japan and won some awards for how it deals with quantum mechanics. I've read a bit about quantum mechanics over the years and the little bits I know (mostly that it deals a lot with the idea of two choices being able to exist at once until acted upon/observed) was enough for me to follow the story easily, if you're not familiar with the theory at all then just think of this as a story that involves time-traveling using the multi-timelines idea. Which honestly is a bit confusing as well, if you're not a fan of science fiction that's medium "hard" you probably just won't like this series, you have to be willing to spend a little bit of time thinking about what's going on in order to understand.

And now I probably have a few people going "hey, what about that yuri you mentioned earlier?" Well, Gaku is running through time and space to save a female friend who she's very close to, and in some incarnations does seduce/manipulate another girl to help her, but there's much less yuriness in the story than I would have expected after the first few chapters. There's enough in those early chapters for shipping of course but since Gaku and Marii aren't together (as in, in the same place) for most of the story you can't really say they have that kind of relationship.

So what IS this story about? Well, it starts out being about the friendship between two girls and that's ultimately what drives the rest of the story. I could say that it's about uncovering a huge conspiracy and fighting time and space itself to change it for very personal reasons (rather similar to Steins;Gate actually) but that makes the story sound too grandiose, it's much more introspective and quiet than that. Gaku isn't trying to change the world, she's just trying to save her friend and using how she now perceives the world to do it. The story throws a few weird twists at you, if you accept that quantum physics is determined in a large part by how you perceive the world then the twists will feel strange but thematically appropriate, if not the story might as well be fantasy and run on magic. It's nothing like what I thought it would be but I like it, although given how long it's been since the latest chapter came out I'd probably have to reread the past few chapters to familiarize myself (a classic case of "I remember what the overall plot and goal is but I can't seem to remember how we got here since everything moves so fast"). As with all the titles I talked about this month I'd buy it if it was in English and loan it out to as many friends and I would think would enjoy it. 

As for licensing chances, well, this is probably the only time I'll ever say it but I feel like the series would work better at Vertical than any other current US company. Vertical is a bit of an odd company, they want to both publish edge/underground types of manga and they want to publish things that will be mainstream hits, this would not be a mainstream hit. However it does fit in with their more underground titles, the semi-hard sci-fi premise with a high school girl protagonist reminds me a bit of 7 Billion Needles actually, and since it's already complete at three volumes they could even possibly put it out as a single omnibus (like 5cm a Second, assuming that that would be more profitable sales-wise, the Vertical panel at Otakon showed me just how little I actually know about how sales work and was really cool that way). I know I suggested the series to them in their last survey and I'll probably do it for their next survey as well. But not the one beyond that, if they haven't licensed it by that point I'll accept that they aren't interested and move on, although given that the fan translator has said this series is a bit hard to translate (sounds like it lifts a lot of the lines straight from the book) I'm not sure I'd buy it myself to work on anytime in the near future.

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