Do not sleep on the rise of alternative manga being translated into English. The latest offering in this area is especially beautiful. Publisher Glacier Bay Books has released Ripples by Hagiwara Rei. It features an English translation by Anna Schnell, with SFX lettering by Tim Sun, and design and editing by Emuh Ruh.
Ripples is a short, ambiguous manga on grief. It follows one central character and a flame as they wander an area that seems to be on the precipice between life and death. The unnamed main character seems to be seeking out memories that have been lost while at the same time afraid of what they might contain.
The title contains multiple symbolic references—to the lake the characters wander near as well as to the concept of memory. The “ripple effect” happens to the main character as memories slowly begin to unlock and spread out to give a larger view of the story in each chapter. The personification of the flame was especially distinctive, almost as though it was a ferryman between here and the afterlife. There were moments where I felt the flame had a story all their own and yet, at the same time, was talking directly to me instead of the main character.
The dialogue is minimal and mostly between the main character and the flame. The text that is present predominantly functions as an internal monologue/narration. The text is designed almost like a sensory recall for the main character, giving brief one-sentence descriptors of flashes of memory. These are often small moments that trigger memories without us even thinking about them: a dining room table, a rice ball, or a baby crying.
Advice to readers: don’t go into this manga looking for a traditional resolution. Questions will not be answered. Everything is up to the reader to infer. The entire manga serves almost as a eulogy, asking readers to reflect on anything they may be grieving in life.
Because the narrative is so rooted in ambiguity and individual experience, the less one knows going into Ripples, the better, which makes writing this review difficult. Ripples is confident in letting readers feel lost because by the last chapter they will be found.
The art is a major highlight and incentive to purchase this indie title. Watercolors and soft outlines bleed together to symbolize memories. The watercolor grays pull readers into this purgatorial dreamscape, making large white panels and full-page black spreads jarring, as though waking up from sleep. Hagiwara Rei has created a manga that is so atmospheric that I cannot imagine this story being told in any other art style.
A reflection on grief and memory, with beautifully distinctive art, Ripples by Hagiwara Rei is a manga like no other on the market right now. Glacier Bay Books has done a great job with this release, and if readers are comfortable taking a journey with no set destination, this might be a healing meditation for many this year.
Ripples by Hagiwara Rei is available now through Glacier Bay Books’ website.
A reflection on grief and memory, with beautifully distinctive art, Ripples by Hagiwara Rei is a manga like no other on the market right now.