Shintaro and his school of salmon have been living in a small lake for generations. Tired of being muscled out of food by the bigger fish, they decide to make a bold move and head for the “ocean” that they’ve heard about in stories where it is vastly large and food is beyond plentiful. As Shintaro leads his school of salmon out into the sea, they soon realize how protected they were in the lake and realize how dangerous it is.
Note: Chapter count includes all 16 parts of "Crimsons Gaiden: River Side Story."
*Slapped by a hyper-realistic wet fish*
"Yuuka!! Don't you dare... ever let the world beat you!!"
This manga about fish is truly a masterpiece in examining the human condition. Don't be mistaken by the genres listed here! What you'll get is not a gag comedy, but a raw tale of survival in a fish-eat-fish world - and it'll keep you hooked from start to finish.
Our MC begins with a fiery personality and lofty aspirations which might even suggest he's the second coming of Kamina - despite that he was only ever a big fish in a small pond. Together with his school, he struggles against the monsters outside, struggles against the monster within, and even bears the crushing pressure of the world itself.
A story about red-coated fish turning the tide despite being out of their depth. A story about snatching temporary reprieve from the jaws of defeat, even as those around them are swept away. A story about trying to make waves.
Without a doubt the highlight of the manga; the series really starts to reel you in around halfway through. Our protagonists dive headfirst into dangerous waters, at first expecting a whale of a time... and almost immediately begin to flounder. The theme is simply 'survival of the fittest' mentality and the eternal trawl for utopia; recurring scenarios include fishy havens filled with pond scum.
Disappointment! The shellfish desire for more! Fatigue drives growth, giving porpoise to the school of fish.
The pacing is set at a relentless stream of developments, and many will feel that the last two chapters were a complete wash. Honestly, the developments ended short of turning stale or wearing fin - even with all the unexplored plot potential. In any case, it chooses to scale back rather than jump the shark.
The ending itself is rather unique in its representation of self-determination, utopia, hope and despair. It could be interpreted as a tragic, joyous, or fruitless end depending on your outlook; if you enjoy those kinds of ponderous thoughts, you'll make a nice water flea.
The most notable aspect of the art: character designs often swap between hyper-realistic and stylized fish. This generally occurs during moments of high intensity, and adds an interesting dichotomy of reality and fantasy to the situations occuring throughout the story.
Or, well, the mangaka might just be showing off.
You might laugh whenever a glassy-eyed, hyper-realistic fish starts talking about his feelings, but many of the antagonists are actually impressively drawn. It's no joke when What Lurks Below turns your childhood friend into sashimi.
Most emotions are conveyed through expressions and poses... but these are fish! Without noses! The mangaka uses stylized fish faces to bring out a wide range of emotions effectively, but the differences can be jarring and sometimes inhibit the atmosphere.
The scenery is generally unremarkable, considering that it's an underwater world - but anybody would expect more random deep bodies of water than coral reefs or precipices. Unfortunately, that reasoning does little to deny the lack of immersion.
The character development is predictably centered on our MC, but there are definitely others worthy of mention - every encounter catalyses development, and all of them make a splash. Indeed, some fish are so GAR that they make humans in other series look like water fleas.
The MC experiences a shift in principles as he grows his sea legs, reflected in his character design. Consumed by his desire to fight against those who would go with the flow - he, himself, is eventually enveloped by the laws of survival. Floating at the surface of troubled waters is his own metamorphosis into that which he hates! Even as this emo fish plunges into the abyss of despair, even as he drowns in his responsibilities... he grapples with the corruption of his humanity!
The other fish in his school always remain a little wet behind the ears, but a favourable point is that there isn't any undeserved salt. While the characters aren't particularly deep, they're believable and difficult to hate, considering the sink or swim scenario they're faced with.
There's also a concurrent plot following a professor and his student. The problems explored here mirror those of our protagonists; the struggle to overcome (social) barriers, search for utopia, and the natural order. Their narrative provides a more relatable side to the pursuit of happiness, but more to the point, it runs parallel to the commentary on pointless resistance...
...or I might just be overthinking it again, and it's all just about the struggle to seal the deal.
Finally, there are the existentialist water fleas. Where did man come from? Where is he going? Their monologues are both humorous and thought-provoking; interpret them to be the mangaka's footnotes on the themes of the story. Verily, abstract concepts such as eternal recurrence and amor fati are manifest within their very existence...!
(Vested in their tiny bodies is the undeniable proof that still waters do, indeed, run deep.)
Final rating: 8/10
"The world is the will to power - and nothing besides!" - Nietzsche, #1 fan of Crimsonsread more
A burning cold-blooded shounen adventure. Takes all the usual tropes and puts them in a nature story about salmon. The art makes for great jokes, where the fish alternate between cartoonish-anthropomorphised and realistic depictions of fish. When you see it you'll know what I mean.
Story feels a little dry, characters don't have much depth (maybe those are related). It's good though. Has kind of a Gurren Lagann spirit.