Hatou Gaku has a very odd friend at school named Marii Yukari. Yukari has purple eyes and a bizarre way of looking at the world: she sees all living things as robots. This has not always worked out well for Yukari, even costing her a best friend when she was younger. However, Yukari insists that the things she says she sees is true, and her vision seems to give her insight into the abilities of others.
Gaku thinks she's just weird, but she soon realizes that Yukari has unexpected talents. It seems she can fix anything, and even the police come to hear her insights. It turns out that Yukari's purple eyes are not unique in the world! However, there is one important distinction among those who see humans as other objects. Do humans appear as unimportant as objects, or do those objects appear as important as human beings?
If you're interested in really heady sci-fi and philosophical concepts, this might be worth checking out if that's all you're looking for. To say the least, Murasakiiro no Qualia is ambitious. After a somewhat slow start, it blows up into hyperspeed in directions you might not expect and never stops. The best part of the manga is seeing what insanity the author has thought up next, but in the process it loses a lot of what would make that kind of story interesting in the first place, making the whole thing feel clumsy, rushed, and full of unrealized potential.
This manga is apparently a novel adaptation,
and it shows. It's very text-heavy and ultimately prefers to tell rather than show, which hurts in the manga format. So much of the manga is spent explaining and discussing scientific theories, and in the latter half, an astonishingly small portion of the manga is spent showing what happens in the story. Instead, a few panels may represent what happens, then some textboxes will gloss over a few points and move on. It gets old really fast, and it becomes impossible to connect with the MC's struggles. Eventually, it doesn't feel like reading a story anymore--but a story about a story, and it's as dull as it sounds.
Now, if you have already read the manga and say, "But that's the point of the story!" I realize that, but that alone doesn't justify its execution. If you set out to write your story in a boring manner and succeed, the story isn't any less boring. The author/artist could have conveyed the story in a number of more interesting ways, such as expanding on ideas that could have been their own story arc but instead were only given a few panels. The MC has a lot of focus, so perhaps it would been more interesting to focus on other characters' perspectives, providing new insight on an otherwise sterile thought experiment of a manga.
The story is also pretty bad at justifying its use of these concepts, which creates plot holes. It's most easily seen in the latter half, when the author decides to take increasingly daring leaps of logic in order to keep the plot interesting, but even without that, there are times when the characters seem to know way more than they should, or they're more right than they should be. The strength of your suspension of disbelief will matter here. For most of those little instances, I don't mind that middle school students happen to know a little about some weird theories, but I would like to see more into how they came about these theories or how those theories affect their lives, rather than taking it all for granted.
But while I think most of these problems occur in the latter half, I would rate the manga even lower if it didn't have those things. The beginning part is just kind of boring without any noteworthy points. Meanwhile, though the latter half has its fair share of issues, there are some interesting ideas that are thrown around played with, and seeing the author attempt to bring those ideas together into a semi-coherent story was entertaining.
The ideas themselves are interesting, but the way they are presented is not. There aren't that many manga like this...but I would still look elsewhere for heady sci-fi stuff.
This review contains some spoilers since you can't explain why this manga is good without falling there. I don't think that general ideas can really spoil the levels this manga reaches but if you want them to hit at full force I'd recommend that you read it and stick to it until you get how distant the start and the end are.
The main issue is that it can be divided in two very distinct parts, and even if both of them are strong the turn it takes really hurts both. The first part is a nice classroom sort-of-yuri comedy/drama. A regular girl falls in friendship
with the weirdo who sees people as robots (not in an utilitarian sense, completely literal to the booster pack and exchangeable parts). People stand in their way, problems arise, some drama, they build gunpla and eventually manage to become dear friends and even connect with other people.
The second half, though, is full blown sci-fi of the best kind. A small element is incorporated in a regular setting and it's slowly expanded until the point it breaks the universe. The escalation this second half has is incredible and it deserves to be seen just for how far it goes. I didn't exaggerate when I said it breaks the universe. It's an author exploring a premise to every possible degree, something that you can see many others completely failing to do while getting praised just for the initial concept.
The problem is that both parts don't really need the other. When I finished it I checked a couple of one-shot stories set in the initial part and I had already forgotten that this had been a happy school days gag manga. It took me to write this review to remember the drama from the past that closes that part of the story. I could only remember the last chapters, and when I first saw a recommendation for this was through a page of nearly the end. It was basically luck that I had forgotten why I was reading it and stuck for the girls in highschool beginning. I assume this comes from the original LNs and I really like the idea of the author first making a funny high school story just to hit the readers with a completely different sequel. But when you read the manga you don't have that clear distinction.
The art isn't too good although the gunpla look great and in the second part it's up to par to make the reader understand the story. Over all it feels like a subpar mangaka adapting a cult classic.
In many elements it resembles Madoka, it surprised me that the LN had come a year before that anime. They were probably responding to a cultural desire of almost-yuri + expansive concepts that affects the universe. Just like you have half a dozen Harry Potters in the couple of years before and after the book came out. In any case, I'd say that if you enjoyed Madoka you'll probably like this too.
This is probably the first manga I have ever read that actually uses sequential art to its inherent advantage to the point that it may be impossible to translate faithfully to any other medium*. Most mangas, either by uncreativity, too much serialization, its close connection to anime or light novels-- SOMETHING-- are held back a bit and rarely use the same techniques that top-tier Western comic books have mastered over the years. Qualia the Purple, though? It gets it.
This manga makes heavy utilization of things like image repetition, panel layout order, and nonlinearity, the sort of stuff only sequential art can pull off, all
to tell a fast-paced huge-scope story, and it just plain works.
That may be out of necessity though that it does all of this-- Qualia the Purple is telling a MASSIVE story here, and has only 18 chapters to go from beginning to end! The first six chapters (the first volume) are a bit decompressed, giving us the characters and their interesting predicaments-- Manabu, the everygirl tomboy falling in love with her classmate; Yukari, a girl who sees all living things as machines; and Namani, the aloof and bitter former friend. These first six chapters may seem slow, but once the second volume kicks in, things rocket foward.
And that's where the manga stops being an interesting concept and becomes something truly special. It's seriously impossible to elaborate on what makes this story so good without major spoilers, and even if I were to spoil it, it wouldn't make much sense anyway.
Just know that even when this story is a mere 3 volumes long, the plot, the characters, the themes are expansive to the point that it could not possibly be adapted into a series without being something like 26 episodes long. The main problem with the story itself is definitely that it feels rushed, and yet it's only rushed in a couple minor, fleeting places; for the most part you'll feel like every single moment has exactly as much impact as it needs to. It was either 18 blazing-fast chapters or 250 pages turning this into a shounen slog; I'm glad they chose the former, for sure.
Jump into this series. Try it out. Wait-- don't just try it. Read the whole darn thing because it takes like three hours to go through it all. You will not regret it.
*Even though the comic is so steeped in visual and sequential storytelling, this was actually based on a novel! I have no clue how that novel was written and I can't imagine it was half as good unless it was much, much longer.
The only reason I read this was because it was recommended for fans of HakoMari, which I suppose I was at the time. My love for HakoMari has failed to hold up properly, but I still like Qualia the Purple. Not necessarily because the story is any good, or that the characters are close to my heart. I think you could enjoy this story just as much if you read it in that "so bad it's good movie" sort of way, but that's not what I'm talking about either. I guess, for me, this manga is more than the sum of its parts. It's got
some interesting things to say, but even the author themselves says at the end, "I just drew this manga because I read up on quantum physics lol."
I guess this manga was my first real introduction to quantum physics, and I kind of understand how it works now, but given that this is a manga, I'm sure some of it's just pure bullshit. But that's the beauty of a well-written sci-fi manga: you can't tell if it's pure bullshit or not!
Or maybe I'm just an idiot. That's possible too.
So anyway, this manga does a drive-by on some interesting themes like abnormalities, time looping, individuality, and a bunch of other stuff. I'm a fan of that approach, but I'm sure to others it just feels like the author got a bit over-excited reading through wikipedia pages one afternoon and just decided to throw a bunch of shit together. There is, at least, a through line for the entire story. There's a point. It's not just a mish-mash of weird ideas (although, yeah, that's what it is), and I really have to commend what a good job the author did with characterising and developing the main character. I like it when the protagonist isn't a pussy, but they're also not a Mary Sue either. In fact, you could say that our protagonist is the most normal abnormal character in the story, which is what makes her so easy to emphasise with, and so easy to cross the line along with her.
The art's also pretty okay, but there's nothing exceptional here. Character designs are probably the best part, but not to the point of being particularly memorable. Oh, but there are some neat visual metaphors toward the end that I really enjoyed.
By the way, this manga is actually adapted from a novel, and it's pretty easy to tell. Because this story should probably be a lot longer - although maybe it was like that in the novel, too. It sets up a lot of stuff in the beginning, but it never delves into it, and we only get a single answer to the many, many questions this novel poses. And yeah, I guess there's an ending, but it doesn't really feel like one. I don't necessarily have a problem with the way the author ended it, but I do have a problem with them not continuing the story from there. I can appreciate that they wanted to end it before it bored everyone's socks off, but maybe plan your story a bit better...
Both times I read this manga, I got the feeling that I was watching some serial show where the writers would keep introducing newer, cooler stuff on top of the other cool stuff without properly exploring the stuff before, and by the time they got to the last arc, they'd be out of time! So much of this story feels empty; like it's missing a bunch of characters and it's only including the footnotes. The entire setting from the first volume is completely thrown away, which I get is actually an intentional nod to the MC's mindset, but it feels wasted. Oh yeah, and the technobabble is interesting and all, but man was I starting to fall asleep two thirds of the way in.
If I were to rewrite this story, I would make it twice as long with half of the explanations and more cool character moments. Because that's what I love about the series: the way characters interact with each other. The cast of characters is not particularly enthralling from the get-go, but damn can the author write character drama well. The art helps a lot here in conveying the expressions of characters. The story goes to some dark places sometimes, but not to a gratuitous extent. There's always a point to the MC's actions (and the actions of those around her), and it's made clear by the end. Well, most of them.
Oh, and I suppose I should mention the "big bads" in the story, who are kept hilariously vague throughout with similarly vague and hilarious motivations for why they do what they do. They're good enough. They're just there for our MC to fight against. I honestly don't remember what they're called, so I'll just label them "The Syndicate" and move on.
I must say, unquestionably, the best aspect of Qualia is the main character. Not just because of her personality, but because of how the manga goes to great lengths to show the depths of her mind and develops her to such a point that she is constructed, deconstructed, and then re-constructed. Yeah, by the last third I was starting to get pretty bored and annoyed by the shounen-esque levels of escalation, but that last chapter made it all worth it for me. Even if I feel like it's not a proper ending. Her arc ends in such a satisfying way that it makes the entire journey worth it. That is, of course, not to say there weren't some great moments in the middle of the series too. The beginning, though, is lacking. Primarily because they don't come back to it in any meaningful way.
So yeah, I like the series, and I don't think the story is all that great or the characters are especially great or anything, but I just love how the writer used them. And when you cut through all of the psychobabble, at the heart of Qualia is a really simple theme and moral that, even though it has been presented numerous times throughout countless stories, has never been so heartrendingly poignant than here, with as many nuances.
I realise that sounds pretty vague and pretentious - probably even if you have read the manga - but I can't expand on my feelings without spoiling it. So I won't.
If you're a long-time contributor to Wikipedia (or just like reading a lot of words and feeling like you're learning stuff), you'll probably like Murasakiiro no Qualia.