The story is set one autumn at the beginning of the 21st century in the Uchihama area. Uchihama Academy is growing by leaps and bounds. With the construction of a new school building, there will be one last General Club Festival at the old building that is slated to be closed. The students vow to go all out to make this final cultural festival a success.
The Astronomy Club of the protagonist Sou Akiyama is filled with the big names on campus. Just before the festival on October 1, the club receives a request from the student executive committee to calm the uneasiness among the students. There are reports of ghost sightings, accidents, sleeping sickness, and other mysterious incidents at the old building. When Yui Furukawa, a quiet girl who transferred late into the school, appears before Sou, the gears of fate slowly begin to move.
Let me start by saying that I’ve never come across a piece of art as poignant and life-changing as Ushinawareta Mirai no Motomete. As soon as I started it, my mind seemed to leave my body and get sucked into the student life of Sou Akiyama. I became entranced with his nuanced character; his thoughts, his actions and his motivations all came through to me as if he was a missing part of myself that I had just found. The first thing I noticed was the creative parallel to a visual novel character by the name of Sou Hiyori, who shares a lot of traits
with Sou Akiyama, besides the obvious name similarity. They both keep to themselves and rarely open up but still deeply care about their friends. I’ve come to love this ‘rat’ character archetype, which Ushinawareta Mirai no Motomete explores more deeply than I ever thought possible. The protagonist is dark-haired and contemplative, like me, yet quietly intellectual and empathetic. I personally relate to his choices and have often caught myself speaking fluent Japanese when I subconsciously channel Sou inside of me. I could never find a connection that powerful from the third-highest ranked manga, JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure.
Just as with the character design and writing, Ushinawareta Mirai no Motomete thoroughly immersed me with its impeccable art and world imagining. With each panel I felt more and more at home within the author’s vision. In fact, I’ve become nostalgic for the fictional classrooms and roads and sunsets that hypnotized me when I first read this manga. It’s comforting in a way I can’t describe, like this world is a distant memory I didn’t know I had. This inexplicable aspect alone brings Ushinawareta Mirai no Motomete well above Fullmetal Alchemist.
A more tangible quality of Ushinawareta Mirai no Motomete is its ability to comment on society and us as the people who live in it. From the development of relationships between characters to the deliberate dysfunction of the school, the author provides us with a peek into his view of humanity as a whole. At first it seems that your ordinary existential nihilism compels his writing, but after a few chapters it evolves into something else entirely. The philosophical undertone shifts to optimistic humanitarianism and then to egotistical altruism faster than you can say “Sou”. Despite its complexity in themes, Ushinawareta Mirai no Motomete remains grounded and accessible enough to not seem condescending or pretentious. I think that quality sets it apart from other psychological dramas of similar acclaim.
Although I have no hesitation calling Ushinawareta Mirai no Motomete a masterpiece, I can’t justify thinking of it as the greatest manga of all time until it runs for a little while or until I read it through a few more times. My integrity as an experienced critic prevents me from placing it higher than Berserk, but it’s a very close call, and my placement may change as new volumes are released. For the time being, though, its ranking is deserved, and I hope I can help publicize this hidden gem with this review.
Overall 10/10, can’t wait to see it reach the top.