Hiroaki Samura tries to tone down torture porn (according to his comments in the manga itself) by writing about love and radio. Then loses romance, then tries to reintroduce it, then lets go. And radio is also barely there.
Hiroaki Samura is at his drawing top here, with festival film grade cinematography of panels and incredible effort put into interior design and environmental storytelling. He visited Hokkaido to prepare for this manga, set in Sapporo. His art is dramatic, playful, self-aware and even informative. It’s like a text of a good book or frames of a good movie – a powerful tool of narration, exploration, self-expression
and connection. Though if you have read some of his, eh, more straightforward works, it will be hard to shake off memories of terrible rape scenes while looking at the white buxom legs of his heroine, it’s exactly the same design.
This time he just teases though. Maybe a bit too much. The story is set to be a tale of a young somewhat scatterbrained, but energetic woman, full of character, finding her calling in being a radio host. She’s been noticed and encouraged to no end out of the blue by a radio station director. All the while keeping her work and her involvement in the lives of the staff in a curry-and-bread restaurant as a waitress. She deals with her recent bitter break-up, meets new people with new problems and talks at night on the radio. Somehow most of her shows are outrageous radio dramas with murder and aliens and ghosts.
The latter, her disinterest and boundless encouragement with motives behind it being unclear make it hard to empathize somehow. She has character as in she's disagreeable, but what is her character like? I have brought up Samura’s darker, more violent work, because it is clear that he loves the topic. When girls suffer there, you see the enjoyment, the focus, the goal. What drives him in Nami yo Kiitekure is unclear. The best scenes are the scenes of – false – suspense when characters imagine ghosts or aliens, “action” scenes, Voyager the restaurant (food is nice, yeah), stuff when the author shows Sapporo and cites ethnographic data, which he indulges in from time to time. Characters are also designed with care and attention. But their interactions and the events in the manga haven’t touched me, I don’t see the point, the development is either unclear or snail-like slow, and there isn’t enough love for the simple everyday life which a good slice-of-life manga or manga about adult lives needs. I don’t see much info on radio too, to be honest. Characters flail in and out of heavily staged weird situations, where they, mainly the main heroine, act in an over the top manner, and I have lost my interest before the available chapters have ended, which is surprising considered the majesty of the art.
I allow that it may not be the case for everyone and you may find the nerve here, but I wouldn’t be too hopeful. There is a reason it isn’t a top discussed manga.
Still it’s an interesting development from the author of Bradherley no Basha and Blade of the Immortal – going so down to the earth. Granted, I am not the biggest expert on his work, I just have been traumatized by some and enjoyed BoI, but still, a high caliber multi-volume work on love and radio in Hokkaido is unusual. If you ask me – I hope that he will continue the detox and make something really good with the same attention. Because Nami yo Kiitekure, in my eyes, narratively falls apart, it’s more like wanting to do something (the concept) and going through the motions well (the art), rather than actually enjoying it and looking at it directly. There're some moments of genuine emotional breakthroughs, but far and inbetween. After all even when the characters cook, there is never a close-up of the food.