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Doko ka Touku no Hanashi wo Shiyou (Comic Beam, 2016), by Masumi Sudou, Grade B+
Masumi Sudou has a pretty long list of manga credits, but I haven't read anything by her prior to this particular volume. The title translates roughly to "Let's have a conversation from a distant place," and I'm going to shorten it to "Hanashi". This is a two part story, and I'm not sure if I'm going to get vol. 2 at this point. It's a good, easy read, and the artwork is very light and airy. The only knock against it is the price - 690 yen ($6.50 USD) without tax. Kind of pricey for this kind of book.
(When you find a stranger in your loft.)
The story is pretty straight-forward, and I'm not going to try summarizing it in sequential form. Chiro is a young girl living in a village in what looks like Peru, or a part of South America that has a similar mountainous landscape. She has lost both her parents somehow, and is presently staying with her aged grandmother, doing most of the chores in their two-story stone hut (ground floor and the storage space under the thatch roof. Both Chiro and her grandmother have what appears to be a very rare ability to talk with inanimate objects, which Chiro is occasionally asked to do on behalf of the rest of the village.
(Chiro shows Puratino the view from her house for the first time.)
One day, Chiro goes up into the loft to get a pumpkin for the donuts her grandmother will make, and discovers a strange man passed out in the straw. He's got a badly injured leg, and is wearing clothes that the villagers have never seen before. Chiro touches some of the man's belongings, and they tell her that he's a vagabond that's been wandering aimlessly for a long time. The villagers are summoned, and the rest of the book essentially revolves around how everyone - Chiro, her grandmother, the man, and the villagers have to cope with each other. The guy speaks something resembling Portuguese, and has to be taught the local language. In turn, when Chiro tries to relate what the guy's rucksack, picture, work glove, etc., are telling her, she runs into roadblocks over words she's never heard before, like loading docks, grunt work, music box, cassette tape and photograph. Chiro settles for calling the guy "Puratino".
(Puratino's scarf tries to tell Chiro about it's owner's work history.)
Eventually, we learn that Puratino was married and had a daughter a little younger than Chiro, but something bad happened to them. He's traveled to various cities and worked loading and unloading cargo ships at the docks. In return, we find out that Chiro's parents had tried going outside the village on a trail past the nearest mountains and were killed somehow when Chiro was still a toddler. Near the end of the volume, Chiro finds the strip of cassette tape in Puratino's bag, used like a piece of string to tie up a pouch. The tape says that it's from something called "The Hits of the 1970's". The villagers say that it's 1851, and Puratino grapples with the possibility he may be from their future.
(Stick: "You want to see what's in the pot? Your grandmother's cooking bean stew." The first time things start talking to Chiro.)
A little later, he suggests the possibility that he may try going home soon, and this puts Chiro into a panic at losing someone else that's gotten close to her. She runs away, and the image of her dashing off, with her shirt billowing around her reminds Puratino of the last time he saw his own wife, when she apparently was shot in the head by someone out of sight. Chiro goes to the loft of her house and looks at the man's boots. These are the only artifacts that haven't talked to her, yet. And, we get a flashback to when she first lost her parents, and when her grief-stricken grandmother rejected her for trying to get too close. This was also about the time that she discovered she could talk to the furniture.
Comments: This is actually a very good book as far as the storytelling goes. The characters get fleshed out, and they learn about each other as we learn about them. The character designs are a bit too cartoony, but the backgrounds and animal designs are good. Recommended if you want something short, poignant and heart-warming.