Review: From the New World, Vol. 1

The relationship between manga and anime is a fruitful one; anime studios may pick a popular manga to adapt into a television show, a manga might be written as an adaptation of a popular anime work. Often times, these different works are based around some of the same core ideas and characters, but they are completely different.  Studios might make changes in storylines, in tone, or in other stylistic elements because the manga isn’t completed yet, or the manga might shorten certain storylines in order to fit them more appealingly into a print format. But what happens when you toss the Japanese fiction market into the mix? That’s the source of one of Vertical Inc.’s brand new releases, From the New World.

From the New World, Vol. 1Originally, From the New World was a high-fantasy fiction novel published in 2008. Written by Yusuke Kishi, the novel won the 29th Japan SF Grand Prize. Yusuke Kishi’s work has been published in English by Vertical Inc – his novel The Crimson Labyrinth was originally published in English in 2006. I’m not privy to the decisions book publishers make regarding fiction adaptations, but it was clear that this property was deemed a likely success in the shonen market. Four years after the book was originally published, it received a manga adaptation, and an anime adaptation shortly thereafter.

As a comic, From the New World is a really interesting piece of fiction. Humans have developed telekinesis and other psychic powers a millenium into the future. As children, they learn to develop those powers. In the background, however, more disturbing things are happening. Children who step out of line or who don’t make the grade often go missing. There are rumors of a “Dupe Cat” that hunts down the weak. And very strange and creepy things start happening after the students go off on summer vacation.

Most readers will come to From the New World via the anime simulcast on Crunchyroll. I had the opportunity to read the first volume of the manga, and then watched the first 7 episodes of the anime, for comparison. Which leads me to a question: how do you review From the New World? Is it enough to discuss the manga, or should we also discuss the anime adaptation? Both are now available in English for the first time.

What fans of the property will realize is that while there is a lot that is similar in the two adaptations, there is a lot that is different as well. Stylistic choices and costume redesigns abound. The storylines between the two follow a similar path, but take different steps to get there. By the time we reach the end of volume 1 of the manga, we have skipped a few scenes from the anime, and the cast is still largely together in one place.

The manga is also quite a bit more explicit than the anime. There are a few scenes in the manga that, to be frank, give it its +16 year old rating. How this plays into the storyline will probably come up at some point, but at this point into the anime, we already have some more contextual information about the scenes in question. I’m certain this content was written to titillate. I’m certain this will even drive some of the sales of the manga. Whether the explicit content at the end of volume 1 can be used to drive forward the story will have to be seen in volume 2, but at this point, it seems gratuitous to me.

The tone of From the New World is almost like a mix of the moe fan-favorite K-On! and another Vertical release, Knights of Sidonia. There are elements of that unfettered joy that permeate the first volume, coupled with the unhinging fact that, although we can’t see what’s happening, we know that a lot of things are going wrong. The image of hypercute girls stacking cards juxtaposed against the body horror of the Morph Rats is a really interesting element of the series, and lends to its unsettling nature. The world building is fantastic, but there is a lot that isn’t revealed in this first volume.

As a physical product, From the New World is the Vertical compact size – the same size as their release of Keiko Suenobu’s Limit. It’s slightly smaller than Knights of Sidonia, and approximately a half an inch smaller in width and height compared to the standard Tokyopop/Viz tankōbon.  Check out MW_alt for images.

Overall, I think that this type of high-fantasy is extremely rare in manga being localized currently, and I like what I’ve read so far, despite my misgivings about the explicit content in the first volume. And as for the anime along with the manga? Well, think of them as complementary. Both the anime and the manga bring their own information to the table. Without the anime, I would be a bit confused about some of the content in the manga. Without the manga, I would have put together much less about the storyline. Together, they create a fuller picture of this fantastic and strange new world that Kishi has imagined.

If anything, reading From the New World has convinced me to check out Kishi’s other fiction, and to watch some anime (something I hardly ever do). I think it’s a good start to what could potentially be a very strong series.

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