By Atsushi Suzumi
Del Rey, 240 pp.
Rating: T (13+)
Gimmy is a teen boy living in a a desert town that gets its much-needed water by making offerings to the Amefurashi (rain goddess) living in a nearby nimbus tree. When the Amefurashi sends a request (usually asking for a doll) someone in the town must fulfill it or the rain will not come. When Gimmy is asked by the town’s wise man to make a doll for offering, he sets in to the task gamely, but as the appointed time approaches he begins to panic that he can’t finish it in time. Determined to get their older brother off the hook, young twins Mil and Mel dress up as dolls and place themselves on the wise man’s doorstep in a wooden toy box, pretending to be the offering. The wise man has the “dolls” sent to the altar and Mil and Mel are ready to celebrate their victory, but of course the Amefurashi comes along too soon and whisks them away.
When he realizes what’s happened, Gimmy climbs the tree to rescue them, but is himself captured by the Amefurashi, who turns out to be a cute little girl brandishing a whip. Gimmy tries various tricks to get his brother and sister back, including promising more dolls to the Amefurashi (who follows him back to town), but nothing goes as planned and ultimately the Amefurashi is so weakened by her excursion that her tree and the town come under threat from a rival rain goddess who wishes to gain control of the town’s rain for herself.
Though Amefurashi‘s premise on its own sounds like great folklore, the execution is so light and breezy, all the things that could have been truly compelling about it—the missing children, the weakening of the tree, the disastrous consequences for the townsfolk, even the Amefurashi’s obsession with dolls—are shunted to the side in favor of wacky action scenes (like the kids attempting to fight a giant flying caterpillar invading the tree), dull jokes (like Gimmy being taken for a “pest” and later an “ant”), and shots of the Amefurashi (who goes by the name “Sora”) looking feisty with her whip. There’s a lot of potential buried in this story, but most of it is brazenly ignored over the course of this volume.
Sora is alternately arrogant and bratty, powerful and helpless—childish to the extreme though her calling is so serious. The rival rain goddess later explains that Sora (and her tree) are yet immature, but it still seems odd that someone so much a part of nature would be so ignorant of the ramifications of her own actions throughout the volume. She is, at least, genuinely distraught over the fate of her tree which leads her to contemplating her purpose in life. Gimmy is a typical nerd hero, good at making things (including an experimental skateboard he loses to Sora early on) and somewhat bashful, but with a hero’s heart underneath. The twins, Mil and Mel, are just plain adorable.
By the end of the volume, it appears that Sora, Gimmy, Mil, and Mel are going to be heading off to save Sora’s tree (and ultimately the town) together, which has potential to create something almost as compelling as the folklore aspects might have been had they been truly explored. This may bring a little more cohesiveness to the story and should deepen the characterization somewhat.
Suzumi’s art is fun, expressive, and easy to follow, providing one of the highlights of the series so far. The visual storytelling shows off the mangaka’s strengths nicely, though the story itself lacks the same depth of skill. Though at this point, Amefurashi is nothing special, it does show potential for growth.
Review copy provided by the publisher. Review originally published at PopCultureShock.