cover image Mermaid Scales and the Town of Sand

Mermaid Scales and the Town of Sand

Yoko Komori, trans. from the Japanese by Annette Roman. Viz Media, $19.99 paper (408p) ISBN 978-1-974734-65-8

A Japanese tween struggles to come to terms with her parents’ separation in this ethereal speculative manga by Komori. Following her parents’ split, sixth grader Tokiko Aoyama moves with her father from the Tokyo area to the small seaside town of Sunanomori. As she explores her new home, she hears rumors of the existence of merfolk, triggering vague memories of her own encounter with an elusive creature who saved her from drowning years prior, as well as painful recollections of her emotionally absent mother. At school, Toki is treated as an outsider, especially since she alone believes that the merfolk are real. Searching for answers regarding the enigmatic entities, Toki befriends classmate Yosuke, who has his own agenda, and their investigation unearths a forbidden tunnel, a secret ritual, and more inexplicable findings. Komori’s b&w illustrations embody quiet mystery via softly lined panels that aptly depict small town life on Japan’s coast. Leisurely and effective pacing, paired with a calm ambiance, aid in delivering the narrative’s central dilemma of determining what is real and what is fantasy, gently positing the idea that while bad things may be inevitable, they are not insurmountable. Ages 8–12. (Feb.)