By Tadashi Agi and Shu Okimoto. Released in Japan as “Kami no Shizuku” by Kodansha, serialization ongoing in the magazine Weekly Morning. Released in North America by Vertical.
The third omnibus of Drops of God sees the first major plot advancement in the series. After spending so long trying to guess which wine was described in the will, one of our heroes finally gets it right. Of course, that does leave eleven more. And there’s still a few other problems to solve along the way…
(Incidentally, my cover for V. 3 is different from the one above. Last minute change? Or multiple designs?)
Once again, we have a plotline about how wine is far more than just an alcoholic beverage. We left off at the end of the last volume with an amnesiac woman who only had a description of wine to link her to her forgotten past. The trouble is, she’s now married – and both she and her husband are worried that if she recovers her memories, she’ll remember she was in love with someone else. Even though it relied on a contrived coincidence (two car accidents in the past leading to tragedy?), I really enjoy the way the authors used this, showing that it doesn’t necessarily take amnesia to avoid the past. And indeed, that the future can also shape the past – when Kaori recovers her memories and discovers her old love, we see that she and her husband are not the only ones whose lives are shaped by the tragedy. Throughout this plot, wine comes into play, acting almost as a mnemonic in order to be a gateway to prior events.
We then get the battle for the first apostle, which comes down to a very interesting point: these are not ‘the 12 best wines’ that Shizuku’s father has been describing, but 12 wines that he wanted to describe. This means that the first apostle revealed here depends on it not being an outstanding wine, but rather a wine that you have to work at to enjoy. Not only can I empathize with this, but of course it opens the playing field of wine even more to the cast. As with previous volumes, we get lovingly detailed depictions of the scene they’re imagining (and that his father described), which allow you to see the similarities and differences between the two wines picked, which differ only in the year made. It’s a good scene.
Characterization of the regulars continues to be the weak part of the series, but to be fair this is a manga about wine, not about Shizuku and Miyabi. We do get a little more development of her character here, showing her first love from high school returning and shocking her by being a cold businessman, but honestly I thought the best part of the manga for her was her superdeformed jealousy of Shizuku having lunch with Sara. Any love story that happens in this series will take even longer than Oishinbo’s did (and that took 47 volumes!), mostly as when it comes to love Shizuku seems to be thick as a brick. Something lampshaded by the other cast members. Speaking of the rest of the cast, the Italian wine snob, Chosuke, gets a rather sweet little backstory showing why he dislikes French wine so much.
The volume ends with the first half of the story I mentioned above with Miyabi’s old love. It involves trying to show that brand name doesn’t always mean quality, but to do that they have to note that in terms of wine, it frequently does. Lafite and Rothschild aren’t the top names in wine just due to marketing and publicity. They’re the cream of the crop, and I liked the scenes where Shizuku and Miyabi realize what a big hurdle they have to overcome. In the meantime, they’re also searching for the second apostle. Given this is a manga series, I have a sneaking suspicion Shizuku is going to fail hard at finding it, but we shall see.
This continues to be a good solid foodie manga. The broad points (p;lot, characters) are cliched, but the writing is what makes them stand out, and shows the work of two long-standing professionals. Definitely one for your shelves… though maybe the drinks cabinet instead?