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Digital Manga continues to build on their Osamu Tezukua line with Triton of the Sea, Vol. 1! Found abandoned in a cave, young Triton is adopted by a human family and raised as one of their own. But as he grows, he discovers his origins and the legacy of his true family. As the last surviving member of the underwater Triton clan, young Triton must train and prepare himself for the inevitable showdown with his ancestral enemies and those responsible for wiping out his biological family, the Poseidon clan!
Originally published in 1969 and serialized page by page in the Sankei Shimbun newspaper, Triton of the Sea is a sprawling, epic adventure, tinged with darker undertones of a young men determined to avenge the slaughter of his family. Tezuka does a fantastic job at presenting the darker elements alongside the more whimsical and comedic aspects of the story, shifting the focus as needed but doing so without giving the reader mood swing induced whiplash. He does his usual fantastic job at building the characters, showing how Triton grows and comes to accept his legacy as the avenger for his clan. One of the interesting aspects of the series, is that as the story progresses, some of his allies begin to question this vendetta and whether its the correct thing to do, but Triton himself shows little in the way of forgiveness towards his enemies. Another interesting aspect to the story comes via Triton’s older adoptive brother, Kazuya. The first third of the volume is almost entirely dedicated toward the adventures of Kazuya as he attempts to provide for his widowed mother and Triton after the three move to Tokyo. He gets involved with criminals, a sketchy shipping operation and more. Throughout this Triton only appears as a background character and as motivation for Kazuya in his struggles. There’s a sudden shift in focus partway through, and Triton becomes the focus once more. It’s only later that Kazuya’s abandoned plot line dovetails together with Triton’s quest and the two come together. Sadly the entwining of the stories doesn’t quite pay off the way one would hope, and Kazuya is once more left in limbo well before the end of the book. One can only hope that it’ll be picked up and improved upon in the second volume.
One of the most memorable characters in the book comes in the form of Triton’s swimming instructor, Zenzen Tange. He’s an absolutely insane and comically over the top teacher, who doesn’t hesitate to subject young Triton to a brutal and punishing swimming regimen. Nothing as simple as a 100 laps in a pool here, instead Zenzen doesn’t hesitate to toss Triton in life threatening situation after life threatening situation. Whether’s he’s kicking the poor kid into a whirlpool surrounded with jagged rock formations, or attacking him underwater with throwing knives, the training scenes seem to predict some of the comically sadistic training methods that would appear in manga and movies in later years and bring to mind such Hong Kong films as The 36th Chamber and Drunken Master. He’s possible the most colorful and memorable character in the series so far, even overshadowing Triton himself.
Tezuka’s visuals are as good as you’d expect, though perhaps a little less spectacular or experimental than in some of his other works. There’s very little of the fun panel arrangements and fourth wall breaking visuals, though this does serve to make the few times they actually do show up even more enjoyable and memorable. The general action and panel to panel flow are solid with the fight scenes being rather enjoyable and easy to follow. The children of Poseidon with whom Triton clashes are generally well designed, but none of them really strike me as terribly memorable of jaw droppingly amazing. Despite this Tezuka is still able to do an absolutely wonderful job at getting across a character’s personality through the designs alone. There’s little question as to what kind of a man Zenzen is when he appears in full training gear, scarred and missing an eye while sporting a katana, or whether or not Talin, a would be assassin, is up to no good when he first appears with his squat stature and flat turtle like head. It all goes to show that visually even works that might be considered B-list titles for Tezuka are still more visually creative and interesting than a lot of modern material that’s out there today, on either side of the Pacific.
Triton of the Sea, Vol. 1 is a pretty fun read. While it probably won’t draw the kind of acclaim Tezuka’s more famous and experimental works do, it’s still an enjoyable first half to Triton’s tale, and one that has looking forward to reading the climax in volume two!
Triton of the Sea, Vol. 1 is available now from Digital Manga Publishing. Review copy provided by the publisher.
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