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‘Wandering Island:’ Advance Trade Paperback Review

Not all who wander are lost.

When I saw this listing from Dark Horse, I had to go for it. It was described as a “Retro flying adventure in the spirit of Hayao Miyazaki.”  Now, my love for Miyazaki is very high, so I had to know if it was true.  Following a young woman dealing with the loss of her grandfather and the mystery he left behind, Wandering Island is truly a stunning work of art that is a must read.  Slow-burn storytelling in a sleepy island chain off of Japan satisfies a rustic adventure that hearkens back to tales that one would make up on lazy summer days, where adventure could be sparked by any innocuous beginning.

Kenji Tsuruta is back to crafting his own stories after having spent the last twenty years illustrating for others.  I will say that I don’t know his earlier works, but having had this taste, I know that I’ll be adding Spirit of Wonder to my reading shelf.  There’s a patience on display in this book that is incredibly refreshing and translates to the reader, as well.  This is not delaying tactics like in the “power-up” episodes of Dragonball, but an attention to the details of real life and its sometimes circuitous path toward adventure.  It takes a willingness on the part of both the author and reader to journey together in this way, but the results tend to make for a very invested and, in my opinion, more wondrous experience.  There’s a lot to Mikura’s life that allows us to yearn for answers as much as she does, letting us join her experience in a very gentle, but insistent, way.

Part of what gives us this impression is Tsuruta’s artwork.  Everything in this book is incredibly well researched (There’s a phenomenal impression of this in an afterword that breaks down just a little of the detail that has been achieved here.), and it shows in a nearly photo-realistic cast to every location.  The majority of the characters depart from this, being typical of the exaggerated human form to give more clarity to the people that Mikura interacts with, while she remains more natural in form.  There’s an incredible amount of data to dissect on every page; every pose and framed composition hints at the motion and emotion of every panel.  They draw you into the page and slow you down to the pace of the story, letting the words and drama become the islands of plot movement in the ocean of idyllic peace and the backwater feel of the islands.  This is a wholly intentional and magical effect by the creator, and it’s one that totally worked for me, allowing me to take my time as the story unfolded, to linger in the moments that make up the life that we see to further energize us along with Mikura when the pieces of her mystery begin to come together.

I think that if I let myself, I would go on for days about this book, but I don’t want to take the experience away from anyone. It’s one I wouldn’t have missed for the world and one I look forward to once the second book gets published.  I can’t wait to dive into more of Mr. Tsuruta’s work and hope you’ll all enjoy Wandering Island as much as I did.

Share the stories that move you.

Erik Cheski, Fanbase Press Contributor



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