Moon Child by Reiko Shimizu Volume 1
Moon Child is one of the most unique manga that I’ve read in a long time. My reading habits tend to lean towards series that are filled with shoujo cliches, so it is nice to encounter a series that manages to be genuinely surprising. Moon Child is a wonderful mix of fairy tale, alien sex practices, gender bending, and giant spectral fish all presented with some old-school shoujo style art.
Art is a washed-up dance prodigy in New York City. His ex-girlfriend Holly has surpassed his talents and now he struggles with auditions. On a rainy day he hit a strange little boy wearing a suit and bowtie with his car. Art and the boy both end up in the hospital. The little boy has amnesia, so Art ends up taking him home and giving him the name Jimmy. Jimmy is an absolute blank slate, not knowing how to function by himself. Art has an explosive temper, and he occasionally hits Jimmy when Jimmy makes messes in his apartment. When Art leaves Jimmy alone to go on an audition, Jimmy manifests telekinetic powers. Broken appliances in the apartment inexplicably start working again.
Jimmy takes a walk alone when Art is sleeping and he sees a giant floating eel hovering over the deserted city streets. He meets two boys who look like identical versions of himself. They address him as “Benjamin” and tell him to come home. Jimmy runs back to Art’s apartment. On a planet far away a man named Shonach has decided to return to Earth. He’s from a race of mer-people that can swim between the stars. Shonach was last on Earth during the fourteenth century and he looks forward to seeing it again. Shonach arrives in New York and meets Jimmy. He’s struck with how much Jimmy resembles a woman from his dreams. Shonach also meets a mermaid who informs him that it is spawning season for their race. She takes him to visit the other mer-people in New York, and learns of a dire prophecy connected to the legend of the Little Mermaid. The Little Mermaid was actually an alien mermaid named Seira who fell in love with and had a child with a human. The half human half mer-person child is now on earth. Shonach is the child of Seira’s former merman lover, and his destiny is caught up with Seira’s half human child, who is named Benjamin. Shonach’s encounters with Jimmy have him convinced that he is no ordinary human child. Granny, the matriarch of the mer-people predicts that Armageddon will take place on Earth if Shonach doesn’t “make eggs” with Benjamin. Jimmy is increasingly disturbed by the ocean creatures in spirit form that keep appearing around him.
Jimmy abruptly assumes his older, female form. When he is a girl he is incapable of using his voice to talk to Art. Art comes home after a late night to find an attractive naked woman with cascading blond hair sitting on his floor. She jumps out the window and is approached by a group of men on the street. They promptly run away when confronted with visions of a giant frog and snake.
Jimmy meets Shonach in his female form, and Shonach knows that she’s his destined love. Mentally Benjamin is still Jimmy, the lost little boy with amnesia. Shonach kisses Benjamin and she turns back into her former form as a little boy. Art looks for Jimmy, but he runs into the clone duo – Jimmy’s older brothers are looking for him. After a confrontation Art passes out. Shonach knows that Jimmy is still attached to Art, so he takes Jimmy back, trying to maintain distance between them. While Jimmy still doesn’t have his memory back he is beginning to learn more about his unique role for the mer-people.
In the third volume, Jimmy and Art are reunited. Art is furious with Jimmy for going missing, but they celebrate the possibility of Art landing a key dance role. The upcoming doom for the world is tied to the polluted waters. If the mer-people lay eggs in earth’s oceans, their children will die. Jimmy has visions of a building exploding that seems to be Chernobyl power plant. Shonach struggles with his attraction for Benjamin.
Jimmy’s identical brothers are growing sick due to the pollution on Earth. If Jimmy were to die, one of them could assume female form and bear eggs in his place. But since Jimmy is alive all they can do is watch over him and attempt to protect him. They view his relationship with Art as disastrous history repeating itself, since a mermaid’s relationship with a human created Jimmy.
There many interconnecting storylines and characters in Moon Child, but it never feels overwhelming because the art manages to clearly portray all the varied themes and flashbacks. The frequent appearance of spirit animals summoned by the mer-people’s powers combined with the modern background of the city creates arresting visual images that highlight the uniqueness of the story. The mer-people’s fluid approach to gender and the relationships between Jimmy/Benjamin, Art, and Shonach are intriguing.
One jarring note is the way “Granny”, the matriarch of the mer-people is drawn. She’s a caricature of an African tribal woman. I usually don’t expect manga to be very sensitive about portrayals of Africans, and I tend to assume that drawings like this stem from ignorance rather than malicious intent, but the contrast with the way Granny was rendered compared with the attractive shoujo styling of everyone else took me out of the story.
If you’re planning on sampling this manga, I’d definitely recommend reading multiple volumes together. There’s so much going on in the story that I think waiting several weeks between volumes would make it harder to piece everything together. I’ll definitely be checking out the rest of this series.