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The Drops of God: New World by Tadashi Agi, illustrated by Shu Okimoto, translated by Vertical, Inc.
I must confess that I’ve been loathe to post about this latest volume of The Drops of God – an intoxicating, ongoing race between faux-siblings to identify 13 bottles of phenomenal wines (“The Twelve Apostles,” plus the eponymous “Drops of God”) as chosen by their late legendary wine critic father – for utterly selfish reasons. I figured if I took the ‘head-in-the-sand’-denial approach, then this couldn’t possibly be the last available volume-in-translation in the series, right?
The late Yutaka Kanzaki’s description of his Seventh Apostle ends with an enigmatic reference to “the eternally to be finished Sagrada Família,” the Barcelona church designed by Antoni Gaudí which remains incomplete more than a century after construction commenced in 1882. The search sends adopted-just-before-his-death son Issei Tomine to Napa Valley. His chosen traveling companion is (surprise, surprise) Loulan, his hapa Japanese Uyghur guide and savior (vital to finding Apostle #2) who now apparently seems to be his assistant of sorts. Issei’s ‘brother’ and rival Shizuku Kanzaki considers the ‘new worlds’ of South America, South Africa, and New Zealand, but eventually flies to the Australian Outback with his usual sidekick Miyabe Shinohara.
While discovering and enjoying some of the new world’s best wine offerings, Issei and Loulan outsmart gun-toting merchants while Shizuku and Miyabe help prevent greedy lumber exporters from setting fire to precious forests. Returning to the Kanzaki mansion with such unique adventures … and a single bottle each, the elusive Apostle is about to be revealed …
In case you hadn’t noticed, New World (which doesn’t have a volume number) is out of synch with the other four published translations thus far; the previous volume (#4) was a search for the Second Apostle, but New World jumps forward five bottles (and at least as many volumes) to the Seventh. We can only hope that fab publisher Vertical, Inc. will both fill in, then resume, this holy oenophilic quest sooner than later … oh please, please, please?
Published: 2012 (United States) Continue reading
No oenophile am I, but I sure am addicted to this delicious new series. To catch up to this latest volume which hits shelves today, be sure to click here.
The elusive chase continues between faux-siblings, Shizuku Kanzaki and his just-recently-adopted brother Issei Tomine, to identify 13 wines: “The Twelve Apostles” plus the eponymous “Drops of God,” as stipulated in Shizuku’s father’s will. The winner will inherit internationally renowned wine critic and collector Yutaka Kanzaki’s vast estate, including his priceless wine collection.
As far as the rest of the world is concerned, Issei is already heir apparent with his unrivaled reputation. Shizuku, in spite of his lineage, is a virtual newbie to wines and yet he managed to identity the First Apostle. Now the Second Apostle, called the “Mona Lisa,” awaits discovery …
Issei’s search leads him to the remote Taklaman Desert in Uyghur, Central Asia to rediscover his “thirst for wine,” and just happens to meet a gorgeous hapa-Japanese local more than willing to be his guide. Meanwhile, back in Tokyo, Shizuku and his sidekick Miyabi Shinohara lift a former classmate of Miyabi’s from his own label-obsessed shallowness and rescue a mystery writer from criminal intent, which just might lead them toward enigmatic Apostle Two. With such meandering journeys, who will grab the winning bottle?
Mystery, adventure, travelogue, love story, wine primer and buying guide (yes, all the bottles are real), and even a lesson or two on how not to live your life, are all presented in such finely-detailed drawings (representations of Da Vinci and his Mona Lisa, for example, are downright spectacular) that they hardly seem containable on a flat page. Go ahead: smell that toothsome yakitori, look deep into smiling eyes, reach for that elusive bottle, taste that radiant vintage … indeed, this series is a full-sensory delight.
Published: 2012 (United States) Continue reading
The Drops of God (vols. 1-3) by Tadashi Agi, illustrated by Shu Okimoto, translated by Kate Robinson
I’m the first to admit that I’m no oenophile, in spite of the years we lived in Northern California when we wandered the wineries of Napa, Sonoma, and even the tiny boutique arbors scattered through the Santa Cruz Mountains (the Loma Prieta earthquake on October 17, 1989 at 5:04 p.m. – traumatized? who me? – had us fleeing not only the state, but the whole country; we moved to London before the year was out).
I’m sure my palate is just not that sophisticated, but nevertheless, I gleefully imbibed this manga series. I’m not alone – with three volumes out Stateside thus far, Drops began hitting the ever-coveted New York Times bestseller list for manga with its English debut volume last fall. It’s already been a major success around the world, affecting not only the publishing industry, but wine sales around the world! Volume 1 boasts quite a stamp of approval: Decanter Magazine insists, “Arguably the most influential wine publication for the past 20 years!” Yup, you read that right! A manga!!!
Here’s the basic story: Shizuku Kanzaki has never tasted wine, a supreme irony as his late father, Yutaka Kanzaki, was an internationally renowned wine critic and collector. He’s been estranged from his famous parent, purposefully keeping a clear distance from his far-reaching legacy; Shizuku’s chosen a career selling beer instead! But now he’s called to the family mansion for the reading of the will, which his father has titled “The Drops of God.” In order to inherit his father’s vast estate, including his priceless wine collection, Shizuku must identify 13 different wines: the first 12 are called “The Twelve Apostles,” the 13th being the eponymous “Drops of God.” But Shizuku has competition – just before he passed away, Yutaka Kanzaki adopted another son (!), Issei Tomine, who seems – at least in terms of the wine world – to be Kanzaki’s heir apparent as he’s already a highly regarded wine critic in spite of his youth (and arrogance, ahem!). The two ‘brothers’ have exactly a year to identify the selected wines. Lest you think Issei has the clear advantage, no worries: Shizuku grew up with his legendary father who somehow managed to instill some phenomenal abilities in his contrary son. Shizuku also gets by with not-a-little help from his friends, especially sommelier-in-training Miyabi Shinohara.
Woven into the rather exciting treasure hunt are many other reasons why this series is so enticing:
- Even if you’re not a wine enthusiast, you can’t help but learn some fabulously insightful facts here: about terroir, mariage, vintages, regions, decanting, and so much more. Plus, all the wines mentioned are for real!
- While chasing the Apostles, Shizuku and Miyabi run into endlessly entertaining characters who both help and hinder the great search, including lost lovers, an Italian wine expert who eschews all things French, a flailing restaurateur, twin wine salesmen with vastly different methodologies, an amnesic painter, and so many more.
- The art, the art! Your palate might be intrigued by the various bottles, but your eyes are what will get the real feast. Every time Shizuku discovers a fabulous wine, his imagination blossoms across the pages – from heartfelt childhood memories to pastoral scenes, to a gorgeous masquerade ball to Freddie Mercury (!), to chanting monks and even Cleopatra. Shizuku’s competition, meanwhile, sees John the Baptist’s severed head. Go figure!
- By the way, “Tadashi Agi” is the pseudonym for a brother-and-sister team – talent sure runs in this family!
So as the holiday weekend begins, you might celebrate with a few of the wines – depending on your budget, you can actually find a few affordable choices (volumes 1 and 2 offer an especially educational (emotional, funny) face-off between cheap French and Italian vintages of the $10, $20, $30 range!). Just know your limits … and à votre santé indeed!
Published: 2011-2012 (United States) Continue reading