Children of the Sea is being brought to the United States in English by Viz Media. It has been nominated twice (2008, 2009) for the Osamu Tezuka Cultural Prize and was awarded the Japan Cartoonist Award for excellence in drawing in 2009.
Daisuke Igarashi's work here is what I like to call a "fine art Manga". I was thinking as I was reading that the art was of the intensity of GON with the flow-y, pastel feeling of a watercolor painting; it's as detailed as GON but employs some traditional manga styles too. Igarashi does a really great job of keeping you engaged with his changes in panel size and feeling of movement from page to page but he doesn't go too far like many new, bleeding-edge mangas--there's something traditionalist in here too. I think this has more two-page spreads than I've ever encountered before in a Manga, which makes sense for a more art-driven piece. The magic synergy of having the same person write and draw the comic is definitely at work here!
The majority of the book is done in black and white which is standard. I generally fist pump to color comics but some comics have stories that are so good that you don't even sense the lack of color. Manga is very good at surpassing absence of color; it's so instantaneous, it feels like an addiction, where it's the story that's pulling you along in total.
Even though this is an art-driven manga, it doesn't try to set itself apart from traditional manga which would be trying too hard. Instead, Igarashi incorporates a lot of smart ticks that make the story less immediate in the Manga way and therefore, more affecting. One of the most striking choices made is after a couple page intro and then, the title page, Igarashi included a strategically placed run of color pages. They include not only vibrant color and art but images which are very important to the following story. The color pages include the first sighting of the sea children as babies, floating in the water. It's eerie-weird as shit but also magical and wonderful, womb-like.
Like most Manga, it is, or at least begins with, the interaction of children and/or people who are alienated from normal society in some way or another (Dragonball, Naruto, FLCL). But it's the way Igarashi makes use of both Manga and a natural fine art that expertly develops the story. All of the details of the natural world, the town, the beaches, and especially, underwater, are done in detailed style while people are cleverly differentiated via different Manga styles. The Japanese people are done in the Manga style, the old weathered seamen are done in the detailed style, but the so called "children of the sea" are done in an exaggerated Shojo-Manga style. This makes sense because the fisherman are interesting, old white guys and an integral part of configuring the eerie, scary side of the ocean with their stories and different outlook on life--they're hyper-real.
Ultimately, the story in Volume One is about two boys, Umi and Sora, who grew up in the ocean, raised by "dugongs", think: manatee meets elephant seal. But the story is guided from an outsider to their world, but still another child, Ruka, who only knows of the two boys because her father works at the aquarium where they live. The three bond in an awkward way over seeing a ghost at some point at the aquarium which eventually suggests that Ruka is somehow related to the children of the sea. Explaining more would be not-so-fun and would remove the page-to-page wonder of reading Children of the Sea.
From a science standpoint, it's weird how much we do not know about the sea. Like darkness, the unconciousness of zombies, and the false humanity of vampires, it's what we don't know that makes something scary. But also, if you are sort of a systematics nerd like I am, the ocean can also be very intriguing for that same reason; it may be the last locale on Earth where the wonder of exploring is still very real. So when, Umi, Sora and Ruka are swimming with these whale sharks and other glowing fish in the ocean and Umi and Sora are ALSO glowing it's eerie but it's also really wonderful. The weird combination of wonder and fear translated by the ocean, coupled with the basis for the story being a secret among children makes the story glorious. Anyone who reads Manga knows that feeling of wonder and glory specific to the style, but Children of the Sea takes glory out of the ninja realm and takes it underwater!