Drops of God, vol. 5: New World

516HcPwcUELSo I’ll admit that I’m not much of a wine drinker, being underage. But Drops of God has me eagerly awaiting my 21st birthday, which at the time of this writing is just a scant 12 hours away. I originally picked up this manga as a way to get my father, who is a wine aficionado, to see what I loved about the medium. But as he fell in love with the series so did I.

The basic structure of the plot is that noted wine critic, Yukata Kanzaki, has died. His estranged son, Shizuku, must battle with his father’s protégé, Issei Tomine, for the man’s house, money and, most importantly, his legendary wine cellar. They compete by seeking the “Tweleve Apostles,” twelve spectacular bottles of wine, described in Yukata’s will. The catch, of course is that the wines are not described by name, only by how they taste. Shizuku and Issei need to taste and identify wines to find each bottle in turn.

I should note that this series is marketed at adults. And while in Japan adults read manga, in the US they by and large do not. So this series has struggled to find a market. Because of that, the translation of the series has skipped several volumes. Normally the two contestants would go bottle by bottle, finding each “Apostle” in order. However, in an attempt to gain footing in the US, the manga has skipped ahead from the Second Apostle (found at the end of the previous volume) to the Seventh. This is because the Two Apostles shown (and presumably the 4 in between) were wines from Europe. Here the wines showcased are from the “New World” — Australia and the US.

The Seventh Apostle is described as being like the Sagrada Familia, a magnificent (and still unfinished) church in Spain designed by Gaudi. While the actual description is beautiful it’s also lengthier than this review. Shizuku travels to Australia and makes a tour of wineries there, eventually choosing the “2003 Glaetzer Amon-Ra Shiraz Barossa Valley.” Issei, on the other hand, travels to Nappa Valley and tries many American wines before deciding on the “2003 Sine Qua Non The Inaugural (Eleven Confessions) Syrah Central Coast AVA.” They then both travel back to Japan to have their wines tasted by the mediator. While both wines end up evoking religious imagery for the taster, Shizuku’s calls forth the image of Angkor Wat in Cambodia, while Issei’s choice brings forth the correct image of the Sagrada Familia, putting him ahead at Four Apostles to Shizuku’s three.

The art in this book is brilliant. The characters are richly detailed and look almost human. But even better than that, the scenes any given wine calls forth are truly works of art. They’re the best artwork you’ll see in any manga anywhere.

While this is likely to be the final volume of this series published in the US, it’s still worth reading. If you like wine, or even think that might like to like wine, this series is the one for you. I recommend that you start with the first volume to have a better idea of what’s going on and get a firmer grasp on the characters, but if you only have this one, read it. It’s a fantastic series and well worth getting all five volumes available in the US.

Drops of God, vol. 5: New World
by Tadashi Agi
Art by Shu Okimoto
ISBN: 9781935654520
Vertical, 2012