And Yet the Town Concludes: Soredemo Machi wa Mawatteiru Final Chapter (and Other) Thoughts

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Soredemo Machi wa Mawatteiru (“And Yet the Town Moves”) recently concluded its 11-year manga run in Japan. Even to the very end Soremachi captures the souls of the town members who populate its setting, telling their stories with a kind of quirky levity.

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The premise of Soremachi is as follows: Arashiyama Hotori is a high school student, a clutz, an aspiring detective, and (ostensibly) a maid at a cafe. However, this is less a “maid cafe” and more a “cafe that happens to have waitresses dressed as maids.” With only the most nebulous notion of the maid cafe as the focal point of many of its stories, Soremachi proceeds to explore the lives of its characters. From occult mysteries to unrequited teenage love triangles to old men arguing about the past, the manga basically plays fast and loose with its narrative, but the consistent charms and personality traits of its eclectic cast always keep it a joy to read.

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So how does an open-ended manga such as Soremachi close the book on its story? The answer is that it finishes much as it began: frivolous and free-wheeling in its continuous portrayal of an occasionally bizarre “everyday,”

Warning: Ending Spoilers

In the penultimate chapter of Soremachi,  Hotori appears to be visited by a higher-dimensional being. This is not the first time that Hotori has seemingly encountered otherworldly entities. From angels to time travelers to aliens, somehow Hotori’s life has continued to remain fairly mundane. However, this time the visitor gives Kotori a challenge. The following day, there is going to be a typhoon, and Hotori has to choose between saving everyone in town but vanishing from history in the process, or stay alive but sacrifice 3,000 lives in her place.

In the final chapter, Hotori’s classmates are all discussing that there appears to be something wrong with their memories. For some reason, they all seem to remember a classmate, possibly a girl, who was cheerful and energetic. Suddenly, Sanada and Tatsuno, Hotori’s two closest friends, spot a girl on the other side of the building. They follow her, and…

It’s revealed that they were rehearsing a play. Hotori did not sacrifice the memory of her existence, and everything about the mysterious girl lingering in their minds was from the script, which Hotori wrote. They’re chasing her down because she hasn’t written the ending yet, to which Hotori replies that, essentially, if the climax was made dramatic enough, then an ending would naturally follow. The chapter, and the series, ends with Hotori as author-surrogate proclaiming:

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While the conclusion of Soremachi might feel at first to be a cop-out, given that there were plot threads that could have seen resolution, I think it’s all too appropriate for the series. Much like the lackadaisical attitude the manga and its characters took towards its own premise of a “maid cafe,” having a last chapter pretty much negate the gravitas of the previous one, and then turn into a “non-ending” is very indicative of a series about a town that keeps moving. Also, because many of the smaller subplots were able to resolve in the chapters leading up to the end, the series unwinds in a satisfying way.

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My only complaint in the end is not enough of my favorite Soremachi character, Kon Futaba. This is no fault of the manga itself, because she’s actually in it very often, even a couple of chapters from the finish. She’s just amazing, is all.

Further Reading:

And Yet the Digital Manga Moves: Soremachi is Back

Soremachi Creator Ishiguro and His Two Biggest Influences

 

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Soremachi Creator Ishiguro and His Two Biggest Influences

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In the June 2016 issue of Monthly Afternoon released in April (it’s confusing, I know), there’s an interview with two previous winners of the Afternoon Four Seasons Award, which is a manga competition run by the magazine. One of the winners is Ishiguro Masakazu, creator of And Yet the Town Moves (Soredemo Machi wa Mawatteiru). When talking about his influences, Ishiguro mentions a number of manga artists, but two in particular are especially important to him and his style. Those would be Otomo Katsuhiro of Akira fame, and Fujiko F. Fujio, creator of Doraemon.

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Although it isn’t terribly surprising that these two titans of manga would influence other manga artists, in the case of Ishiguro this is a really big deal. That’s because, if you think about what Soremachi is, how it’s drawn in terms of environment and character expressions, and how the stories range from the dramatic to the silly, from the everyday to the alien, Soremachi is pretty much an even fusion between Akira and Doraemon. There was even a story about time travel that revolves around some super delicious snack cake!

Quite a few years ago my friend, translator Ko Ransom, mentioned to me that he felt Ishiguro’s art style reminded him a lot of Akira. As it turns out, he was right on the nose with that one. When you think about it, it’s not like it’s immediately obvious given how different those two stories are, which makes me all the more impressed by his keen eye.

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