Wild Strawberry is a strange title for a manga. Ire Yonemoto isn’t someone with whom I’m familiar either, so I was curious to see what was up with my Shonen Jump app notification. I didn’t know what to expect heading into it. The fact that this first chapter absolutely blew me away with its art and worldbuilding was incredible.
What’s Wild Strawberry About?
In an apocalyptic version of Japan, foliage invaded the city of Tokyo. It ravaged the area and infected the public; Jinka (parasitic organisms that feed on human nutrients) easily affect the vulnerable. The world as we know it is in shambles. Here, we meet our protagonist Kingo, a city resident and part-time weeder scrounging to feed him and his sister, Kayano. She was infected with Jinka when the two were younger, but her situation is different. The two remain holed up in Tokyo, with Kingo’s dream to take Kayano to a family restaurant.
Unfortunately, this dream gets complicated when the Flower Funeral Force gets involved, a group that desires to exterminate the Jinka and anyone infected. With Kayano’s condition progressing, it’s a race against time for Kingo to figure out what to do and where to go next.
While the main narrative flow of the first chapter follows some familiar beats. I won’t spoil it here, but if you’ve read Chainsaw Man, you might feel déjà vu. The protagonist is your run-of-the mill scrappy young adult trying to provide for his sister, but there’s more to Wild Strawberry than meets the eye.
The World Continues in Wild Strawberry
What’s strange here is that the world hasn’t ended. People go about their lives because a vaccine allows people to remain uninfected. However, it highlights the economic divide, as poorer people cannot afford it and are at risk for infection. It’s an interesting hook that you don’t see in too many similar works. Even something as optimistic as Zom 100: Bucket List of the Dead has the world mostly inoperable, some survivors notwithstanding.
The first time we see Kingo, he’s trying to steal some food for his sister. The clerk expects him to pay, and he hightails it. Pretty normal, but the clerk immediately becomes plant food after he ignores his surroundings. It’s crazy that people still maintain order in a world overrun by feral foliage.
People are protected thanks to the vaccine, but it’s wild that killer (and contagious) plants aren’t cause for concern. There are even people that clean the streets by burning Jinka (as seen by Kingo working as a weeder). It’s such a disconcerting thing to think about that makes potential worldbuilding a great treat. I’d love to see how others live their lives in this green hellscape, as well as the international implications. This is something that the manga could continue to execute, even if the main story is cliché.
A Gorgeous Display of Art
My jaw dropped at how expressive and detailed Wild Strawberry’s art is, especially in the first few pages. Any time Jinka are seen, it’s an explosion of vines and green settings which I know took time to draw. The art is visceral and horrific but maintains a sense of natural beauty.
This clashing contrast between ornate flowering designs and bloody gore from deceased humans makes for some delicious eye-candy. There’s also an instance of color pages inserted at the climax of the story, which had me mesmerized for a few minutes. I can only imagine the painstaking detail of what the mangaka and assistants had to go through to make it. The art is perfect, and if the team can maintain the quality every week, I can see this series going places.
An Amazing Debut
I don’t know much about the series background or the mangaka, but after reading this 80+ page chapter, I’m hooked. This is a series you need to keep on your radar. Few series have me invested from the first installment, but I can say I can’t wait for more.