Dan’s Favorite Manga

(The first chapter of Akayama DanJay.)


In the white-walled monastery atop the main island of Sheridan, Dan’s cramped quarters were adorned with egg-yolk orange fabric just like his spotless robes. His quarters’ size limited him to a narrow mattress barely tall enough for a grown man like him, but he still stacked books of every color in the corners. Monks usually left books in the sacred library under the bell-tower, but Virgil Blue had assigned Dan a private task: annotating the English translation of his favorite manga, LuLu’s Space-Time Acceleration, one volume at a time. LuLu’s entered indefinite hiatus on a cliffhanger, so Dan was almost finished with every volume printed, but the monastery’s library was known to hide books from the future, not yet written. Dan suspected Virgil Blue was secretly sitting on the final unpublished volumes, waiting for Dan to be ready to read them.

Just before sunset, Virgil Blue opened Dan’s sliding paper door with the head of his cane, a curious object smooth along the shaft but with ten black spots encircling a gnarled tip. He wore hooded navy robes and a silver mask, so not an inch of him was visible. The silver mask had a squat beak, two long feathers on top, and bulging criss-crossed bug-eyes seen out of but not into. The only clue to his identity was his voice, that of an elderly man. “Oran dora, Danny.”

Oran dora, Virgil Blue.” After seven years of studying here, Dan still wasn’t quite sure what that greeting meant. He gave the Virgil his volume of annotated manga. The cover showed a war-torn Earth partially hidden by the moon. Between craters on the dark side was a chrome battle-station shaped like a sea-star. The black background of space was speckled red. “Thanks for letting me annotate LuLu’s. This manga meant a lot to me and my friends back in America, and it’s such an interesting interpretation of Sheridanian culture. But I thought only Virgils could annotate sacred texts?”

“This manga isn’t from the library. For you, Danny, it’s more than sacred. For you, Danny, it’s real.” Without revealing his hands, Virgil Blue tucked the completed volume up one navy sleeve, and, from the other sleeve, produced another volume for Dan to annotate. This one’s cover depicted a dark blue bird in light blue robes on a red mountain in an endless rusty desert under a mustard-yellow sky. Dan recognized this as the final volume printed before LuLu’s indefinite hiatus. “You’ll never read the story’s resolution. You’ll live it, Dan. You’ll understand this by the end of the eternity. It should be any day now.”

Virgil Blue closed the sliding paper door with his cane, and Dan opened the manga. Sacred or not, LuLu’s was a wild read.

But in truth, he liked the anime better. Dan pulled out his smartphone, solar-charged all day to play the corresponding episodes all night.

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